Ruben Amaro Jr. Returns to Philly With Many Good Memories - and a Few Regrets, Too - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Ruben Amaro Jr. Returns to Philly With Many Good Memories - and a Few Regrets, Too

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    Ruben Amaro Jr. Returns to Philly With Many Good Memories - and a Few Regrets, Too
    CSNPhilly.com
    Ruben Amaro Jr. returns to Philly with many good memories - and a few regrets, too

    BOSTON - There will be another homecoming at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.

    Ruben Amaro Jr. knows the fans won't treat him quite as lovingly as they did Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz when they returned.

    "No, I don't think they'll give me a warm welcome, but that's OK," Amaro said with a shrug Tuesday after batting practice at Fenway Park.

    He has not been back to Citizens Bank Park since he was fired as Phillies general manager in September 2015.

    Amaro quickly landed on his feet as first base coach for the Boston Red Sox. He is in his second season in the role and will be stationed in the first base coach's box when the Red Sox visit the Phillies for two games starting on Wednesday night.

    Amaro joined the Phillies front office immediately after his playing career ended after the 1998 season. He was an assistant general manager under Ed Wade and later under Pat Gillick. He was part of an organizational ascension that culminated with the team's winning five straight National League East titles, two NL pennants and a World Series championship from 2007 to 2011.

    Amaro rose to the office of GM after the World Series title in 2008. His clubs enjoyed tremendous success and tremendous disappointment - a quick elimination from the postseason after a 102-win season in 2011 stands out. The Phillies became old and injured on the field during Amaro's final years on the job and the farm system didn't produce enough quality players to sustain success. His exit was part of a culture change that started with owner John Middleton's rise to power and Andy MacPhail's hiring as club president.

    These days, as the Phillies slog through another painful season as the worst team in baseball, Amaro is associated by the fan base more with the team's decline than its successes from 2007 to 2011.

    He'll probably be reminded of that a time or two during his brief visit to his hometown.

    "They have short memories," Amaro said. "We had a really good run there. Probably the best run the franchise ever had so I was proud of that, being a part of that. It doesn't matter. It's in the past. It is what it is.

    "I loved being with the organization. I love the people there. I keep in touch with a lot of people there still. They're all like family.

    "I'd be lying if I said I didn't see [the Philadelphia trip] on the calendar right away. It'll be nice to be back, I guess. Kind of cool. Kind of strange. I don't think I've been to the ballpark since I was let go. So that'll be weird being on the other side."

    Matt Klentak is now the overseer of the Phillies' rebuild. But it actually started in the fall of 2014, under Amaro's watch. He traded Rollins for Zach Eflin, and Marlon Byrd for Ben Lively and Cole Hamels for a troupe of players that included Jerad Eickhoff, Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams. The Phillies' rebuild hinges partly on these players. Eickhoff pitched against Amaro's Red Sox on Monday night, Lively on Tuesday night.

    "I hope they do really, really well - except when they play us," Amaro said. "I wish them well. They're developing. It's a process. They talk about it a lot. And we knew that when we had to start breaking it down and rebuilding it and stuff. But it's hard to be patient and be a Phillies fan, a Philadelphia fan. That's just how it is. That's the life. So hopefully the fans can stay patient with them because they'll come around. They've got some good players. They just have to develop and become better players."

    It has been a rough few months for Amaro, 52. He lost his dad to cancer in March. He and his dad, Ruben Sr., were the first father-son combination to play for the Phillies. They were joined earlier this season by the Leiters when pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. made it to the majors.

    Though a part of him will always be a Phillie, Amaro is loving this new chapter of his baseball life.

    "Love it. Love it. Love being on the field," he said. "Love being around the players, particularly these guys. Really engaged, good kids. They love to play, love to take information.

    "The coaching staff, I knew almost all of the guys and played with almost all of the guys. It's a fantastic staff, dedicated people."

    Amaro glanced around Fenway Park.

    "It's a great ambiance here, a fun place to be," he said. "Geographically, it's great for me. It's not Philadelphia, but it's close. On top of that, it's a great fan base, similar to the Philadelphia fan base where they ooze passion."

    When Amaro walked out of Citizens Bank Park in September 2015, he did so with some great memories but also some regrets.

    "Just not being there and not getting it all the way turned around is one of them," he said. "I would've loved to have done that.

    "I regret some moves we made and some moves I don't regret even though they may not have worked out perfectly. People talk about the (Jonathan) Papelbon deal but Papelbon ended up being a pretty good closer for us. We just didn't have a good team around him, sadly, at that time. There are other things I wish we would have done a little differently, just some things you can't control, but when I think of Philadelphia, I think of very, very good things, all positive things. I understand why a move had to be made. I get it. I'm happy I'm getting the opportunity I'm getting now."

    One of Amaro's biggest regrets remains the way the 2011 season ended, with a 102-win team suffering a first-round postseason loss to the St. Louis Cardinals and Ryan Howard blowing out his Achilles in a franchise-changing moment.

    Everything could be different for Ruben Amaro Jr. now - he might still be running the team's baseball operation - if the Phillies had won that series and gone on to win the World Series they were seemingly built to win.

    Does Amaro agree?

    "Yep. I do," he said. "I think that was one of the best teams we've ever had on the field. And I'm proud of the fact we got a chance to put that together. A lot of people, Ed and Pat, myself and others. I'm proud of that.

    "They just played better and we didn't play as well. It happens."