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OnBaseMachine
03-28-2008, 01:58 AM
'The Kid'
Brandon Phillips has earned the mantle
BY JOHN ERARDI | JERARDI@ENQUIRER.COM

Brandon Phillips will always remember the reaction he received from a Cincinnati grade school he visited.

"The kids knew my home run trot, how I swing the bat, how I wear my hat, everything," Phillips marvels. "It makes you realize, 'There are little kids in the stands, lookin' at everything you do.' "

Even though there's a 22-year-old pitcher in the Reds' starting rotation, and a 20-year-old center fielder-in-waiting in Louisville, the Reds' 26-year-old second baseman is still this club's "Kid."

It's all in the smile, and the infectious way he plays the game.

Phillips' smile lights up the room when he is shown the drawing of him by a local teenager that is centerpieced on these pages.

"Cool," says Phillips, clearly moved. "'Wow."

To Phillips, there is no higher praise than what comes from kids.

"I'm just a big kid myself," he says.

Reds fans love him for it.

In a sport in which non-reaction - practiced nonchalance - has become the norm, Phillips' smile stands out.

Reds fans place their hope for the

franchise's future as much in Phillips' high-beam grin as they do in him joining the 30-30 club last year in home runs and stolen bases.

There may be times when his exuberance for the game - such as the home run trot with tilted-head lean - is perceived as hot-dogging.

Well, get used to it. That trot ain't going nowhere. Not even if you think it's gotten you plunked by an opposing pitcher once or twice.

The smile, the lean, the constant cutting up?

Phillips being Phillips.

Phillips' smile is rooted in a combination of things - his total love of athletics, the peace and comfort that comes from "having been raised right," and a lesson that was taught to him years ago by his father, James.

"When I see that smile, that means something," James says. "That tells me he's enjoying himself. There was a time, early on in baseball as a youngster, that he didn't have that smile. He was striking out because he was swinging so hard, trying to hit the ball so far.

"And I said, 'Brandon, it's still baseball, whether you're striking out or not. Next time you strike out, I want to see that smile.' And, sure enough, the next time he struck out, there it was. It's been there ever since."

The point is not that it's OK to fail, but rather that failure is part of life. Tough times are inevitable, and James and Lue wanted their children to be able to handle tough times with grace, and the high times with humility.

"I'm always going to smile, regardless of what's going on," Brandon Phillips says. "I'm always going to be the same person. If not, my mama, she'll kick my butt."

James refers to his wife as "a Ten Commandments person."

"She instilled it in the kids," he says. "The humility part didn't come easily with Brandon - he was always so athletic, so confident about things that he didn't want to listen. But she stayed with it, and eventually it sunk in."

It's illustrative of the Phillips family bond within the Stone Mountain, Ga., community, that when a reporter called James recently, he wasn't home watching the NCAA basketball tournament; he was out supporting the Redan High baseball team - even though his children already have graduated from the school.

"There's still a lot of Stone Mountain in Brandon," James says. "It's that humility part I was telling you about. He lives in Atlanta, but he comes back often. He's built a batting practice facility here that 250 kids from Stone Mountain go to every other week."

Said Brandon: "I want little kids to say, 'I want to be like Brandon Phillips.' I want them to know, 'Never let somebody take the joy out of the game for you.' "

James and Brandon played catch with the football and one-on-one in basketball more than they played baseball. James came to expect that Brandon would extend his playing days in one of those two sports.

"But you could see the quickness and speed in baseball, too," James recalls. "So, from that standpoint, all the talks we had about not letting failure get you down, that may have helped. There's more failure (at bat) in baseball than in any other sport."

Only in baseball can you fail seven times out of 10 and be headed for the Hall of Fame.

The very thought of it makes Brandon Phillips smile. "I'm a big kid who likes to have fun," he says. "You can't be serious all the time. Life's too short."

http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080327/SPT04/303270101

OnBaseMachine
03-28-2008, 01:59 AM
GROWING PAINS

It wasn't long ago that the Cleveland Indians tried to re-mold "The Kid" into their prototype of what they thought a ballplayer should be.

That approach turned out to be as successful as, well, telling Brandon Phillips to stop smiling.

It was from that joyless scrap heap in 2006, when the Indians designated Phillips for assignment, that the Reds scouts - led by general manager Wayne Krivsky - rescued Phillips.

The rest is history.

Letting Phillips be Phillips has undoubtedly paid off for the Reds. The numbers bear that out:

Year Team G AB R H HR RBI BA
2003 Indians 112 370 36 77 6 33 .208
2004 Indians 6 22 1 4 0 1 .182
2005 Indians 6 9 1 0 0 0 .000
2006 Reds 149 536 65 148 17 75 .276
2007 Reds 158 650 107 187 30 94 .288

STANDING TALL?

Brandon Phillips' sister, Porsha, already is giving Brandon a run for his money as the best athlete in the family. She's a sophomore basketball player at the University of Georgia, and was a McDonald's All-American in high school. Brother P.J., 21, is a shortstop in the Angels organization; brother Jamil, 33, runs a batting practice facility in Kansas.

"Brandon's the shortest one (5 feet 11)," says James Phillips, Brandon's father. "Porsha's 6-2 1/2;, P.J.'s 6-4 and Jamil 6-1."

IDOL CHATTER

As a boy, Brandon Phillips recalls seeing his favorite player - shortstop Barry Larkin of the Reds - play in Atlanta.

"I watched him closely because we played the same position," Phillips explains. "I watched him at batting practice, in the field, and at bat, and he was giving it his all, but he was also having fun, enjoying the game. I wanted to be just like him."

--John Erardi

GIMME FIVE...

...reasons kids should play baseball, Brandon:

1 It keeps you out of trouble.

2 It's a good sport for building up friendships.

3 Baseball makes you smarter -- you must stay ready and think ahead where to go with the ball.

4 You can look up numbers of past players -- it's fun to do.

5 Baseball can inspire you. "Barry Larkin's the reason I play baseball," Phillips says.

--John Erardi

BRANDON PHILLIPS ON OPENING DAY

What does Brandon Phillips like about Opening Day?

"My first Opening Day with the Reds was a beautiful thing," he says. "I was like, 'Wow! I didn't know the stadium could get packed like this!' I learned that (Opening Day in Cincinnati) is a tradition, lots of people not even going to work.

"Opening Day is the beginning of probably the most wonderful thing there is. It lets you know it's baseball season. ... I get the chill bumps every time I'm out there. When you hear the people cheering for you like that, screaming because they want you to do good, I wish it could be like that every day."

--John Erardi

http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080327/SPT04/303270101

BCubb2003
03-28-2008, 02:16 AM
Whatever happened to that other kid, the one with the big smile and the funny way he wore his hat?