'Sir Charles' visits Angels, showcases golf swing

Basketball Hall of Famer -- and friend of Halos skipper Maddon -- stops by camp Monday

March 2nd, 2020

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels had a special guest in camp on Monday, when NBA Hall of Famer and TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley met with the team and even hit a few golf balls in front of the players in right field.

Barkley, a Philadelphia Phillies fan stemming from his time playing with the 76ers from 1984-92, met Angels manager Joe Maddon a few years ago when the Cubs were playing a series at Citizens Bank Park. Maddon reached out to Barkley this spring and wanted him to meet with the players to keep things loose during the grind of Spring Training.

“I like his leadership style, I like his personality more ... and we both hate analytics,” Barkley said with a laugh. "I go to a bunch of Phillies games. He came to town with the Cubs and a couple of my friends had been around the organization, so we spent some time together. He asked me to come out today. But I’m a big Phillies fan. This is my home. But I live in Philadelphia in the summer."

Barkley, decked out in an Angels hat and shirt, participated in the Angels' daily meeting on the field. The meeting always concludes with a fun game, and this time it was closest to the pin. Barkley showed off his improved golf swing with a couple of close shots at a trash can target, although Albert Pujols came closest.

“For me, it’s about the players shaking hands with him and saying hello to him,” Maddon said. “It’s energy and enthusiasm. If we can do something daily that increase or adds to our energy or enthusiasm, I’ll take it. I think that’s overlooked. So guys like Charles coming in is outstanding. And when you get guys like Charles that are local and amiable to coming out, the players love that stuff."

Barkley also showed off a wide array of baseball knowledge, as it’s clear he follows the game and knew plenty about Angels stars such as Mike Trout, Pujols, Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani. Barkley has followed Trout closely because Trout hails from the Philadelphia area, but he had only met him once before. He said the word out of Philadelphia was that Trout would return home to sign with the Phillies but he was happy to see him commit to the Angels with his 12-year contract.

“I think I didn’t get the words out I wanted to say last time,” Barkley said. “I was so excited to meet him. And it was just quick. It was in L.A. at the ESPYs. I just bumped into him in the elevator and told him it was an honor. Being from Philadelphia, we know a lot about him. So I’m a fan. I just said hello to him really quickly. I was kinda fanboy on him, a little bit.”

Barkley also personally congratulated Rendon on winning the World Series with the Nationals last year and joked that Rendon made his life miserable in recent years because of his superb play against the Phillies. But Barkley was also intrigued by Ohtani and his ability as a two-way player.

After Tommy John surgery kept him from pitching last year, Ohtani will return as a two-way player this season with a return to the mound slated for mid-May. And the rare ability to be both an elite pitcher and hitter wasn’t lost on Barkley.

“If he can actually pitch and be a great hitter, that would be one of the greatest things ever,” Barkley said. “It’s never happened before. If a guy could do that, it would be one of the great accomplishments of all-time. The first thing I asked him was, 'How’s your arm?' The risk is he’s such a great hitter and, if he’s hurt, he’s not going to be on offense either. So it’s a really slippery slope. I think it’s more important for him as a hitter because you make a bigger impact every day. But if a guy could do that it would be one of the greatest accomplishments ever.”