Phillies Make Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr.'s MLB Dreams Come True

NEW YORK -- Dreams are coming true all over the place with this Phillies team.

First it was rookies Andrew Knapp and Brock Stassi making the club in the final days of spring training.

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And now, 2 ½ weeks into the season, Mark Leiter Jr. and Ben Lively have arrived from Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Leiter, a 26-year-old right-hander, was called up on Tuesday afternoon and made it from Allentown to Citi Field in time for that night's game. His dad, Mark Sr., pitched for a decade in the majors and spent the 1997 and 1998 seasons with the Phillies. The Leiters are just the second father-son combo to play in the majors for the Phillies, joining the Amaros, Ruben Sr. and Jr.

"That's incredible," said the younger Leiter, who fondly remembers playing catch with his dad at Veterans Stadium. "I'm proud of that. That's something that I've dreamed about and me and my dad have talked about. That was the goal. I would love to have a career like he had. I would love that. I'm excited to be here and looking forward to everything that's coming."

Leiter and Stassi roomed together in Clearwater this spring. The two were both late-round draft picks -- Stassi a 33rd-rounder out of Nevada-Reno in 2011 and Leiter a 22nd-rounder out of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2013.

"Seeing everything Brock went through in spring, it felt like a lot of my story is similar," Leiter said. "I couldn't have been happier for him. I was lucky enough to share some of that with him being his roommate and having that night hanging out with him before the team left. To experience it for myself, it's amazing. It really was."

Leiter was not in big-league camp this spring. He was over on the minor-league side, though he did come over to the big-league side as an extra a few times. Leiter pitched at Double A Reading last season and went 6-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 103 2/3 innings, some as a starter, some as a reliever. Phillies minor-league instructors have long liked his pitching savvy and toughness on the mound. He was promoted to Triple A this season and allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings over two appearances. He walked two and struck out 11.

The Phillies summoned Leiter when they placed outfielder Howie Kendrick on the disabled list Tuesday. Leiter was on the field in Lehigh Valley going through the pre-game stretch when manager Dusty Wathan called him into the dugout.

From afar, Lively watched the dugout meeting.

"We were in the outfield stretching and Dusty said, "Leiter, come here,' " Lively said. "We saw Mark go in the dugout. We were thinking, 'Did he get sent down?' No one knew. Then we saw them hugging and smiling. It was pretty cool."

Leiter phoned his wife back at the apartment in Allentown and she ran an overnight bag over to the ballpark and within 40 minutes of getting the news of his dream-come-true promotion, he was in a car on the way to New York and ultimately was in uniform in the bullpen for the first pitch. The Leiters, of course, are New Jersey baseball legends from Tom's River. Al Leiter, the brother of Mark Sr., had a long and successful career with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins, and Mets. A bunch of Mark Leiter Jr.'s pals from home made it to Tuesday night's game and shouted at him in the bullpen.

While Leiter was a late-round draft pick, Lively, 25, was a fourth-rounder by the Cincinnati Reds in 2013. The Phillies picked him up in a trade for Marlon Byrd on New Year's Eve 2014 and he won 18 games at Double A and Triple A last season and won the Paul Owens Award as the organization's top minor-league pitcher. Lively came up to replace reliever Pat Neshek, who went on paternity leave Wednesday (see story). Neshek is expected back by the weekend, so Lively's stay could be brief. The pitcher knows that.

"I'll get my feet wet," he said with a smile. "My name is right there -- call me whenever.

"Everyone is always saying you're just a phone call away, and the phone call came at midnight."

Lively was home relaxing after Tuesday night's Lehigh Valley game when Wathan called and told him he was joining Leiter in the big leagues.

Lively's dad, Ed, runs charter fishing boats in Pensacola, Florida. He's on the job by 5 a.m. every day so he gets to bed early. But his son did not hesitate to call his folks at midnight with the good news.

"My dad woke up and said, 'Something happen?' And I said, 'No, no. All good,' " Lively said. "I told him and he was pretty pumped. Then he woke up my mom and she started to cry. She lost it. My dad -- he was just fired up."

The Phillies sent a car to Allentown on Wednesday morning to shuttle Lively to Manhattan. He said he's not a big city guy, but there was no place he would rather have been Wednesday night than New York, in the big leagues, even if the assignment figures to be brief.

"Honestly, when it started setting in, I was in the car and I started seeing the city," he said. "I was like, 'All right, this is happening.' It was pretty cool."

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