In a surprising turn of events Jim Thome made the decision in free agency this offseason to return to the Phillies for a second stint. While his passion for Philadelphia, his desire to win, and his relationship with Charlie Manuel are things that certainly played a part, Thome is 41-years-old and hasn’t played first base since 2007. That’s why it’s so surprising. Thome showed last year he had a little pop in his bat and could still be an effective DH for an American League team. Instead, Thome sacrificed playing time and consistent at-bats with a return to Philadelphia in hopes of capturing the elusive ring that he missed out on the first time around.
Jim Thome joined WIP on Philadelphia with Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow to talk about being excited to return to the Phillies, whether or not he has regrets about leaving Philadelphia earlier in his career when he did, what it means to be reunited with Charlie Manuel, whether or not he thinks he can still play in the field, and the passion of Philadelphia fans and his desire to return to the postseason.
On being excited to return to the Phillies:
“I think that goes both ways. I’m ecstatic, I’m excited, and to be honest to get an opportunity to come back and play with the Phillies. I was very blessed to get that opportunity to go back to Cleveland. When I got that chance, it was great and when the Phillies called it was really for me, it was very exciting. Now I get to go to two places that I have a lot of history in so I’m ecstatic. I’m so pumped.”
Whether or not he has regrets about leaving Philadelphia earlier in his career when he did:
“I think in life you can never look back. At the time, let’s face it, Ryan Howard was ready to take my job. I was still a very good player. I think the Phillies were in a very difficult position. They had two first basemen I think they enjoyed and wanted to be a part of their future. To be honest I was the odd man out. I was the guy that needed to be moved to make room for an MVP player to take over and start and build that franchise to what they wanted it to become. From my end I don’t look back and have any regrets. I would just say this I had a chance to go to Chicago which I loved. At the time mom passed away so I think it revitalized our family, it gave my family an opportunity to heal wounds and revitalized our family in a sense of being close to home they got to be so close to where I was playing.”
On his relationship with Charlie Manuel:
“I said it in my 600 press conference, I’ve said it to many people, I would not be where I was at or where I’m at without Charlie. I think a lot of players can say that. I think what he does, he’s an icon baseball man that I think it takes to realize how important and how good he is for the game. When I think about him, it’s funny because signing there and getting an opportunity to come back. ..I often now think what’s it going to be like being on the bench and going up to Charlie like we did for years and years. There were times I would look over at him during an at-bat and he would give me the breaking ball sign, they’re gonna throw you a breaking ball and I’d sit on a breaking ball and hit a home run and I’d come back and we’d wink at each other. Then there’s times that they would throw a fastball and I’d strike out and we’d come back and talk about that. How basically the ups and downs of the game and grinding it out and being there for each other. More than anything I look forward to being around those guys every day that have established themselves into basically a team that a lot of people in baseball look at to set an example by. I’m so excited, it’s gonna be so much fun, and I know my role will obviously be different than it was when I signed there nine years ago. It’s gonna be exciting to be a part of a bunch of people including Charlie that are winners. In life you can’t beat that and that’s what it’s all about.”
Whether or not he thinks he can still play in the field:
“You know I am but there’s also a part of me that hasn’t done it in a while and I’m at a different phase in my career than I was nine years ago. You always have to challenge yourself whether it’s setting goals for yourself. And for me when the Phillies called this gave me an opportunity to go to a winner, a true perennial winner that has a chance to win but also to challenge myself and see if I can go back, and look I’m not gonna play first base every day, but be a guy that can give a guy a break here and there to be able to fill in, have a role, and be a vital part of that role. Challenge myself to see if I can do it again. I think that’s what life is about.”
On his desire to get back to the postseason in Philadelphia:
“I will tell you this and I got a little bit of a feel for it a couple years ago when I was with the Dodgers and we came in there and I will never forget my family came, they flew to Philadelphia and I remember just the way that whole series went and they got big hits and just being on the bench and looking and watching everything unfold from the bench. Watching it I looked at it and go ‘oh my goodness this is baseball here.’ I always tell my buddies if you ever want to experience something that you’ll never experience in your life then go to a playoff game in Philadelphia in October and you tell me what you think. As a player I think to be in that moment and watch the white towels it’s just something that you can’t explain to people. You have to experience it. You can only describe it to a sense that you have to go experience it. It wasn’t fun getting beat but being a part of the Phillies the way I was I looked at it and go ‘wow they are setting the bar very, very high for their organization.”