Glove, phone, AirPods: Phillips mic'd up in CF

March 2nd, 2021

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- How has life changed for Brett Phillips since his big moment in Game 4 of the 2020 World Series? For starters, just consider that he answered the question on Tuesday afternoon while standing in center field for the defending American League champions, talking to ESPN’s broadcast team during the network’s first nationally televised Spring Training game of the year.

Phillips' actual answer said quite a bit, too, about what that night meant for him and his family.

“The craziest thing happened, fellas: People actually recognized who I am in my hometown. It’s the weirdest thing ever,” Phillips said during the second inning of the Rays’ 9-3 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. “I’m not talking everybody, right? But one person here and there, they’ll just airplane past me as I’m eating dinner. They won’t even say anything. I’ll just be like, ‘Hey, thanks for following.’”

Phillips lived out his dream last October, delivering the ninth-inning single that led to a walk-off win for his hometown team on baseball’s biggest stage. He’d already added a lot to the Rays’ clubhouse as a supportive, fun-loving teammate with what manager Kevin Cash called “infectious” energy. That was all on full display while he was mic’d up -- in a very 2021 way -- during Tuesday’s game.

“He embraced the role of being a really good teammate and keeping guys loose, and there's a lot of value in that,” Cash said. “We all envisioned him playing a little bit bigger role on the field, but the energy that he brings daily into the clubhouse -- I use that word a lot: infectious. It seems like it is. It carries over. Very, very likeable teammate, personality, all the above.”

With the health and safety protocols in place due to COVID-19, Phillips couldn’t technically be mic’d up Tuesday like players have been in years past. Instead, he stuffed his cell phone in his back right pocket, stuck an AirPod in his right ear and called the network via FaceTime before running out to center field in the bottom of the second inning.

But what if he needed to make a diving or sliding play with his phone in his pocket?

“I was hoping I didn't have to, but that would have been funny explaining it to my Sprint insurance claim people,” Phillips said. “'Hey, I was in a Major League Baseball game, and I had my phone in my back pocket and it broke. What's in the written rules on that one if I can get a new phone?'”

Teammate and dance-off competitor Randy Arozarena snagged the other AirPod on his way to left field, apparently wanting to get in on the interview, but Phillips' phone went undamaged. As they jogged back to the dugout, Phillips grabbed the wireless earbud and gave the TV audience another look at the airplane celebration he famously performed after his walk-off hit in Game 4.

“First time being mic'd up. Obviously, I've seen [Anthony] Rizzo and guys do it in the past,” Phillips said. “It's an honor that they thought that I was interesting enough to be mic'd up, I hope I had some good things to say.”

Of course he did.

By the time he sat down for a Zoom call with local reporters -- an in-game interview about his in-game interview -- the video of Phillips talking about his status as an airplane-running hometown hero already had tens of thousands of views on Twitter.

“That's a funny one -- but it's also true,” he said. “People do do that.”

Encouraged by ESPN’s broadcasters, Phillips at one point tried to start a dance battle with Arozarena in the outfield. His quick shoulder shimmy in center didn’t generate a response from left field, however.

When Phillips returned to the visitors’ dugout in the top of the third inning, ESPN asked him to continue their conversation on FaceTime. “I don't know why they wanted it on this ugly mug,” Phillips joked. At one point, they asked him to go chat with Cash and mention that shortstop prospect Taylor Walls, who led off the inning, went to Florida State University just like Cash.

Cash had a quip of his own ready: “Why do you think he’s playing?”

“I was hesitant, obviously. You know, Cash has got better things to do than talk to Brett Phillips during the game,” Phillips said. “So I just went over there and gave him a one-liner, and of course, he gave me back a funnier one-liner.”

Yes, it’s fair to say Phillips is enjoying himself these days.

“I'm gonna have fun until the day they rip this jersey off me and I'm no longer playing baseball,” Phillips said on a Zoom call. “I'll still have fun, obviously, in whatever else I'm doing in life. But if I'm in a baseball uniform, you best believe that I'm going to be having fun.”