LAKEWOOD - Jesse Biddle admits to being star-struck the first time he met Mickey Morandini in spring training two years ago.
Biddle, one of the Philadelphia Phillies' top pitching prospects, grew up in Philadelphia. Morandini was a popular second baseman for the Phillies from 1990-97 and in 2000.
"He's my dad's favorite player," Biddle said.
Now both Morandini and Biddle are members of the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Phillies' Class A affiliate. Morandini is Lakewood's new manager. Biddle, 20, is expected to again pitch for the BlueClaws after going 7-8 with a 2.98 ERA with Lakewood last year.
Morandini saw FirstEnergy Park, the BlueClaws' stadium, for the first time Wednesday. He and Biddle took part in the Phillies' Winter Tour here at Woodlake Country Club.
Morandini, 45, played nine of his 11 major-league seasons in Philadelphia. He started at second base for the 1993 Phillies, who lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series. Morandini, a National League All-Star in 1995, retired after playing for both the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays in 2000. He had a .268 career batting average.
Morandini thought of becoming a coach or manager right after his retirement, but he had three young sons.
"When I retired, I told my wife I wanted to manage one day, but I had a 7-year-old, 4-year-old and 1-year-old," he said. "I didn't have time to go back on the road."
Now, his boys are 17, 14 and 11, leaving him time to pursue a second baseball career.
Morandini coached high school baseball in Indiana for four years. He was a special instructor for the Phillies in spring training in 2009-10 before joining the organization full-time last year.
Morandini managed the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Phillies' short-season Class A team, to a 43-33 record in 2011.
Morandini was known for his scrappy style of play, but his persona as a manager is much calmer. If something needs to be said, Morandini said he likes to call a player into his office for a one-on-one conversation.
"I'm not a screamer or a yeller, contrary to what people might think with the way I played," he said. "I'm patient. I don't like mental mistakes, but I can handle the physical mistakes. We're still dealing with young kids who are still developing as players and individuals."
The BlueClaws are among the most popular minor-league franchises in the country. Lakewood averaged 6,263 fans last season, leading the South Atlantic League in attendance for the 11th straight year. The BlueClaws often draw between 7,000 and 8,000 fans in the summer. Lakewood's first home game is April 12 this year.
"That's the icing on the cake," Morandini said of the crowds Lakewood draws. "It's always nice to play in front of big crowds."
Biddle said Morandini is easy to get to know.
"He's a really, really good baseball guy," Biddle said. "He played the game the right way, so he can coach the game the right way."
Biddle might have to sneak a favor from Morandini during the season. Biddle's father, David, probably wouldn't mind an autograph from his favorite player.
"I don't know what the ethics are on that," Biddle said with a laugh, "but my dad would be thrilled."
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