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Hitting at Phillies park a thrill for six prospects

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies were out for early stretching on the field at Citizens Bank Park while a few of the top prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft were taking some swings off a batting tee.

None of the baseball players need to be worried about losing their jobs.

Though none of the six prospects came close to clearing the outfield fence, they certainly had a good time.

"It was fun," Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett told "I was a little disappointed we couldn't hit off a pitcher, but it was cool to hit on the field. You don't really realize how far away the wall is. It feels a whole lot farther than it looks."

Matt Stairs, a member of the Phillies broadcast team and a former major leaguer, was on hand to provide tips.

"All future hockey guys," Stairs said. "But you can work with them. A couple pointers you give them and they make quick adjustments. Especially the young fellow from Germany."

That would be Leon Draisaitl, the Cologne, Germany native who said his only experience swinging a bat was a few slo-pitch softball games with his Prince Albert Raiders teammates.

Draisaitl's first few swings saw the tee go farther than the ball, but by the end he was making solid contact.

"It was not very good at first, but I think I got better as it went on," he said. "It was OK. It was fun. … On TV it always looks very easy and now you're standing here, it's wow, this is amazing how those guys hit home runs. It's really good. It's a lot of fun, for sure."

Stairs was just as excited as the prospects. A native of St. John, New Brunswick, he grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan playing hockey and baseball. He also said during the Stanley Cup Playoffs he'd have a game on a TV while he was broadcasting Phillies games.

"Usually I don't miss a game," he said. "In the playoffs I have the game on in the booth. Seems like everywhere I go, I'm so interested in hockey, the people who are with me watch hockey. I pay attention to it a lot. … I thought this year was the best playoff hockey that I've seen in many, many years. It was fun to watch."

Stairs said he's looking forward to seeing the top prospects soon in their natural habitat.

"It's fun having guys that I know I'm going to be watching in a few years be the superstars of the NHL coming up," he said. "To have a chance to be on the field with them, talk to them, see what they have baseball-wise, it's fun to watch. It'll be fun to see these guys play [hockey]."


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