Before we jump into talking about players why don’t you introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Michael Ventola and I am the play-by-play radio voice of the Reading Fightin Phils. I broadcast all 142 games home and away for the Fightin Phils.
You covered the Fightins from start to finish, can you sum up their season as a whole?
I can easily use one word to describe the season: Challenge. The Fightin Phils roster suffered over a 100 moves throughout the entire season and only finished with a handful of players that began with the team on opening day. The team though continued to play hard each and every game.
At the end of the year Reading got to see some of the Phillies first round pick, Aaron Nola. What was your impression of the RHP?
Aaron Nola is going to be taking the ball once every five days for the Philadelphia Phillies very soon. He has excellent command on his fastball and can throw his breaking ball for strikes. He’s got a good slider and he throws strike one consistently. Philadelphia Phillies fans have a lot to be excited about Aaron plus he’s a stand up guy and someone the fans will easily get behind.
Who was the top hitter you saw for Reading this year?
The top hitter I saw was Jake Fox. Jake had over 20 home runs with over 70 RBI. He was their biggest producer at the plate and was an extension of the coaching staff. A fantastic player to watch and an even greater guy off the field. A close second would have to be Cameron Perkins who led the Eastern League in doubles before he left and was hitting .342 before being called up to AAA-Lehigh Valley.
Who was the top pitcher on the team for you outside of Nola?
Ken Giles. Giles dominated the Eastern League is already showing all of major league baseball how great he can potentially be. He’s fastball is absolutely electric with an explosive slider. It was an awesome privilege getting a front row seat in Reading.
Having seen this team grow and change all year, is there a guy you think is not getting enough coverage and credit from fans and media?
Aaron Altherr. Yes he’s received some attention and had the ability to get a cup of coffee this season with Philadelphia but I am real excited about his future. He’s already major league ready defensively. He can absolutely cover a ton of ground at any spot in the outfield. He has to cut down his strikeouts and has to decide on if he wants to be a big-time home run hitter or if he’s going to be a guy that relies on gap-to-gap with 15-18 home runs a season. I think the 2015 season is going to be a story-telling season for Aaron and I think he’ll be climbing through the ranks sooner rather than later.
One of my favorite stories in the Phillies system this year was Adam Loewen, can you speak to his comeback this year?
Adam Loewen learned how to pitch again and developed his change-up. Wherever he is in 2015 he’ll have the ability to continue to grow and may find himself back in the major leagues at some point. He doesn’t have as much velocity as he used to but can locate well. If he cuts down his walks he’ll climb up the way he would like. He doesn’t give up as many hits as you would think and actually started to get the strikeout more as the season went on. He was really fun to cover this season and I am looking forward to what 2015 will bring for him.
On the Aphilliated Podcast earlier this year we talked park factors in Reading, no one outside Jake Fox ended up putting up huge home run numbers on offense, though on the pitching side Severino Gonzalez and Hoby Milner were very homer prone. How did the park play this year and was there a noticeable impact on the field to you?
FirstEnergy Stadium is a place that favors the hitters more than the pitchers. I know I’m stating the obvious with that statement but I’m just clarifying things. As for Hoby Milner and Severino Gonzalez…don’t believe the ballpark was the cause as much as you think. Severino had a low walk total but was giving up a ton hits, plenty that went over the wall in a lot of ballparks throughout the Eastern League. As for Hoby he made pitches that he would tell you he knew that it wasn’t going to be pretty and he knew he was going to be victimized with the home run albeit in Reading or elsewhere. Both pitchers have tremendous upside and for example, Hoby Milner threw a complete-game shutout against Binghamton at FirstEnergy Stadium. I would guarantee if both are in Reading next season they will have lower home runs allowed due to the ability of gaining another year’s experience.
A fan favorite for those that follow the Phillies system was Jake Fox, speaking less to Fox specifically can you comment on the role that older more experienced players play in mentoring and coaching in the minor leagues?
Jake Fox was the quintessential teammate. He truly cared about seeing the guys around him get better while he was in pursuit of his own goals. He knew his role was to mentor the younger players and help them see their full potential. Whether it was during batting practice or the cage or even in the clubhouse itself, he did everything in his power to be there for the younger players. He used chess and playing cards as a practice to show the rest of the team what it means to think a move ahead or understanding what the specific situation is. When his playing career is done he will coach someday and I think whatever organization wraps him up will instantly become better because of Jake Fox.