Legendary speedster helping young Phillies harness speed and play 'old style' baseball

Former Phillie Juan Samuel has been teaching young Phillies prospects how to play the game the right way.
Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates
Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies have had an impressive list of former team legends appear at spring training so far in Clearwater. Former stars like Ryan Howard and Mike Lieberthal have been on the field participating in drills and watching from the batting cages as the 2024 Phillies prepare for the start of the new season.

Add Juan Samuel's name to the growing list of former Phillies in camp to give a hand. The Phillies Wall of Famer and three-time MLB All-Star has been working with young players in camp on the fundamentals of base running and defense. In a recent conversation with MLB.com, Samuel was excited about some of the potential he has seen in a few players.

"We have a couple here right now, and down there [Dominican Republic], there's plenty, and we try to push them down there, make sure they play the old-style baseball before they come up here," explained Samuel. "They learn how to play and steal the bases and study pitches. So, we do a lot of good work in the DR and you're going to see those translate up here at some point."

Last June, Samuel was named special assistant to player development and international scouting, and many of the young players in camp are very familiar with the former big leaguer because of his presence at the team's training facility in the Dominican Republic.

Samuel clearly takes pride in teaching the fundamentals of baseball to young players looking to make a name for themselves stateside.

"It's like what I tell guys also, you cannot go in a slump on defense," continued Samuel. "You could go in a slump on hitting, not running and playing defense. So that's one of my messages to the kids. Yes, you might not feel good today and you might be 0-for-4 but guess what, you could help your team knocking down a ball on the infield or diving for a ground ball, stopping a runner from advancing to the next base and nobody gives you credit, but you won the game."

With the Phillies now getting stronger in international signings and boasting a few names worth keeping an eye on, working with a former player and manager like Samuel is sure to pay dividends. In a seven-year career with the Phillies, Samuel hit .263 with 921 hits, 100 home runs, 413 RBI, and 249 stolen bases in 852 games from 1983-1989.

Phillies legends have been providing a helping hand since the start of spring training

The Phillies have seen several legendary former players and coaches take part as on-field instructors since training camp began in the middle of February. The most heartwarming of all was the arrival of former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who suffered a stroke last September.

Other notables in camp are former Phillies shortstop and manager Larry Bowa, who has been on the field hitting ground balls and delivering the occasional hole-in-one on the golf course. Mike Lieberthal has been in camp as a catching instructor, while former slugger Ryan Howard has been behind the batting cages with Manuel observing hitters during batting practice. Earlier this week, Shane Victorino became the latest ex-Phillie to make his way into camp, and according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, has offered assistance to work with young outfielder Johan Rojas.

As the Phillies reach the halfway point of spring training, there's little doubt these legends have had a big impact on the players as they prepare for the upcoming season. Maybe some of the championship experience that's graced the clubhouse will rub off on a Phillies team ready to get back to the World Series in 2024.