Port Allegany Reporter Argus
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009
After spending the majority of his baseball career west of the Mississippi River, Brian Stavisky signed a contract with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Class AAA affiliate, in December. He’s happy to be back home in Pennsylvania – and with the newly crowned World Series champions, no less.
“Once I became a free agent after the World Series ended, I had the option of re-signing with the Angels, but I was hoping that some East Coast teams would be interested,” the former Port Allegany star said. “At first, the Phillies showed some interest, but didn’t make a specific offer. Just after Thanksgiving, they came back with a good offer. It was just what I wanted, to be with an East Coast team, so it ended up working out great. And with them coming off a World Series win, I’m really excited to see what’s it’s going to be like around there this year. I’m sure the standards are going to be even higher.”
While the Phillies head into spring training as the defending champs, the farm system didn’t enjoy the same level of success last year. The IronPigs finished with the worst record in the International League, with the Phils’ Double-A namesake in Reading doing the same in the Eastern League. Stavisky, who helped lead the Arkansas Travelers to the Double-A Texas League championship last season – the fourth title in five years for the 6-3, 230-pound outfielder – sees a chance to help his new club improve. And if the front office is paying attention, all the better.
“Hopefully they’re looking for some players that can go to Triple-A and Double-A and play well and help those levels, as well as maybe help the big-league team down the road, too,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to go to a team that just won the World Series, but also may be looking for some better players to fill in their minor leagues. One, it’s close to home, which I’m excited about. Two, I think there’s a good chance to get noticed if I’m doing well.”
Stavisky enjoyed the short time he spent with the Lancaster Barnstormers in the independent Atlantic League last spring, which increased his desire to sign with an Eastern team once he became a free agent.
But while the scenery may be familiar, some of the rules are decidedly different. Because the Phillies play in the National League, which doesn’t use the designated hitter, the IronPigs’ pitchers will have to hit in their games against other NL farm clubs – something Stavisky, who has only played for American League teams until now, has never seen during his time in the minors. Naturally, he’s curious to find out how the change will affect his role.
“I might end up being a lefthanded bat off the bench, where if I’m doing well, that could be something I could even do at the big-league level,” he said. “But I feel I can play good enough defense to play in the field or at first base, and hopefully between the two, that will keep me in the lineup pretty much all the time.
“Obviously, in Philadelphia, (All-Star first baseman) Ryan Howard is going to be around there for a while, so it just depends on wherever they want me and whatever they need. Hopefully I’ll just be as good as I can be at both. I prefer first base – there’s more action in the infield, you’re involved with more plays, and things happen more quickly – but whatever they want me to do is fine with me. I’ll just be ready to play either spot, and hopefully it gives me more options to play more,” he said.
Before he leaves for the Phillies’ spring training complex in Clearwater in late February, arriving a few days before his official reporting date to acclimate himself to the warm Florida sunshine, Stavisky plans to put in some work with the Pitt-Bradford baseball team.
“I’m really thankful there’s a place close by where I can go work out, so I can stay home longer. They’ve been great. If I can help them out at all, I try to, and they let me use the facilities just like I’m on the team. I have to thank coach Bret Butler and the Pitt-Bradford program for that,” he said.
The 28-year-old Stavisky, who holds a degree in business management from Notre Dame, would like to stay involved in the game when his playing days are over, working in the front office of a professional franchise or a major-college athletic department. Those post-career plans are on indefinite hold, though, because there’s still a major league dream to chase.
“This past season got me thinking a little bit – being released, going to independent ball,” he said. “I have thought a little bit about what I’m going to do. For the time being, though, I want to put that on the back burner, especially now that things have worked out the way they have. This is a great opportunity with the Phillies. It’s rejuvenated me – I’m more excited than ever to start the season.”
The last time Stavisky advanced to Triple-A, a hand injury cost him most of the 2007 season in Sacramento. He’s looking forward to getting another chance to prove he can succeed one step shy of the majors.
“I really want to use my experience to make this a great year at the Triple-A level. And then, if a spot opens up, if they need someone in the big leagues, hopefully I’m playing well and I’m the guy they want to move up,” he said.
“After this year, I’ll have a pretty good idea of where I stand with the organization. Hopefully it goes well enough where I can either make it to the big leagues or be close … I couldn’t be happier than being with the Phillies and set up in Pennsylvania, and I’m just excited to see what this year brings. I feel that there’s no reason that I can’t have a good year, and make a home with the Phillies.”
Lori can be reached at portsports(at)verizon.net.