By DEVON CONWAY
UT baseball is set to take on the Philadelphia Phillies on Feb. 23 at 1:05 p.m. at Bright House Field in Clearwater.FL.
UT students are able to purchase tickets on the Tampa Spartans website and can use the coupon code “SPARTANS” for discounted tickets. Tickets can also be purchased on the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training website. For transportation to the game, UT is offering a 57 passenger bus provided for students. The bus leaves from Martinez Center at 11:30 a.m. Seats are first come, first serve. The game should end around 4:00, and the bus should arrive back to campus at around 5:00 p.m.
This year will be the Spartans’ third time playing the Phillies. In 2015, the Spartans became the fourth collegiate team in history to beat an MLB team in spring training, beating the Phillies 6-2. In 2016, the Spartans fell short 8-3.
The UT baseball team looks forward to the game against the Phillies each year. “It is an honor to play against an MLB team since that’s every baseball player’s dream,” said senior shortstop Kevin Santa. “It gives you an idea of how different the game is at the next level and how difficult it is to hit the ball from a pitcher in the MLB. We just enjoy the moment and we do our best to compete against them.”The UT baseball players experience a change of pace playing the Phillies. They are able to use wooden bats like the MLB players do, compared to using an aluminum bat at the collegiate level, and they get a chance to interact with MLB players. “Last year, we got a tour before the game and we got to meet the Phillies manager Pete Mackanin and the starting pitcher for last year’s game, Jeremy Hellickson,” Santa said.
Head coach Joe Urso looks forward to playing the Phillies each year. Urso believes playing the Phillies is beneficial for his team because the experience is unprecedented.
“I think it’s every player’s dream to play in the major league and not many players will ever get that chance,” Urso said. “For our players to be treated like major leaguers for one day, in a major league clubhouse with all the perks that go along with it, I think it’s great for them to see what it’s all about.”
The players value the experience they gain from playing an MLB team.
“When we play a college team, it’s more like a little crowd and you know most of the people that come to the games,” Santa said. “Against the Phillies, there is a greater amount of people and is the crowd is louder, so every time they cheer, you get the chills and it pump you up, it motivates us. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Santa has high hopes for his team against the Phillies in the upcoming game. “I was not apart of the team in 2015 that beat the Phillies, but it is an honor to play for a team that beat an MLB team already, and you never know, maybe it will happen again,” Santa said.
After the exciting game against the Phillies, the Spartans are set to take on the Barry University Buccaneers in Miami Shores, Fl in a three game series on Feb. 24 and 25.