It's a sort of homecoming for one member of the Royals' organization. Kansas City's TV color analyst Rex Hudler is stoked about returning to Philadelphia for this weekend.
"I'm all about the Fightin' Phils and my experience with them," Hudler said while calling from his Kansas City home. "I love the organization and the city."
After having the finest year of his 13-year MLB career in 1996, Hudler signed with the Phillies.
"The Phillies bought high," Hudler said. "I had a nice offer from the Dodgers and I didn't want to finish my career with a losing team, but the Phillies made me an offer I couldn't refuse (doubling the Dodgers' $800,000 offer). They wanted my veteran leadership."
Unlike a number of players that passed through town, Hudler places his two years in Philadelphia as the highlight of his career.
"It wasn't because of what was happening on the field," Hudler said. "We were a terrible team."
Hudler, aka the Wonder Dog, was embraced by the fans for his hard-nose style and for the fact that he was an underdog on and off the field.
"My wife and I had our first child that November [in 1997] and he has Down Syndrome," Hudler said. "I couldn't believe the support I got from Philly. I remember when we left Orange County we were told that we were going to get chewed up and spit out by Phillies fans and they were the greatest. I got buckets of mail from the fans, who were incredibly supportive."
Hudler, who lived in Newtown Square, played two seasons for the Phillies before jumping to broadcasting.
"While I was with the Phillies I was asked to go on 'Good Morning America' and they asked what motivated a player when his team is 35 games out of first place," Hudler said. "One thing led to another and that led to broadcasting as a career."
Hudler, who is known for uttering such quirky lines as 'pilot to bombardier' and 'get yourself a piece of cheese,' is one of the most colorful broadcasters in the game. Hudler livened up a bunch of moribund Royals games last year.
"That's what it's about," Hudler said. "But this year, we have a lot of good young talent. It's going to be a good year for Kansas City."
Hudler has high hopes for the Phillies, too.
"Look at the talent that team has. When you have Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, you're going to be tough to beat. I can see the Phillies going to the playoffs, but they're going to have to beat 'Big Game' James Shields when we come in. It's going to be a great series."
How Bad Was 1997 for the Phillies?
So bad that J.D. Drew was drafted by the Phillies and refused to sign.
It was so bad that the Phillies selected the marginal Midre Cummings off waivers from the Pirates and started him in center.
The Phillies started the season 30-70 and were 4-22 in June.
"I didn't want my career to end that way, but that's the way it went," Hudler said. "We were a really bad team, but we had some talent — Curt Schilling, Mike Lieberthal, Scott Rolen, Ricky Bottalico and some guy named Ruben Amaro, Jr. Whatever happened to him?"