Archive for Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Commentary: Two sluggers, two different sports

Howard, Daly share their secrets to long bombs at Philadelphia’s spring training

March 11, 2008

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— As Ryan Howard's majestic home run disappeared over the right-field lawn seats like a John Daly tee shot, a blond guy in a red No. 3 Phillies jersey cheered appreciatively from his spot in the club seats.

The blond guy? John Daly, fittingly enough.

In a neat bit of cosmic alignment, the golfer who burst onto the scene in 1991 with his breathtaking power was at Bright House Field on Sunday to watch the slugger who burst onto a different scene in 2005 with his breathtaking power.

"Ryan asked me, 'How can you hit a golf ball that far?"' Daly said. "I said, 'How do you hit a baseball that far?' Golfers are baseball players and baseball players are golfers. They're pretty much the same swings. You're both trying to get lift on the ball."

Daly was in the area for the PODS Championship in Palm Harbor. He would have rather been on the front nine than standing behind the batting cage before the Phillies game, but he didn't make the cut. Daly is good friends with Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell, so he came over to watch batting practice, sign baseballs along with the Phillies players, throw out the first pitch and then watch Howard crush his second spring home run.

"I'm sure if I was watching him and he got into a drive, I'd just straight-up be in awe," Howard said. "I can only imagine watching a guy like Daly or Tiger Woods."

Howard has played a few times, but "I wouldn't really call it golf right now. I really haven't been taught the right way to play."

Daly, who played baseball into his teens, chose not to take BP himself.

"My rib won't let me," he said. "I'm half-swinging a golf club right now."

Besides, despite his ability to drive a ball, Daly said he preferred pitching.

"He told me he could throw 85 (mph)," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who might have been tempted to take Daly up on the offer while watching Kyle Kendrick's discouraging outing.

"I was on the Babe Ruth all-star team," Daly said. "I played until I was 15 or so. I liked golf more."

That worked out pretty well. Daly's story is legend by now. He was a late addition to the field at the 1991 PGA Championship and, arriving at midnight before his first round, went on to win the thing. With his "grip it and rip it" approach to the game, Daly was sort of the 1993 Phillies of golf - a heavy-set good ol' boy who looked like he sneaked onto the course.

Howard, meanwhile, has generated some awe in his first three seasons in the majors. He reached 100 home runs faster than any other player in major-league history. Some of his shots at Citizens Bank Park will be talked about as long as there are Phillies fans.

So he appreciates someone who can dazzle the way Daly does in a different discipline.

"He seemed like a fun guy," Howard said. "It was cool to meet him."

The feeling and the respect were mutual.

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