Audubon's Bret Phillips has gone from batboy to team leader
Bret Phillips started out as the batboy for the Audubon baseball team. "When I was in seventh grade, I would always ride my bike up to the school and watch practices," said Phillips, now a senior outfielder for the Green Wave.
Bret Phillips started out as the batboy for the Audubon baseball team.
"When I was in seventh grade, I would always ride my bike up to the school and watch practices," said Phillips, now a senior outfielder for the Green Wave.
"Eventually, they made me their batboy. It was an awesome experience because, really, I was just this little kid and they made me feel like I was part of the team."
Phillips practiced with the team, worked out with the team, and even got out of school early to travel on the team bus.
"He was always around," coach Rich Horan said. "We'd see him at practice, in the weight room all the time. And the players really took to him."
Phillips, who grew up just a block from Audubon High School, used to dream of one day playing for the Green Wave.
"I couldn't wait to get to high school," he said.
Now, in the midst of his best season, Phillips is determined to make the most of his final days in green and yellow.
Audubon is once again in the mix to win its first state title since 2001.
The Green Wave, the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey Group 1 tournament, will play No. 3 Haddon Township on Tuesday in the semifinals.
Phillips has batted close to .500 all season. He has scored 42 runs, driven in 35, and hit 16 doubles.
"He's just a great kid with a tremendous work ethic," Horan said. "He's come up big for us on offense this year. And defensively, he's a versatile player. I can play him anywhere in the outfield."
Aside from the desire to make history, Phillips concedes that he's partly driven by the desire to erase the memory of last year's state championship.
In 2010, Audubon stormed through the South Jersey Group 2 tournament and landed in the state final.
But, partly because of a series of bizarre plays, the Green Wave fell, 2-1, to West Essex.
One of those plays occurred in the first inning when an Audubon run was disallowed because Brian Flacco's RBI single had grazed Phillips' leg on its way to the outfield.
Phillips, who was running from first to second when the ball brushed past him, was ruled out because of runner's interference. The runner who scored from third was forced to go back to third. Audubon lost its early lead, and the rest is history.
"That's baseball," Horan said.
But for Phillips, the play has been harder to get past.
"It's actually something I've thought about a lot this season," Phillips said. "I run through it in my mind over and over.
"I know there's not much I could have done about it - it was a hard-hit ball - but it's hard not to feel like you cost your team."
This season, with a core of veteran players in the lineup and a solid, equally experienced pitching staff, Phillips said the team is confident.
And though it's not always easy, Phillips is worried only about the things he can control. He has gone from batboy to cleanup hitter, and he is determined to leave as a state champion.
"I know we can win it this year," said Phillips, who is leaning toward playing for Gloucester County College next season.
"I think we have the players and the talent to do it. We know what it takes to get there, and it would mean everything to get there again and win it this time."