LAKEWOOD, NJ- The Phillies Winter tour stopped at the Woodlake Country Club on Tuesday evening and the catered affair was the first taste of life in Lakewood for last year's top draft pick Jesse Biddle, as Philadelphia's Class A affiliate hosted the dinner for local fans to benefit BlueClaws Charities.
Biddle was selected 27th overall by the Phillies in last June's amateur draft, out of Germantown Friends School, a private day school within Philadelphia. Biddle signed with the team he grew up dreaming he could play with for $1.16 million, despite a previous commitment to play for the University of Oregon.
The 19-year-old Philadelphia native made his professional debut by going 4-1 with a 3.92 ERA and a complete game shut out in 12 combined games between the Gulf Coast League Phillies and short season Williamsport.
Going forward in 2011, the left-handed Biddle looks forward to spending plenty more time in the Jersey shore town.
"My goal is to play in Lakewood (this year). The goal is always to make it to the next level," Biddle stated.
Biddle expressed his excitement to pitch in front of a packed house at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park. "I hear the crowds are among the best (at this level). I've talked to guys who've played for other teams in the South Atlantic League and they say Lakewood is one of the best places to go and play."
The hopes are high for Biddle this coming season. However, where he will pitch in 2011 is not certain at this stage. Many expect that Biddle will be ready to take the mound for Lakewood, but his invitation to the banquet there, this week, isn't equal to an assignment on the BlueClaws' roster.
"Nothing is really set in stone," Biddle said. "They told me that they want me to be here, but it's really up to me. It depends on how hard I work and how well I can pitch. And if they don't feel like I'm ready, or they feel like I need to be held back, I'll be held back. I trust the Phillies."
The youngster, who is still less than a year removed from competing in high school match ups, was visited by many Major League scouts throughout his scholastic career and actually changed his pitching repertoire in order to become more appealing in the MLB draft. After receiving criticism about his curveball being too soft, Biddle added a slider as his breaking pitch. The Phillies, however, prefer Biddle's curveball, so the Philadelphia native, who cites Cole Hamels as an inspiration, gladly dropped the slider in favor of the preference of his dream club.
A fastball that ranges in the low-to-mid 90's and has movement is Biddle's best pitch. That and a change up that he's steadily working to improve helped him strike out 50 batters in 43 2/3 innings in his first season in the system.
Biddle speaks of taking "a little league approach" to baseball. He likes to have fun whenever he takes the mound and realizes that it's a long road to get to the highest level. The 6'4", 245-pounder is patient and plans to work hard to achieve his aspirations.
"My goal, since I was 12 years old, was to play for the Phillies and I will do what it takes to reach that goal."
Also appearing at the banquet were Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., Phils hitting coach Greg Gross and team employee assistance professional Dickie Noles. New BlueClaws manager Chris Truby was unable to travel from his home in Indiana, due to poor weather.
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