Howard has a blast with first homer

Howard hits a blast

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It's safe to say Ryan Howard didn't let contract stuff get in the way of his powerful swing.

Hours after the Phillies announced a renewal at $900,000 for the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, Howard may have given the alligators a lunchtime treat.

In his second plate appearance of Grapefruit League action, Howard punished a pitch from Cleveland's Rafael Betancourt. He sent it over the batter's eye in center field and over a second fence beyond that at Bright House Networks Field. The ball landed 15 feet in front of a pond beyond the stadium.

Howard walked in his first plate appearance.

Only Howard can know if he'll be truly happy with his 2007 salary, but his swing made the fans at Philadelphia's Grapefruit League home opener smile and gasp.

The first baseman clubbed 58 homers and drove in 149 RBIs last season, capping off a Rookie of the Year season in 2006 by winning the MVP.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.