CLEARWATER, Fla. -- David Montgomery walked to Carpenter Complex early Thursday morning with other Phillies officials, believing he had been beckoned to discuss future enhancements and renovations at the complex.Eventually, he caught on."I said, 'Why are our big league players here? What's going on here?" Montgomery said, shortly after the
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- David Montgomery walked to Carpenter Complex early Thursday morning with other Phillies officials, believing he had been beckoned to discuss future enhancements and renovations at the complex.
Eventually, he caught on.
"I said, 'Why are our big league players here? What's going on here?" Montgomery said, shortly after the organization surprised him with a heartfelt ceremony that recognized his impactful Phillies career by naming its indoor practice facility the David P. Montgomery Baseball Performance Center. "I saw Odubel [Herrera] standing over there and thought, 'He's at the wrong field.'"
Every Phillies player in camp -- both Major and Minor Leaguers -- and every other member of the organization, including ownership, attended the ceremony. Many spoke, including managing partner John Middleton and senior advisor Larry Bowa.
"The right word is I'm overwhelmed by what the organization has done," Montgomery said. "I've just been so fortunate. I was thinking about this the other day for some reason, I got to go to Connie Mack Stadium, first memory. I was probably about 5 years of age. We had linoleum in our porch in the back in our house in Roxborough. I used to try and slide on the linoleum the way Richie Ashburn would slide into the bases. I'd throw a pillow down and slide on my right side, my left side, a hook slide and all that.
"I've had the opportunity to work for the team I rooted for in the city I've lived in and loved my entire life."
Montgomery, 71, began his Phillies career in 1971 selling season and group tickets. He acquired an ownership interest in the team in '94 and succeeded Bill Giles as general partner in '97. Montgomery served in that role until 2014, when he took a leave of absence to fight jaw bone cancer. He has been chairman since '15.
The Phillies said they honored Montgomery because of his longtime commitment to player development.
That is true, but it seemed fitting that in a camp that opened last month with Phillies manager Gabe Kapler preaching the importance of connection and communication that the Phillies honored a man who has lived his life connecting and communicating with people better than anyone.
The culture that touched Cliff Lee and his family and convinced him to re-sign with the Phillies for less money in December 2010? Montgomery cultivated it.
"I believe that in whatever capacity you work for us, you determine the Phillies family," Montgomery said. "I believe that. As a family member, it's our responsibility to treat you like family and to get to know you as best we can. That's something I've always believed in. My business philosophy is pretty simple. We're in a service business and we're trying to do everything we can to attract fans and treat fans right. The best way to treat fans right is to treat the people you work with right. I don't touch fans, but so many people that work for us, touch fans directly every day and if they feel that we -- the organization, the ownership, the management -- care about them as people, then in my mind, that's the best way for those fans to be treated well."
Does Montgomery feel he was honored Thursday because his personal philosophy impacted so many people around him?
"I'll let you decide that," he said. "In other words, look, it's what I believe in. I was blessed. I had wonderful parents. They said it so much. My mother would say, treat people the way you want to be treated yourself. You say, well, that's kind of trite. But the reality is, we're all on this earth for 'X' number of years, God knows. Why not enjoy each other? Why not make it easier for everybody? Why make it tougher? Show people you care, that's all."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.