Phillies Phantasy Camp honors late reliever with beautiful tribute

Rheal Cormier of the Philadelphia Phillies (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rheal Cormier of the Philadelphia Phillies (Rick Stewart/Getty Images) /
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Late ex-Phillies reliever Rhéal Cormier will be forever honored at Phantasy Camp.

Spring training baseball may or may not start on time because of the lockout, but the Philadelphia Phillies still recently went out of their way to make a touching gesture at their Clearwater, Florida, complex.

With this year’s Phillies Phantasy Camp underway, the organization named the popular event’s “Person of the Year Award” after their late former relief pitcher Rhéal Cormier, who passed away last March following a battle with cancer. He was just 53.

Phillies Phantasy Camp is held each year at the franchise’s spring training complex. Attendees join Phillies Legends and can partake in either player, general manager, or fan experiences. Players participate in major league-style drills, practices, and games, while donning a personalized Phillies uniform.

Named the Rhéal Cormier Person of the Year Award, the recognition is bestowed to a Phantasy Camp participant whose off-field performance and contributions to their community as a volunteer inspire others to higher levels of achievement.

The award’s new name honors Cormier’s kindness and his legacy as a humanitarian and philanthropist. MLB.com praised Cormier’s off-the-field impact:

"During his long tenure in Philadelphia, Cormier made generous contributions to Phillies Charities Inc. on a regular basis and visited patients in area hospitals. While with Montreal, he was involved in several school programs in New Brunswick and was also a spokesman for teenage anti-suicide and anti-drug campaigns."

Cormier was notably the first Phillies pitcher to record a win in Citizens Bank Park history; on April 15, 2004, against the Cincinnati Reds, Cormier threw a scoreless eighth inning to set up a Billy Wagner save the following frame. The southpaw reliever did not only help the Phillies get accustomed to Citizens Bank Park, but he also helped the club bid farewell to Veterans Stadium. In the venue’s final season, 2003, Cormier impressively went 8-0 with a 1.70 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, and 67-25 strikeouts-to-walks ratio across 65 appearances and 84 23/ innings.

A member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Cormier pitched in parts of six seasons in red pinstripes from 2001 to 2006. He went 28-21 with a 3.62 ERA, 1.245 WHIP and 246-129 strikeouts-to-walks ratio spanning 358 1/3 innings and 363 relief appearances as  Phillie.

At the July 2006 trade deadline, then-general manager Pat Gillick dealt Cormier to the Reds. He finished his 16-year MLB career with the National League Central team, recording a 5.29 ERA and 1.765 WHIP over his final 27 appearances through 2007.

Cormier previously played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1991-94), Boston Red Sox (1995, 1999-2000) and Montreal Expos (1996-97), before signing with the Phillies in November 2000.

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