McBride happy to return to Phillies organization
Bethlehem native Matt McBride is returning for a second season with the IronPigs. CHUCK HIXSON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
The annual Phillies caravan rolled into the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem last week to raise money for IronPigs Charities. This year’s event featured a question and answer session with fans asking various players, front office people, broadcaster Ben Davis and manager Gabe Kapler questions about the upcoming season.
For Bethlehem native Matt McBride, the decision to return to the Phillies organization for a second season was an easy one. The product of Liberty High School and Lehigh University signed a minor league contract with the team shortly after the 2018 season and figures to be playing as a member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs when the season opens.
Last season, McBride hit .242 with 10 home runs and 26 RBI on the season. McBride fits the mold of being the type of player that the Phillies like to have around. He can play multiple positions and has been around long enough that he can help younger players develop their game. This year’s team figures to have a little more of a veteran presence, but McBride hopes the atmosphere will remain the same.
“Last year was a lot of fun, and we had a great group of guys, and we had each other’s backs,” said McBride. “I wish we could have gone further in the playoffs, but it was still a great year. Usually, when you’re gelling like that as a team, good things happen. This year, hopefully, we’ll have the same attitude.”
The fact that McBride can live at home and have family and friends at all of the IronPigs home games was a definite factor in coming back to the Phillies organization. For a guy that will turn 34 early in the season though, sentimentality isn’t the only reason for coming back to a team. McBride has played in 92 major league games with the Rockies and A’s, and is looking to return. The Phillies are a little thin at catcher near the top of the organization, and if anything were to happen to either Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp, the two catchers figuring on being on the Phillies roster, McBride would be positioned perfectly to be a major leaguer again.
“For me, I try to focus on what I need to get done in the offseason,” said McBride. “Once spring training starts you can get bogged down looking at all of the other stuff that’s going on. I tried to just keep working on things that I can get better at and working every day. Between hitting, catching, first base and the outfield, there’s always something to work on.”
While McBride figures to be on the IronPigs roster, manager Gabe Kapler talked about what he sees for the team at the major league level. Overall, he’s excited to see how much his team, which won 80 games last season, can improve and what lies ahead for them.
“There are two ways that you can improve your team,” noted the second-year skipper. “You can add players from the outside who will contribute, and we did that, and you can also get increased development from your young players. I think that a lot of our young guys are poised to keep getting better and better. I’m excited to see what these guys can do as they continue to develop as major leaguers.”
Of course, the offseason in Philadelphia has centered around having free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado join the team. Both are still unsigned even though spring training is just a few weeks away. For a manager, it’s got to be at least a little unsettling to have that question mark hovering around your team, but Kapler believes the Phillies are in a unique position and he’s not worried about what may or may not happen.
“We’ve got 99-percent of our roster locked in,” said Kapler with a broad smile. “A lot of teams don’t have that luxury. As a manager, I’ve got to be ready for a player to join us at any time and the players have to be ready for that, too. At the same time, you work with the guys that you know you have and you do what you have to do to get them ready for the season.”