Newcomer compared to 'The Natural'
Dobbs making most of his opportunity in Philadelphia
Before he arrived at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla., for Spring Training most people had never even heard of Greg Dobbs. All that was known about the 28-year-old utility player who came over from the Seattle Mariners was that Phillies general manager Pat Gillick knew he could play and contribute to the ballclub.
What a difference a few games can make. By the time the Phillies began their Grapefruit League schedule, Dobbs let his playing do all the talking. Ten games into the Phils' exhibition schedule, he had hit three homers, which immediately opened eyes in the organization and led his teammates to begin calling him Roy Hobbs, the fictional slugger portrayed by Robert Redford in 'The Natural.'
Although his strong play early on allowed him to become more at ease as one of the new guys in the Phillies clubhouse, switching organizations is never an easy task for any player.
In mid-February, several of the team's elder statesmen, including Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins, took it upon themselves to welcome him and the rest of the newcomers to the team.
"These guys were making me feel like I was part of the club even though I really wasn't yet. And I can go through almost all of the guys in the clubhouse and say the same thing about them, too. They did a great job of making us new guys feel like this was our home."
But the one person who Dobbs credits with making him feel at home more than anyone else doesn't actually wear Phillies pinstripes.
"At some point in life, every person needs a sponsor," said Dobbs. "This year Pat Gillick was mine and I can't thank him enough for getting me over here."
"I had the opportunity of seeing Greg in Seattle, so I knew what he was capable of doing," said Gillick. "He can play four positions and is more suited to the National League style of play."
The six-year pro, who was drafted by the Mariners in 1996 and the Astros in 1999, but did not sign, was signed by Seattle as a non-drafted free agent in May of 2001. Although he enjoyed his time with the Mariners, Dobbs welcomed the opportunity to play for another team.
"When I was first picked up by the Phillies [off waivers], I was pretty excited," said Dobbs. "I had a great time over in Seattle, but my playing time was extremely limited because of the American League game and some of the players we had over there. But this past winter I had a great conversation with Pat. He was extremely positive and he said he wanted me to come in here and show Charlie [Manuel] how versatile a player I was.
"In Spring Training, I just tried to focus on playing hard in between the lines, taking care of my business and showing these guys that I'm a good teammate on and off the field."
When the team was ready to head north for the regular season, Dobbs boasted a .358 (24-for-67) batting average with five home runs, 20 RBIs and a .405 on-base percentage in 24 Spring Training games. That performance made him a lock for a spot on the Phillies' Opening Day roster as a bench player.
Through the first month and a half of the Phillies' season, Dobbs proved his ability to play all over the field. As the Phillies finished a 10-game homestand in May, he was hitting .297 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. But what was more impressive was that in addition to his playing time at third base, right field and left field, he did a nice job filling in at first base for an injured Ryan Howard.
At the All-Star break, the Los Angeles, Calif., native was hitting .288 with 34 RBIs and a .529 slugging percentage in 76 games.
"When I played in the big leagues, I was a bench player playing behind guys like Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew, so I know how hard the job can be," said Manuel, referring to his days in the 1970s with the Twins and Dodgers. "Greg's done a great job for us so far this year. You could see how good his swing was in Spring Training. He's consistent and has a very good approach when he's at the plate."
"When Ryan went on the DL, I had to stay fresh and be prepared when called upon," said Dobbs. "I know I can't go out there and be a Ryan Howard. I just have to be Greg Dobbs and do all that I'm capable of doing, stay relaxed, focused and stay within myself."
Focused is a word that Dobbs uses quite often. In fact, he is so focused that he already has plans for life after baseball.
Dobbs, who has a sociology degree from the University of Oklahoma and is fluent in Spanish, aspires to move into commercial real estate after his playing days. So in the offseason, when he's not working out or spending time with his wife Heidi and their infant daughter Taylor, Dobbs is working toward a business degree.
"I always knew I wanted to go into real estate, just regular real estate at first, though," said Dobbs. "But then I learned about the commercial field and it's a whole other level. My uncle, cousin and father-in-law have all been in commercial for years and have been successful. Fortunately, I've been learning the tricks of the trade from them and how the business works. It's been pretty exciting for me thus far, and I think that with my personality, this profession would be the best fit for me after I'm done playing baseball."
With the way he's been playing lately, it figures to be a while before his playing days are over. For now, he's just enjoying life in Philadelphia.
"It's been a tremendous experience thus far. It's got to be the highlight of my big league career to be brought over to this organization with the history it has," said Dobbs. "I love our ballpark, the fans and the players that are here. I'm extremely excited and happy about the opportunity I have to play here in this city."
Kevin Gregg is a media relations assistant for the Phillies. This article first appeared in Phillies Magazine. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.