World Series 2022: The Phillies’ youthful exuberance helped make it a success

Alec Bohm didn’t really want a cigarette, but his buddy Matt Vierling insisted.

An hour earlier, the Phillies had given themselves enough reason to sit back when Bryce Harper took the “swing of his life” from Homer to send the Phils to the World Series. (Game 1 at 8 p.m. ET Friday on FOX.) You’ve probably already seen it.

That kick-off marked the start of the club’s third boisterous champagne dressing room celebration in as many weeks. But after 30 minutes of beer-soaked hysteria, the party threatened to die down. The media began to disperse. The music volume dropped. The players gradually stopped dousing each other with cheap alcohol and started taking showers.

But Quadruple, with a full pack of cigarettes in one hand and a brew in the other, knew the night was young. There was more mischief to be had.

The sophomore midfielder roamed the clubhouse offering heaters to players, coaches, members of the media, wives of owners — really, anyone who could be looking for a nicotine rush. His teammate Bohm was just another customer on his way.

So, after some back and forth, Bohm gave in. Vierling fished into the box, pulled out a single cigarette and handed it to Boehm. The shirtless third baseman reluctantly accepted the offer and attempted a puff before finding his tobacco shop lacked the requisite fire.

“I got you man.” replied quadruplet.

But instead of pulling a lighter out of his pocket, he tilted his face toward Bohms until the edges of their cigarettes — quads lit, Bohms needs a spark — were making contact. In a second or two, Boehm’s heater caught fire above the embers of Vierlings, and like a twisted scumbag version of Lady and the Tramp, the two ballers had accomplished their outrageous task.

Böhm inhales.

“Oh, wow, that’s disgusting,” he stuttered, coughing up some smoke. “I really don’t want that.”

The 6ft 5 third baseman threw his newly lit cigarette onto the carpeted floor and immediately stamped it out with the bottom of his flip flop. Then, to wash the taste out of his mouth, he sat back and took a long swig of beer. But when Bohm looked up, Quadruplet was gone, hopping to another corner of the dressing room, looking for someone else who needed a cigarette.

Just another day in the youthful wonderland of the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies, the greatest college baseball team of all time.

The 2022 MLB postseason was a steady stream of party scenes in Philadelphia. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images.)

Professional baseball is inherently…professional. Players are handsomely paid, and usually the energy around a ball club reflects this reality. Sure, it’s better than other jobs, but it’s still a job and as such, players tend to take their craft seriously.

College baseball, on the other hand, despite its immense time commitment, is not a profitable endeavor, at least for the majority of people. For a select few, it’s a path to an affordable education, a zero-buck shot, or a shot at the pros, but the majority of people participate in college baseball and college sports in general as a source of joy.

Most of us, as the saying goes, become pros at something other than the sport.

College athletics is an excuse to build community through engagement, just like any other club, fraternity, or student group. Whether a season ends undefeated or super defeated, it’s all about “the friends you’ve made along the way.” May camaraderie reign supreme.

Welcome to the Phillies clubhouse.

“You would never really believe that this is a top-flight team.” said shortstop Bryson Stott. “It’s just absolute chaos at all times. But honestly, it’s just a big, big thing to enjoy each other’s company.”

Here there is nonsense, good-natured stupidity, a good portion of “encouragement”. After each win, the dressing room speakers blare out a remarkably gritty tune sung by a gentleman named Trey Lewis, whose lyrics cannot be repeated here. The team knows every word.

A player calling himself “Wolfie” runs around and howls at no one in particular. Another group of guys are lounging around drinking beers and discussing the best moments from the game that was. Someone else is singing in the shower.

The positional players on this team, especially the younger ones, are dodos, total jabronis, and total fools in the best and most endearing way. Her youthful exuberance is off the charts. This group, which includes Bohm, Vierling, Bryson Stott, Nick Maton, and Brandon Marsh, is playfully known as “Phillies Day Care.” But despite their relatively low percentage of playing time, they have helped create an infectious, collegial atmosphere that permeates the entire clubhouse.

“There have been times in my career where I’ve felt like an energetic kid and other times I’ve felt like an employee.” said outfielder Nick Castellanos, who was drafted straight out of high school. “Being with teammates who still live with their parents and make up silly nicknames for each other was a lot of fun.”

Bryce Harper leads the celebrations after the Phillies win the National League pennant. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images.)

But according to many people at the club, Castellanos and fellow outfielder Kyle Schwarber deserve plenty of credit for cultivating the team’s tight-knit atmosphere. When the team visited Castellanos’ hometown of Miami earlier this year, the vet made sure to take them to some of his favorite spots.

It sounds simple, but the Phillies hang out with each other beyond the diamond, not because they feel they have to, but because they really want to. Team dinners are a constant. The players often get drinks together after the games. Believe it or not, that’s not always the norm in the big leagues.

“We go out there to win every day,” Schwarber said, “but we’ll also try to find the fun, quirky things in every single day that make you smile and laugh.”

Speaking of fun, quirky stuff, mandatory karaoke is an unofficial cornerstone of the experience for many college baseball programs. The freshmen sing, the high schoolers hoot and yell. Whether it’s on a bus during a long drive, a clubhouse during a rain delay, or a local water balance in the wee hours of the night, mandatory karaoke is mostly harmless fun, an opportunity for a little comfort-zone shattering, a chance for the team to crack inside jokes and get together.

During a road trip in July, the Phillies hosted their own karaoke night. In a hotel ballroom somewhere in St. Louis, the entire club got together for an evening of food, drinks, camaraderie and terrible singing from some of the team’s younger players. Castellanos and Schwarber arranged an entire DJ booth, complete with huge speakers and turnstiles. It turned out to be a night they would never forget.

Reliever Andrew Bellatti sang “Ice, Ice Baby”. Starter Ranger Súarez followed with a gripping performance of “Suavemente”. While initially only the younger players were expected, the veterans had so much fun that they joined in the fun.

“Honestly, I think Castellanos was just looking for an excuse to sing with other people.” Stott joked.

Schwarber also sang, drawing on his high school experience in show choir. “He’s got a couple of whistles,” admitted one player. Even the famously stoic JT Realmuto stood there and grabbed a mic.

“I think he smiled once. JT never smiles. We gave him a stick for that,” Stott said.

The 2022 Phillies are a professional baseball team just four games away from a World Series title, but they’re also a group that acts with the exuberance, enthusiasm, weirdness, and childish mischievousness of a bunch of dumb college dudes.

Marsh soaks his hair in water before every defensive inning. Each champagne celebration includes a rousing frat house version of “Dancing On My Own”. Even Harper is jumping up and down like a teenager. Vierling roams the clubhouse with a pack of cigarettes. The last BP squad on the team starts their round each day with a bizarre, made-up, field hockey-esque pepper game in which they aimlessly bang a baseball.

Don’t take it the wrong way: The Phillies face a daunting task in this World Series. Houston is a better team on paper, and championships can’t be won with good chemistry and impeccable spirit alone. There aren’t enough drunk cigarettes in the world to thwart Justin Verlander.

World Series preview

World Series Preview

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry discuss Bryce Harper’s incredible postseason and whether his Phillies can beat the Astros.

But the Phillies players – especially the position players – are having too much fun to worry about. Sure, they’re still professionals focused on doing their best every day, etc., etc., yada, yada, whatever — but they’re also at it, squeezing every ounce of magic they can with their experience friends.

Just a bunch of guys batting baseballs, hitting brewskis and ripping heaters; There is no better way to spend October.

The Phillies have brought back some memories this postseason. In the next week they will try to do some more. And isn’t that the whole point?

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, so he leads a solitary existence most October days. When he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.


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