SEMINOLE, Fla. (WFLA) – What happened when Tampa Bay Rays’ outfielder Brett Phillips stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, is truly a dream come true for every boy who picks up a baseball bat.
With two outs in the inning and two strikes in the count, the Seminole-native etched his name in World Series history by coming up with the walk-off, game-winning hit against the Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
“Anyone can come up on any given night, especially with the Tampa Bay Rays and help the team win,” Phillips said. “And we’ve proven that since that I’ve been here since I got traded from Kansas City.”
Only a member of the Rays since late August, Phillips is giving new meaning to the term hometown hero after the most important at-bat of his career.
“In the back of my mind, I always knew he was the kind of player the Rays valued,” said Jeff Pincus, a member of the Seminole High School baseball team’s coaching staff.
Pincus has known Phillips since his freshman season and served as the Warhawks’ head coach during his junior and senior years.
“I would say of all the players I’ve coached,” Pincus said, “he was exceptional in so many ways.”
By the start of Phillips’ final year of high school, Pincus told News Channel 8’s Justin Schecker the center field had caught the attention of scouts and recruiters.
“It was quite the circus because he had hit the radar,” Pincus said, adding scouts would frequently call him hoping to watch Phillips take batting practice.
Coach Pincus still has a prized possession from Phillips’ major league debut for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017.
“First bat used as a professional and he broke it,” Pincus said, showing News Channel 8 the autographed baseball bat.
While home watching Game 4, Pincus said he told his wife “this game is probably gonna come down, if they have the chance to win it, its gonna come down to Brett.”
Pincus was right.
Phillips’ single to right set off the wild sequence of Kevin Keirmaier scoring the game-tying run, two Dodger errors and Randy Arozarena diving into home after wiping out on the third baseline.
“That is without question, in any meaningful game, the most crazy ending that I’ve ever seen,” Pincus said.
Phillips became the first player to deliver a walk-off hit with his team trailing and down to the final out since the famed Kirk Gibson home run for Los Angeles in the 1988 World Series.
Pincus said he felt immense pride for Phillips’ clutch at-bat and how he handled himself during the postgame interview when he said next to his wedding day this was the most exciting moment of his life.
“It’s incredibly satisfying as one of his former coaches to be able to see that and think that I had a piece of that development,” Pincus said.
During that interview, the hometown hero told all kids to “just keep dreaming big.”
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