So many times growing up, I would hear stories from mom, dad, aunts and uncles about the 1980 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.
About the legendary Mike Schmidt and his many home runs -- 48 to be exact. About Cy Young winner Steve Carlton. About rookie pitcher Bob Walk winning Game 1 of the 1980 World Series to add onto a stellar first season.
OK. My family might be one of the few to remember Bob Walk, but only because of the last name. As much as I'd like to say it, I'm not related.
Anyway, one common theme I remember about that team is how much those players are missed in Philadelphia. What does that have to do with today? Well, I think I'm in the beginning stages of understanding how my elders feel.
The good thing is I'm at least recognizing it early -- and thus will be able to appreciate the final season or two of watching players such as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay and perhaps manager Charlie Manuel in a Phillies uniform.
Rollins, 34, is in the second year of his three-year, $33 million contract. Utley, 34, is in the final year of his seven-year, $85 million deal. It's unclear what's gonna happen with Manuel, 69, when his contract expires after the 2013 season. And Halladay, who turns 36 in May, can only extend his contract one more year if he pitches at least 2582/3 innings this season, a feat he hasn't accomplished since 2003 and only last came close to reaching in 2010 (2502/3 innings).
So as the Phillies begin their 2013 season Monday night in Atlanta, there are more subjects on my mind than if the Phils can reach the World Series again for the first time since 2009, or win the franchise's sixth National League East pennant in seven years.
It's just part of the story of Major League Baseball right now, with fresh faces such as Stephen Strasburg and Mike Trout starting to take over for old dogs such as Derek Jeter and David Ortiz. Sadly, the Phils don't have much to say when it comes to discussing their future. ESPN's Keith Law last month ranked the Phils' minor league system 27th out of 30 teams. Then again, I have a feeling the Phils won't be afraid to spend money to stay near the top of the NL East.
Philadelphia's future should be put aside for now, though. Maybe Rollins, Utley, Halladay and Manuel will be back in Philadelphia in 2015. I'm just not optimistic they will be. So that's why I'm trying to enjoy this season and next while I can. I'm hoping Halladay and Utley get healthy and show how dominant they can be. I'm hoping Rollins doesn't have a drop-off as he ages. And I'm hoping Manuel, one of the most underrated managers in the game, continues making a winner of the Phils, like so many of his predecessors couldn't.
Then, maybe a few years from now, I'll continue the family tradition, turning to my nieces and nephews -- and one day children -- to tell them stories about how great those Phils were in the early part of the 21st century.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.