PHILADELPHIA – Mark Leiter Jr. walked into Veterans Stadium for his first Philadelphia Eagles game ever wearing a Randy Moss jersey Nov. 11, 2001.
Leiter watched the Eagles dominate Moss and his Minnesota Vikings teammates 48-17.
Leiter heard the crowd roar with each touchdown. He heard the fans sing “Fly Eagles Fly.”
“I was sitting there in awe,” The Philadelphia Phillies pitcher said. “I walked out of the stadium an Eagles fan and never looked back.”
The Lacey Township resident is pumped up for this Sunday’s NFC title game against the Vikings.
“I think they’re going to win, absolutely,” Leiter said. “Cold weather game and dome team (in the Vikings). Hopefully, we can (get Lincoln Financial Field) rockin.”
Leiter, 26, and a couple of other Phillies met the media in the clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon as part of the team’s annual winter caravan to promote the upcoming season.
Leiter, 26, was 3-6 with a 4.96 ERA as a rookie last season. But he had several impressive starts, most notably seven innings of shutout ball in an 8-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Aug. 23.
Leiter is one of several young pitchers who should contend for a spot in this year’s starting rotation during spring training. Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida, for spring training Feb. 13.
“We have a great group,” Leiter said. “We’ve kind of grown up together. We’re all friends and we’re all close, but it’s going to push us to compete against each other.”
Aaron Nola (12-11 with a 3.54 ERA) figures to be one Phillies starter assured of a rotation spot. But the rest of the Phillies young pitchers will all enter spring training with something to prove. But Leiter and the young staff also enter spring training with a season of experience behind them.
“It takes some time to adjust and understand what it takes to be successful),” Leiter said. “I think going through that for the first time is something we’ve never experienced. Going through in year two, I really believe you’re going to see a lot of jumps and improvements with all our guys.”
Leiter is the son of former major league pitcher Mark Leiter and the nephew of retired major league pitcher Al Leiter. Mark Leiter pitched from 1990-2001 with several teams, including the Phillies and the New York Yankees.
The Leiter family moved as the elder Leiter changed teams, so that’s why until that fateful day in 2001 the younger Leiter never had a favorite NFL team.
“It’s been a blast,” Leiter Jr. said of this Eagles season.
The pitcher wouldn’t mind if the excitement at Lincoln Financial Field this winter made its way across the street to Citizens Bank Park this summer. Leiter attended past Phillies playoff games growing up.
“I’ve been here when the playoffs are going on in this stadium,” Leiter said. “There’s no better feeling as a fan. I can’t imagine what it would be like being on the field when the crowd gets like that. If we give the fans a reason, they’re going to come out.”
Leiter said he didn’t focus on just improving one thing this off-season.
“It’s never just one thing for me,” he said. “I’m always tweaking little things here and there. Each game I’m making adjustments. It’s mostly mental adjustments. You look at a lot of games and it’s just execution. You hang a pitch and you give up a two-run home run. Even if you pitch well the rest of the game, you might have given up three or four (runs) because of the two-run home run. It’s learning from mistakes.”