2/24/2014 2:34 P.M. ET
Wheeler adjusting to new role outside of booth
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Comcast SportsNet introduced Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs as its newest broadcasters Monday.
They replace Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews, whom the network declined to bring back as part of its recently negotiated 25-year contract with the Phillies. Wheeler and Matthews both remain with the organization. Matthews will be in camp this spring as a guest instructor and during the season as a goodwill ambassador, while Wheeler also will be around as a goodwill ambassador.
Wheeler, 68, spent the previous 37 seasons as a Phillies broadcaster, so this season will be an adjustment.
"You know what's going to be really strange is when I don't see a game," he said this week. "The last time I didn't go on the road was 1976. I've been on every road trip from '77 on, which basically means that I've pretty much seen every game. Because even when we got better as a team and we wouldn't do a FOX game or an ESPN game or something, I would still watch the game. I can't help it. I love baseball. I love watching the games. So I think that's what's really going to feel different."
Wheeler, better known by everybody as Wheels, learned Sept. 21 that Comcast would not have him back in the booth.
"I did the last nine games knowing I was a lame duck," he said. "And that was a little difficult. It was difficult leaving that Sunday, the second game that I did. So leaving the booth that Sunday, I caught myself looking around as I walked to the bus. Tom [McCarthy's] wife got sick at the time, if you'll remember, so I wound up doing play-by-play for two or three games. Just me and Sarge, two lame ducks sitting there. So that was a little bit difficult."
Wheeler will be around the ballpark this season. He will be playing golf with sponsors, talking to people in suites, going to speaking engagements and events in the offseason, etc. He will be the public-address announcer at Bright House Field.
"I haven't been on an airplane without the Phillies in, I can't remember the last time," he said, when asked if he might do something he has been unable to do in the past because of the baseball schedule. "I don't go anywhere when the season ends, for better or worse. I'm tired of traveling so I don't go anywhere. Yeah, it's entered my mind. I've always wanted to go to Normandy; I'm a big World War II buff. I'm a big Civil War history buff. You know, those kind of things. I've thought about, yeah, maybe I'll go to Normandy, finally stand on those cliffs or something."
But he will not be in the broadcast booth. Wheeler said he didn't think too many people would care about it when news finally broke last month. He was wrong.
"The respect that I have from so many people in the industry means a lot," he said. "You know some people don't like you and I always felt that I just tried to be the best person I could be and treat people the right way. And you can't worry about it. I've had a lot of people in the industry take the time, I don't want to start throwing names out because I'll forget somebody, but colleagues, people I've worked with for a long time, front-office people, print people. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest with you. It took me a long time to sit down, answer all the calls, get back to everybody, answer all my emails, answer all my texts. The attention was unbelievable. It was very nice, very flattering, and if my legacy can be to have been a decent human being and a professional, I'm good with that. Somebody who just loved the game."
Phillies set pitching for initial spring games
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies play an intrasquad game at noon ET Tuesday at Bright House Field.
Jesse Biddle and Ethan Martin will start.
The Phillies open their Grapefruit League schedule Wednesday against the Blue Jays. Roberto Hernandez is scheduled to start. Jeff Manship, Antonio Bastardo, Brad Lincoln, Jake Diekman, Kevin Munson and Phillippe Aumont also are scheduled to pitch.
Cliff Lee and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez pitch Thursday against Toronto.
A.J. Burnett pitches Sunday against the Pirates.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.