By DON SCOTT
Setting a record is usually a good thing. But sometimes there is a bit of a downside as Reading Phillies outfielder Mike Spidale pointed out about replacing Aaron Royster as the all-time hit leader – 439 – for the Class AA baseball franchise.
“Any record is nice,” the personable Spidale admitted, “especially when I think about how long the Reading Phillies have been around and how many really good players have come through here. So to have the most hits of anyone I’m happy about that. For me its 75 percent good and 25 percent that maybe I’ve been here too long, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I play where they put me.”
Drafted in the 12th round in 2000 by the White Sox, out of Nazareth Academy High School in Illinois where he played baseball and basketball, “Spi” brought a career .284 minor league average into this season, after hitting .303 in a full season with the R-Phils and being named the team’s MVP. Despite that he remains at the Double-A level.
“I’ve had good years before and it does get frustrating but there are so many things out of your hands when you’re in the minor leagues,” Spidale said prior to a recent game, “but I’m a firm believer in being positive and controlling what I can control. Where they put me I can’t control but I can control what I do on the field and my attitude. If you start worrying about what other people are doing or thinking that can affect my play in a negative way. If I focus on what I can do my play will be better.”
The veteran outfielder started 2006 with the independent Kansas City team, then signed as a free agent with Philadelphia and has split time since then between Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Now in his 12th pro season, Spidale has been with the Phillies as long as he had been in the White Sox organization, something he said doesn’t happen too often.
“I like being with the Phillies and just hope they give me a realistic shot at Triple-A to see what I could do,” said Spidale. “The ride of a minor leaguer is an up and down one but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. The 12 years have been fun and I know the things I’ve learned in that time will be beneficial to me in whatever I do later.”
When it was pointed out he has a better average against right-handers, at home at night, he replied with a look of surprise: “I didn’t know that but did know I’m hitting around .400 with men on base and in scoring position. It isn’t because I approach that situation any different but I’m glad that I do get hits in those situations.”
Three of his teammates are also having a good year and ‘Spi’ was more than happy to talk about them. “I think the world of Matt Rizzotti, Cody Overbeck and Derrick Mitchell because they’re all good, hard working guys,” he said. “They approach the game the right way have a lot of talent and I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of them in the major leagues in a few years.
“Rizz hit the cover off the ball last year here and wasn’t supposed to come back to Reading this year and really didn’t belong here,” Spidale continued. “I know he was disappointed when he was told he’d be back instead of going to Lehigh Valley. Honestly, I was a little worried that it might affect him in a negative way and he would not play his game, but it didn’t. He came in and picked up where he left off and I was impressed by that.”
Unlike most athletes, Spidale said he is not superstitious, but it wasn’t always that way he said with a laugh. “I used to be superstitious but now I’m not,” he said. “I just had some little things because we do this every day. If you have to do every little thing the same way it can drive you crazy so a few years ago I purposely decided I am not superstitious so I could stay at least half way sane during the year.”
At 29, and still having the desire to keep playing, Spidale talked about what the future might hold for him when the inevitable happens. “That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer at this time,” he said. “When I signed I didn’t put a time line on when I’d stop. I’m a day-to-day guy. My guess is when I leave it’ll be on my terms.
“I still want to get the opportunity to make the major leagues because that’s the goal when you sign,” Spidale continued. “I’m a firm believer I can play there but I’m still at Double-A and still have the dreams and hopes of getting there. If I did it would be an awesome thing.
He concluded with: “All I know is baseball, so I don’t know if I want to stay in the game when I’m done playing. I’m married with a 3-month old daughter and that has to be part of my decision because it means I’d still be traveling. Those are the things I’ll think about when I’m done. We’ll talk about it and see what I want to do, but if I decided to go into coaching I think I’d be a good one.”