CLEARWATER, Fla. - On paper, Phillies vs. Rays for the rookie Gulf Coast League title earlier in the month had the look of Angola vs. Dream Team. Andy Reid vs. Bill Belichick. A classic mismatch.

The way the 15-team GCL is structured, there are three divisions aligned geographically to minimize long bus rides. The Phillies won a six-team North Division that included the Blue Jays, Yankees, Pirates, Tigers and Braves, playing the entire 60-game schedule (four Yankee rainouts were not made up) within the division.

The Phillies reached the best-of-three championship round with a one-game knockout of the wild-card Mets. Righthander Lendy Castillo, 21, who was signed by the Phillies as an outfielder at age 17, pitched eight brilliant shutout innings. No walks, 10 strikeouts. Ruben Amaro Jr. monitored a scoreless game between the No. 1 seed Marlins and No. 3 Rays via his Blackberry. The Rays won it in the 10th.

So here came the Tampa Bay kids, loaded with high draft picks. Catcher Justin O'Connor was selected No. 31 in the first round. Second baseman Ryan Brett was a third-round pick, righthander Ian Kendall a fifth-rounder and centerfielder DeShun Dixon a 10th.

Game 1 was played in Bright House Field and the Rays looked dominant. O'Connor bombed a homer over the tiki bar in left. The Rays played with swagger and attitude.

Game 2 was in Port Charlotte. The Phillies jumped to an early lead and hung on to square the series.

Back at the Bright House, the Phillies' excellent Clearwater operation put a shine on the championship nooner. They turned on the sound system, announced the lineups and opened the concession stands.

Roly deArmas, a utility player in the Phillies' low minors circa mid-1970s, has become one of baseball's best development men. Born in New York of Hispanic parents, he communicates with his mixed-nationality roster in perfect English and fluent Caribbean Spanish. Like most minor league managers, Roly coaches third and it is a trip to hear him barking instructions and encouragement, first in English, then in Spanish.

His title-game lineup included three undrafted free agents - second baseman Matt Payton, a peppery leadoff hitter; centerfielder Bill Rice, signed at midseason out of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League; and starting righthander Tim Brown. Brown was 5-1 for Lincoln (Neb.) in the Independent American Association after a college career at Pittsburg State.

Rightfielder Brian "Bubba'' Gump was a 26th-round pick in 2009 and joined the GCL Phils late in the season on a rehab assignment from Lakewood.

Designated hitter Patrick Murray, 23, was the grizzled veteran of the team. He was drafted in the 45th round in 2006 out of Huntington Beach, Calif.

Cleanup hitter Chris Duffy, a first baseman, was a 26th-round pick. He tied for the club home-run lead with six.

Geancarlo Mendez, a lithe Dominican leftfielder, led the GCL with 40 RBI and also hit six homers.

Third baseman Maikel Franco is a Dominican out of the Phillies' academy. Rocket-armed catcher Francisco Diaz (threw out 42 percent of base stealers) and 18-year-old shortstop Nerio Rios both were graduates of the Venezuelan academy.

When the GCL season opened in June, the Phillies had No. 1 pick Jesse Biddle, the lefthanded Germantown Friends pitching phenom, but he was promoted to Williamsport. They had rehabbing Kelly Dugan, last year's second-rounder, for about a week, but the 6-3 outfielder was sent back up to Williamsport. Tyson Gillies was here to rehab but the Cliff Lee trade principal was still limping and got himself busted.

Despite all their high-ceiling, high-profile draft picks, the Rays were overmatched. The Philly no-names hit the ground running physically and emotionally, knocking out the Rays' ace starter in the third inning amid a constant stream of chatter from a chirping dugout aching to celebrate. Brown was dominant, taking a nine-strikeout one-hitter into the eighth. It was 9-0 by then. Brown hit his pitch limit and the Rays rallied against a pair of relievers who had trouble throwing strikes.

When the 10-4 victory was finally sealed, the polyglot roster of Americans and Hispanics flung themselves into a dog pile worthy of a College World Series title clinching. The whooping, pummeling, man-hugging and high-fiving lasted at least 10 minutes, even during the GCL trophy presentation and the unfurling of the championship banner.

Next March, before a varsity Phillies spring-training exhibition, they will be honored with a ring ceremony. By then, they will be in hard competition against each other for jobs at the next levels of baseball's food chain. Many have been called, but few will be chosen for baseball at the highest rungs of the toughest ladder in sports to climb.

But they will forever have this first bright moment to savor, the memories of the championship they won so early in their professional careers while earning $1,100 a month.

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