Where are they now? Mark Whiten

Where are they now? Mark Whiten

Where are they now? Mark Whiten
Mark Whiten played with eight different teams in an 11-year major league career and also played in Mexico. He spent less than a full season with the Phillies, from the time he was acquired from the Red Sox before the trading deadline in 1995 to the following June, when he was released.

And yet, the slugger has a special relationship with the organization that transcends his relatively brief time in red pinstripes.

Special enough to take the short ride from his Tampa home to Dunedin this spring when the Phillies played the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. And before he settled into his seat, he stopped by the visitor's clubhouse to say hello to a couple people he feels particularly close to.

"One of my favorite hitting coaches of all time is the manager," he explained. "Charlie [Manuel]taught me how to get down through a baseball. He was the first guy I ever worked one-on-one with when it comes to hitting. I was fortunate to be with him when I was with Cleveland for a long time, so we got a chance to know each other real well. In the cage we'd talk a lot."

Whiten was traded to the Indians in mid-'91 and then dealt to the Cardinals at the end of spring training in '93. At the end of that season, he had one of the greatest games a Major Leaguer has ever had: four home runs and 12 RBI in the second game of a doubleheader against the Reds.

The other connection is John Mayberry Jr. Whiten, then working in the Rangers organization, was his first professional hitting coach at Class A Spokane in 2005. So he watched with pride as Mayberry blossomed for the Phillies in the second half last season.

"He's come along. He's changed a lot, stuff I was trying to get him to do back then is finally starting to kick in," Whiten said with a smile.

Wait, it gets better. Whiten's first hitting coach after he was drafted and signed by the Blue Jays was ... John Mayberry Sr. And it was Junior's father who gave him his nickname: Hard Hittin'.

"It's a very small world. I told [Mayberry Jr.], 'It's very ironic that I was your first hitting coach since your dad was my first hitting coach,'" he said.

Looking back, he remembers the trade that brought him to Philadelphia as a positive experience. He had played in just 32 games for Boston that season and was batting .185 at the time.

"That was a good trade, for both sides," he said. "I got traded for Dave Hollins. I think his welcome was kind of worn out there, and mine was kind of worn out in Boston at the time. So I think it worked out all for the best."

The Phillies had a losing record in '95. As soon as he arrived, the switch-hitter quickly demonstrated that he had by far the best outfield arm and the most power of any player on the roster. Even though he played only 60 games of that strike-shortened season, he tied Charlie Hayes and Gregg Jefferies for the team lead in home runs with 11.

Whiten, now 45, spends most of his time watching his children grow up. His 16-year-old daughter plays basketball at Sickles High School, so he enjoys having the opportunity to watch her play.

He's also started a lawn business -- "Just me. Keeping myself busy, basically," -- and is starting to do some work with the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program.

"There's a park in Tampa I'm working at, trying to get that off the ground," he said. "That should be interesting because the stories some of those people have been telling me, it's all about winning. Which is kind of not my forte. I'm all about learning. I want to win, but I want the kids to learn first."

And, maybe someday this offseason, he'll get a chance to go fishing with Manuel. They've talked about it for a few years, but haven't managed to hook up yet. Heck, maybe he'll even invite John Mayberry Jr. to join them.

Paul Hagen is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.