Camden Courier-Post - February 21, 1980

New Phillie coaches stress fundamentals

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps it's no big deal that the Phillies will open the season with Lee Elia, the organization's top minor league manager, coaching third base at Veterans Stadium and talent scout Ruben Amaro coaching first base.

 

But then again...

 

Manager Dallas Green is already on his way to the club's training camp site in Clearwater, Fla., armed with a conditioning program that he believes will not only get his players in shape, but also emphasize solid, fundamental baseball.

 

This "return to basics" is hardly revolutionary. Teams coming off disappointing seasons embrace such programs all the time. Usually, they don’t last beyond Easter.

 

That's where Elia and Amaro come into the picture. Both are staunch fundamentalists. Both already have indicated they plan to do more than stand near the baselines relaying signals and looking like so much window dressing.

 

"A lot of players spend a year or two in the big leagues and suddenly think they know everything," said Amaro. "The truth is, no matter how long you're in the major leagues, or how good you are, there is always something to learn.

 

"I hope to have some input during the season. I think it's healthy when players believe that there is never enough baseball in anyone's mind. There is a need to learn something new. And you can do it almost every day.

 

This is not to say that Amaro and Elia's predecessors didn't share the same outlook. Both Billy DeMars, now the club's fulltime batting instructor, and Tony Taylor, who is slated to become a super-coach for the minor leagues, always have gotten high marks for insight and effort.

 

The fact remains, however, that Taylor and DeMars spent a lot ot seasons relaying instructions from Danny Ozark in the dugout. Instructions that carried less and less weight as respect for Ozark's opinion diminished. Instructions that were ignored on more than a few occasions.

 

With new people on the foul lines, there will be less chanoe for the players to fall back into that old pattern. With coaches Bobby Wine and DeMars at his side, Green will be insisting on good fundamental baseball (offensively as well as defensively) throughout the season. Elia and Amaro will serve as reminders.

 

"I'm excited about the season," said Elia, who managed in Oklahoma City last season and has been hailed for his good rapport with players throughout his minor league career.

 

"Out of the 38 guys on the roster, I've either coached or managed 24 of them. I think I can contribute. And I don't mean just on the field. Which, incidentally is AstroTurf. I've spent a lot of years coaching third (all minor league managers coach third base), but not on that stuff.

 

"Billy DeMars and I talked about that the other day. Then we went out and played golf and spent most of the time talking about the league… the best defensive arms in the league, things like that."

 

The Phillies' brass explained that part of the reason for Taylor's reassignment was a league rule dealing with the baseball pension. Tony is fully vested. While Elia, despite years of service, remained two seasons shy of even qualifying and would remain so if Taylor was' retained in the same capacity.

 

There is more to it than that, however. Admittedly, Elia is a demonstrative man on the coaching lines. His enthusiasm shows. And, extra enthusiasm is another element Green feels the team could use.

 

What the coaching changes reflect ! more than anything else is a basic alteration in the philosophy of the "big club", which has begun utilizing people throughout the entire organization rather than relying on a small circle of executives.

 

And, although it's true that injuries were the prime contributor to the team's downfall last season, there is a feeling that the attitude that prevailed during the Ozark era should be changed if the team is to go on to a World Championship.

 

The Phillies have some pretty fine baseball people ready and willing to give some "input" to that effort. Elia and Amaro are only the tip of the iceberg.