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Destiny’s Darlings?

It’s not an original thought; in fact, the term has been referenced many times previously. Included in its usage was a 1954 book authored by Martin Ralbovsky about the Schenectady, New York Little League World Champions; a 1960 New York Times article about the Pittsburgh Pirates World Series victory over the Yankees; and Brent Musburger’s

It’s not an original thought; in fact, the term has been referenced many times previously. Included in its usage was a 1954 book authored by Martin Ralbovsky about the Schenectady, New York Little League World Champions; a 1960 New York Times article about the Pittsburgh Pirates World Series victory over the Yankees; and Brent Musburger’s description of the 2012 Notre Dame football team.

Truth be told, it is hard to use the two-word phrase when describing the exploits of the rabid Philadelphia sports fans, but the accomplishments of the out-of-nowhere-to-the-World-Series Phillies seems to have had some destiny intertwined in their improbable journey.

Following a dismal 22-29 start to the season, the Phillies fired manager Joe Girardi and elevated his bench coach Rob Thompson to lead the team. The team immediately responded, winning his first eight games to get over .500. They added impact players at the trade deadline, survived an 11-14 September swoon to limp into the playoffs as the sixth and final seed, and then staged a ninth-inning six-run rally to beat St. Louis in the first game of the Wild Card round.

The memorable journey snapped an 11-year playoff drought and marked the team’s first World Series appearance since beating Tampa Bay 4 games to 3 in the 2008 fall classic.

For decades signage at Williamsport’s Bowman Field self-described the venue as “The Gateway to the Majors,” proudly proclaiming the many players who played in the historic ballpark on their way to the Major Leagues. That statement certainly rings true for the Phillies as there are nine former Crosscutters on their playoff roster in addition to third base coach Dusty Wathan, who was the manager of the Crosscutters in 2008.

Those Phillies players with Williamsport roots include third baseman Alec Bohm (2018), shortstop Bryson Stott (2019), first baseman Rhys Hoskins (2017), outfielder Matt Vierling (2018), infielder Nick Maton (2018), and pitchers Ranger Suarez (2016), Seranthony Dominguez (2016), Connor Brogdon (2017) and Bailey Falter (2016).

Longtime Crosscutters public address announcer Rob Thomas has been housing players since 2017. Based upon his track record of house guests, it could be said that staying at the Thomas home could be called ‘the house of champions’ as Bohm, Stott, and Vierling have all lived under his Montoursville roof.

“That’s what they are starting to call me,” Thomas chuckled at the reference. “I’ve had a lot of great memories, not only housing those three but all of the players that have stayed with me. I’ve kept in touch with most of them as they have progressed in their careers, and Vierling and I still communicate quite often.”

“Vierling’s stay with the Crosscutters only lasted 12 games before he was promoted to Lakewood. He had his car shipped here from Missouri and got here three days before he left town. Lakewood was playing on the road, and he had to leave right away. He had to leave his car behind, and I had to arrange to get his car to New Jersey for him. So we drove it to Lakewood and left it at where he was staying.

“In all honesty, most of the time, the players that have stayed with me were at the ballpark or on a road trip with the team. So I didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with them. But Bohm was very quiet and polite. Stott was an outgoing kid, and even though Vierling was only here a short time, I got to know him a little better down the road and have seen him play at different levels as he advanced to the Phillies. He’s going to be at the Penn State/Maryland game on Saturday, and I’ll see him there. They were all kids to me, and it was like they were spending the summer with their grandfather.

“Now, when I watch them play with the Phillies, I just sit back and think how good they are as baseball players and how far they’ve gone. Of course, I didn’t have anything to do with that, but just the fact that I know them and have had experiences with them makes it more fun watching them.”

Reminiscing, Thomas recalled another vehicle story that occurred while Stott was his house guest.

“Bryson was the overall 14th pick in the draft, and shortly after he got to Williamsport, he bought a brand new car. That car was worth a lot more than mine, so I pulled my car out of the carport and parked on the street for the rest of the summer so he could park his new car under cover. After the season was over, he went home to Las Vegas, and the car was still at my house. He made arrangements to have the car shipped home, so I was there to see that project got accomplished.”

Following the Phillies 7-0, five home run out-burst win in game three that included blasts by Hoskins and Bohm, Philadelphia’s team of destiny lost a bit of luster. Five Houston pitchers combined for only the second no-hit game in World Series history, and the Astros solid pitching and late-game defensive gems sent the Phillies back to Houston trailing 3 games to 2 for last weekend’s final game(s) of the 2022 season.

Regardless of the outcome, these Phillies became the first World Series team in history with nine former Williamsport minor league players on its roster.

Former MLB catcher and announcer Joe Garagiola once wrote a book, Baseball is a Funny Game detailing the humorous side of the sport. While the outcome of last weekend’s games determined whether Phillies fans were left smiling, one thing is sure this team of destiny saved what began as an uneventful season and gave them plenty to cheer about.