PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies head groundskeeper Mike Boekholder has worked on the grounds crew in Philadelphia for 17 years, and the freak thunderstorm that ripped through Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon was the worst he said he has seen.
"That was the first time I've ever seen a tarp pull a vehicle," Boekholder said. "That was a new one for me. I've never seen that happen before."
The storm hit in the eighth inning of Thursday's game, a furious torrent of wind, rain and lightning that swept over the left-field stands and, upon hitting the protruding right-field grandstand, created a tornado-like vortex as the grounds crew tried getting the tarp over the infield.
Ten-inch steel spikes are typically used to secure the tarp to the ground, but the force of the wind lifted the tarp and sent spikes flying -- some even landing on top of the Phillies' dugout while players were sitting in it watching the turbulence.
The crew needed to use sand bags and a four-wheel vehicle on each corner of the tarp to effectively fasten it down.
"It all kind of becomes a blur when you're out there," Boekholder said. "We went back this morning and looked at the video replays on it a couple times. I tell you what, when you're looking at it from a distance, it gives you a bit of a different perspective than when you're standing in the middle of it."
Players were complimentary of the effort by the crew, which braved some elements (like hail) that are uncommon in this area. Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth shook a crew member's hand when he went out to right field once play resumed after a 97-minute delay. Phillies shortstop Juan Castro and outfielder Shane Victorino remained in the dugout to watch what was going on for as long as they could.
Though Boekholder didn't know what the exact measurements ended up being, he had heard winds approaching 70 mph -- very nearly the sustained maximum wind speeds of a classified hurricane -- were anticipated. He believes the gusts that hit Citizens Bank Park couldn't have been far off.
"We knew it was coming," Boekholder said, "but there's only so much you can do to deal with it. It definitely had a lot of wind."
Remarkably, the Phillies finished the final two innings after a quick cleanup and the field sustained no permanent damage. The Jumbotron was shut off during the storm, and other scoreboards didn't seem to be working properly, but everything was up and running on Friday.
"It came through fine," Boekholder said. "It drained really well. By the time we resumed play [Thursday], I don't think there was a puddle out there. The drainage system was doing what they were supposed to."
Brown earns a promotion to Triple-A
PHILADELPHIA -- Chuck LaMar likes to say players tell the Phillies when they are ready for a promotion.
Domonic Brown told them that he is ready.
Philadelphia promoted its top prospect from Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday, after hitting .318 with 16 doubles, three triples, 15 homers, 47 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and a .993 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 65 games. Of course, every Phillies fan immediately wanted to know when he could make the jump to the big leagues.
It is very unlikely Brown will see any regular time with Philadelphia this season. The Phillies have Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth in the outfield. Ibanez started the season slowly and Werth had been stuck in a slump, but both have been hitting the ball better lately. Brown could be a callup in September, and he could be playing regularly in the outfield in 2011, which seems possible if Werth leaves via free agency.
"[Brown is] just now starting to scratch the surface on his ceiling as a potential Major League player," said LaMar, a Phillies assistant general manager. "You don't want to rush him, but you also want to challenge him. It's a very fine line. We've tried to do that with him. We've tried not to rush him, but challenge him. And that's why with the move to Triple-A, we feel like he's going to be challenged and yet, he's not going to be over his head. I think he'll respond."
The Phillies certainly are happy they never traded Brown, who many teams coveted -- refusing to trade him to Cleveland last July for Cliff Lee, and they refused to trade him to Toronto in December for Roy Halladay.
Brown impressed the Phils in Spring Training and hasn't stopped since.
"People don't understand how hard it is to play 162 games and then the postseason at the Major League level," LaMar said. "Those guys have to be consistent every day, and Domonic came into camp with that mindset. When we sent him to Minor League camp, he didn't miss a beat. When he went to Double-A, he started out great, then had a couple of injury setbacks. His approach to the game was as impressive as the results."
LaMar said Brown simply needs more seasoning.
"Truly, he's an athlete that continues to refine his baseball skills every day," he said. "Even though he grew up playing the game, he also grew up playing another game [football], and was pretty good at it. Anytime you deal with a dual-sport player with Domonic's athleticism, usually it just takes time for him to grow into the game -- just continue to grow in all areas of the game, and he has done that. He has shown no sign of leveling off."
Brown has said a couple times that he can be patient. He sees that it took Ryan Howard time to play every day, despite appearing to be ready. Same thing with Chase Utley and Werth, who did not become an everyday player until 2009.
Like Howard and Utley, who came up through the system, the Phillies don't feel they need to rush Brown.
"Sometimes a jump to the Majors is dictated on needs at the Major League level," LaMar said. "I know from my time in the Minor Leagues that sometimes you have to rush a kid that you'd like to give more time to. In other cases, you hold on to them a little too long. Somebody told me a long time ago you've got to pick that fruit while it's ripe. Sometimes it's time to make a move and you don't have an opening to do it. I think the organization has always had the mindset to do what's best for the player's development and in the long run that will be what's best for the organization. In Domonic's case, we've tried to always keep in mind, 'What's going to make this kid the best player possible?'"
LaMar said Brown has improved defensively, but still has lapses in the field. That must improve before he plays for the Phillies.
But it's hard not to get excited about his bat.
"He has very good hand-eye coordination," LaMar said. "I think when he does play in the Major Leagues, you're going to see a hitter that's capable of playing against left-handed pitching. Maybe not right off the bat, but as his career unfolds, you're not going to have a guy that platoons. You're going to have an everyday player. He goes to the opposite field, and he has power to the opposite field, which is very good at our ballpark. I think he'll fit at our ballpark well. [There are] a lot of good things about him, but he's got a challenge ahead of him because he's not a finished product. I think Triple-A is going to challenge him."
Howard is first DH at Citizens Bank Park
PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard has the distinction of being the first designated hitter to step into the batter's box at Citizens Bank Park, one of several quirks that come with the bizarre situation of Friday's "away" game against the Blue Jays.
Howard went 1-for-5, including an RBI single in a six-run fifth inning in Friday's 9-0 win over Toronto.
Philadelphia took batting practice last and enjoyed the extra hour lounging in its clubhouse, while Toronto warmed up. The Blue Jays are technically hosting this weekend's series because the G20 Summit in Toronto forced the game to be played in Philadelphia.
So the Blue Jays were introduced with their home entrance music, showed team-specific videos on the Jumbotron, wore home uniforms and had the luxury of batting last, even if they didn't have the luxury of playing in their home ballpark.
Howard, who has started every game at first base this season, received a rest from the field as the DH on Friday. Ross Gload started at first for the Phillies.
And Phillies starter Roy Halladay pitched but didn't hit against his former team.
"I get Howard off his feet for a day, it's been quite a while," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said of the decision. "I wanted to play Gload at first because he hadn't played a game there yet."
The series will be considered home games for Toronto, meaning the weekend's attendance will not count toward the Phillies' figures or sellout streak, currently at 82 straight games.
Elias Sports Bureau, however, in its official scorebook, will record the series as a home series for Philadelphia.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel started Ross Gload at first base and Ryan Howard as his designated hitter on Friday night against the Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park. Gload came up through the Minor Leagues known as a fine defensive first basemen, but moved into the outfield as he became a role player. Manuel said he wanted to give Gload some time at first base and get Howard off his feet. ... Jesse Biddle, the Phillies' first pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, made his professional debut Friday, pitching three scoreless innings for Philadelphia's rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate. Biddle struck out three and had one walk in his start. ... Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday by the Philadelphia 76ers, threw out the first pitch at Citizens Bank Park on Friday.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.