CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs, the new Comcast SportsNet color commentators for the 2014 Phillies season, arrived Monday morning at Bright House Field in time to start their new jobs Wednesday when the exhibition season begins.
Moyer and Stairs, both former Phillies, met with the media for the first time since receiving their new roles and both were excited for the opportunity.
Stairs, best remembered for his pinch-hit home run at Dodger Stadium in Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series that helped the Phillies advance to the World Series, said he was just a few days away from attending Wing Bowl eating competition in Philadelphia when his phone rang and he was asked to interview for the job.
Moyer, a Souderton native, was traveling — not to Wing Bowl — when he was notified by email about the chance to interview.
The two will only be in the booth together 30 times, but all total, including exhibition games, Moyer will be in the booth for 108 games and Stairs will do 109. When they are both in the booth, Comcast SportsNet will go with a three-person crew.
While Moyer and Stairs both know the history of the positions they're stepping into — following in the footsteps Byrum Saam, Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas — they plan to establish their own images.
"I hear their voice as we all do as fans," Moyer said of Saam, Ashburn and Kalas. "Whether it was an exciting game or just their voice or how they talked about the game or broadcast the game. I don't see any way that I'm going to try to emulate those people. I think they were all great in their own respect. I believe it's about being yourself."
Stairs said he won't hold back when he sees a player not hustling or doing something wrong, even if it is a former teammate.
"It's not going to be hard because you did it as a player," Stairs said. "If someone didn't run the bases, you called them out in the locker room. The biggest thing I've found is you don't want to embarrass a player."
"If you think about it, there are a lot of mistakes made in the game and over the course of a game, over the course of a season," Moyer said. "To be on top of every one of them, it's going to be impossible. I think it's the blatant things, as Matt alluded, the lack of hustle."
With each new beginning there's an ending, and in this case Chris Wheeler will be moving on.
At the end of March, when the Phillies embark on the first road trip of the season, they'll do so without Wheeler for the first time since 1977.
Wheeler said he first learned Sept. 21 that he would be relieved of his duties but had to keep the news a secret for four months. The team's president, David Montgomery, informed Wheeler of a decision that wasn't his, with nine games remaining in the season.
Comcast, which agreed to a 25-year-deal with the Phillies, wanted changes in the booth and one of those changes was removing Wheeler. The 68-year-old wasn't the only casualty; former player Gary Matthews was also let go.
But for now, things are pretty normal for Wheeler, who was given another position in the Phillies organization. As for his new title, the Phillies aren't ready to announce that yet.
His latest project was arranging Monday's annual team golf outing.
"I walk around and I talk to the manager and the players and the coaches," said Wheeler. "I talk to [the media]. Just talk baseball. So the change will be Wednesday when we do the first telecast and I'm not on it. Then I don't know what it will feel like, to be honest with you. It will be a little different."
Leaving the booth was not easy for Wheeler, especially because he said he never had been fired before.
"I did the last nine games knowing I was a lame duck, and that was a little difficult. Leaving the booth that Sunday, I caught myself looking around as I walked to the bus," Wheeler said. "We went to Miami and Atlanta, so I did the games down there. Tom [McCarthy's] wife got sick at the time, if you'll remember, so I wound up doing play-by-play for two or three games. Just me and Sarge [Matthews], two lame ducks sitting there."
Despite dealing with the disappointment in leaving a job he had held for so long, Wheeler said he could not have been treated better by the Phillies. He's also received an outpouring of good wishes since the announcement.
"The attention was unbelievable," Wheeler said. "It was very nice, very flattering and if my legacy can be to have been a decent human being and a professional, I'm good with that. Somebody who just loved the game."