Chapman's Phillies stint brief but thrilling

Chapman's Phillies stint brief but thrilling

Nearly 2,000 players have worn a Phillies uniform. Hours of research located a total of 30 who have had a cup of coffee. Nine had a sip of coffee, one game and one hitless at-bat. The last was third baseman Travis Chapman.

Drafted by the Phillies in the 17th round in 2000, Chapman climbed the baseball ladder quickly, hitting .301 with a career-high 15 homers at Double-A Reading in 2002. A baseball career can take some strange journeys, something Chapman learned after that season. Cleveland selected him in the Rule 5 Draft and promptly sent him to Detroit, who returned him to the Phillies' organization when he failed to make the Tigers' roster in Spring Training. Back with the Phils, Chapman found himself in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2003.

Reaching the big leagues is the ultimate goal. Triple-A is one step away from The Big Show. Would he get there?

Following a Sept. 2 game in Ottawa manager Marc Bombard called Chapman and two teammates, pitchers Josh Hancock and Ryan Madson, into his office.

"Congratulations, you are going to the big leagues." 

 It is a moment Chapman will always remember. 

"It was pretty neat hearing those words," he said. "I always wanted to be a good baseball player but at every level, high school and college, I heard, 'You are not good enough.' Even after I was drafted, there was talk that I would be an organization coach someday."

Walking into the Phillies' clubhouse at Veterans Stadium on Sept. 3, he found a locker with "Travis Chapman 23" on it. When would he make his Major League debut? 

It happened on Sept. 9 at Turner Field in Atlanta, where the Phils were playing a four-game series.

"We were scoring a lot of runs early, and I kind of thought I might get a chance," Chapman said. 

In the seventh inning, with the Phillies leading, 18-3, manager Larry Bowa let Chapman know he would be pinch-hitting for Tomas Perez.

"The butterflies kicked in," Chapman said. "Jung Bong was pitching for Atlanta, and I had faced him quite a bit in the Minors -- actually, faced him a lot. Made me feel a little more at ease. First pitch was a fastball, and I took it for a strike. I got out in front of the next pitch, a changeup, and hit a fly ball to right field."

Chapman stayed in the game and played three innings at third base, where he had one fielding chance, knocking down a hot grounder inside the bag in the ninth inning but unable to make a throw. 

At age 25, Chapman got an at-bat in the Majors. It would be his only one, as he played three more seasons of Minor League baseball before walking away in 2006. Not exactly a happy-ending Hollywood script.

Wait, there's more. 

Veterans Stadium was closing. The final game was Sept. 28 against the Braves. An emotional postgame show was going to take place, celebrating 33 years of Phillies baseball at the Vet. Being on the roster, Chapman was going to be part of the closing ceremonies, one of 120 current or former Phils who would take the field and step on home plate one last time. 

"Here I am, a rookie, and I'm going to be part of a major history event," said Chapman. "Seeing all the former players was awesome, brought back a lot of memories. I was taking it all in, including the reaction of the fans. I saw games at the Vet, never played there. But I got to touch home plate. I will never, ever forget that day."

How did a kid growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., get to see the Phillies play at the Vet? 

"My grandfather lived in Trenton [N.J.], and for many summers, we went to visit him," Chapman said. "He knew I was a huge baseball fan and would take me, my brother and cousin to games."

Chase Utley was the Phillies' first-round selection in the 2000 Draft, the same one in which Chapman was chosen.

"We played on the same Minor League teams for a couple of seasons and became good friends," Chapman said. "When I was out of the game, [my wife] Julie and I visited him in Philadelphia and saw a couple of games at Citizens Bank Park."

Perhaps Chapman never made it big in the bigs, but he did bat one time. You can find his name in Baseball-Reference.com, something his three young children will be able to see some day. Daddy was a big leaguer.

Chapman file
Born Travis Adrian Chapman in Jacksonville, Fla., June 5, 1978. … Graduate of Bishop Kenney High School in Jacksonville. … Graduate of Mississippi State University with a degree in Business . … Married Julie Benton on Nov. 6, 2004.

Pro career
Played seven seasons in the Minor Leagues (2000-06), the first four with the Phillies. … Started in Gulf Coast League and worked his way up to Triple-A. … Starting third baseman in 2003 International League All-Star Game. … Also played in the Minor League systems with Kansas City, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. … Compiled a .286 Minor League average, 506 hits in 506 games. … After baseball, he taught psychology, economics and history at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla. … Spent three summers working with the USA National Team in various capacities. … Returned to the pro game as a coach with one of two Yankees teams in the Gulf Coast League in 2013. He managed one of the teams the following season and returns as a coach with the Charleston (S.C.) Riverdogs for a second straight year.

Larry Shenk is in charge of alumni relations and team historian for the Phillies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.