Thursday, March 23, 2023

Brett Phillips, Tampa Bay’s joyful native son, shares his favorite 2021 moments

Brett Phillips plays baseball with joy. 

Joy when he’s at the plate. Joy when he’s in the dugout with his teammates. Joy when he’s roaming the outfield. Joy when he’s hitting grand slams. Joy, even when he’s being hit with a 95-mph pitch right next to the shoulder blade.

That’s Brett Phillips, one of the most unique personalities in the sport. 

At Sporting News, we wanted to sample a piece of that joy, so I invited Phillips to a one-on-one Zoom session to look back at some of his more memorable moments this season. It did not disappoint, as you can tell from the video below.

The only regret is we chatted too soon. Our Zoom session was Saturday, Aug. 14, and two days later he legged out an inside-the-park homer. We’ll ask him about that next time, eh?

Here are a few outtakes that didn’t make the video.

The walk-off against the Mets

It’s not THE walk-off, the incredible ending to Game 3 of the World Series last year, when his single led to a rather unbelievable finish that ended with Randy Arozarena slapping home plate after crawling the last stretch home. I showed him the play and said, “You know which one this is, right?”

He laughed.

“Oh, of course. I don’t have that many in my career, so when you tell me just a little information about a walk-off, I know exactly which one you’re talking about.”

It was a treat for his home fans. 

“I was fortunate enough that it was at the Trop. I just love the fans. Those are my people. I was born and raised in Seminole, 20 minutes from the Trop. That’s my hometown, so I’m glad I was able to have a walk-off in the Trop.”

The fake charge of the mound

Jorge Lopez is a friend and a long-time teammate of Phillips, both with the Brewers and Royals. He drilled Phillips with a 95-mph fastball in the shoulder blade. Watch the video; he yells in pain as he’s hit, then when he turns back around he’s laughing with his buddy.

“That’s how I am, able to switch on a dime,” Phillips said. “For good, not for bad. Take bad moments and turn them good, in my daily life. Just so happy-go-lucky all the time, just trying to see the best in everything and everyone.”

The pitching appearance

We won’t spoil what’s in the video, with Phillips describing what happened with the warmups. Phillips threw his first pitch 94 mph, then tossed up a series of loopers in the mid-40 mph range. 

“I was gonna have some fun,” he said. “It was my first time pitching since middle school, and you’ve got to enjoy moments. It’s a long season and stuff like that makes it a little better. We move forward, and we won the next day. 

But he’s a little jealous of Brock Holt, a position player who threw a series of 30ish mph pitches a few weeks later. 

“That’s actually very impressive,” he said. “I think my next outing I’ll try to beat him.”

The ‘I love you’ into the camera

Turns out, he wasn’t looking at the camera, but another former teammate, Vince Velasquez. Two pitches after he told his teammate those three magic words, he homered.

Maybe he should try that more often, right?

“I should! Even if I don’t know anyone in the other dugout, just start saying ‘I love you’ to someone over there.”

The laugh that introduced Phillips to the world

The laugh is unforgettable.

It was, once upon a time, a secret. Phillips was drafted by the Astros in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB Draft, then traded to the Brewers at the 2015 midseason trade deadline. That video happened in spring training 2016.

“When I was with Houston, everyone knew I laughed like that, but they never exposed me. No one thought to. I don’t know if Twitter was popular yet in 2012 to 2014, but when I got over to Milwaukee, once they saw that they were like, ‘This is the weirdest thing ever. We’ve got to see if the world agrees.’ Sure enough, millions of views later, I’m known as the laugh guy.”


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