Taking a break for a few hours from all the analysis and projections, Ryan Howard was highly entertaining Thursday in his press conference in Clearwater. One of the true genuine, good guys on the team, Howard was funny but not in the "fake" way Donovan McNabb used to be.
Some money quotes from Howard, courtesy of CSNPhilly.com:
As he sat down
“Let’s have a happy attitude about asking questions.” Howard asked for cheer from a group of reporters that he deemed as dreary as the rainy morning weather.
Howard, when asked by Jim Salisbury how he conditioned this offseason
"I bought the Salisbury hitting tape (pause, smile) ... to work on my hitting."
On the Phillies' age
“I don’t buy into the old thing. It’s all about how young you feel inside and how well you take care of yourself. Everybody in this clubhouse goes out and works their butt out. Everybody goes out in the offseason, they train and we do what we need to do to come back. If people want to call us old, that’s fine, but I think going out there this year we’re going to show people that we’re not old."
The next line was great, if only because it was off-the-cuff but poetically worded.
“I understand the window talk. Yeah, there is a window of opportunity, but if you focus on the window closing, then you never let that cool breeze come in. For us, the window closes when the window closes, but right now the window is still open, so we have to go out and take advantage of this nice breeze while we can.”
On his pitiful .173/.226/.378 line vs. lefties last season
“A lot of it was kind of mental. I told myself this winter,
I'm not even going to stress it or worry about it. I know it's in there.
I just have to let the inner me come out at the plate and be relaxed. I
have to trust myself, trust my ability, and let it fly.
“It's a combination of listening to the noise and trying to please people. People say, 'Oh, he can't hit lefties.' I have to show them I can hit lefties. Obviously, to get to the big leagues you have to hit lefties and righties. It's putting all that stuff aside and just trusting my abilities. I know I can hit lefties. It's just a matter of being relaxed.”
On the importance of playing in spring training
“You don’t realize how important a spring training is until you don’t have one. When I came back, [the Achilles] was always right there in the back of my mind. There was a little bit of hesitation putting weight on it. I didn’t have the full strength to be able to push off and follow-up on my swing. Now I don't even think about it.”
Finally, on Domonic Brown's development
“D-Brown has definitely matured. I think he gets it. He understands what it takes, what he needs to do in order to make this team ... I think he welcomes the opportunity to compete. To me, he’s taken a turn mentally to where he knows what he needs to do.”
Whether or not you put a lot of stock into Howard's words, Thursday's presser showed a lighter side and hopefully reminded us all that this is still fun, and that unless or until all the "What ifs" turn out negatively, there's still room for optimism. It's February, it was sunnier in Philly today than it was in Clearwater, and we're finally getting to hear the players respond to the winter-long criticism.
Chase Utley talks tomorrow.