On the heels of a string of cuts this week, the Phillies released three more players from minor league camp on Friday, including outfielders Bill Rice (pictured) and Brent Clevlen as well as catcher Jeff Lanning.
Rice, a native of Sewell, NJ, was signed by the Phillies following a tryout at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park in June, 2010. Always a standout at every amateur level he has played, Rice's lifelong dream of competing as a professional was achieved when the team he grew up cheering for offered him a contract.
Last year, in 46 combined games with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies and the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, the 5-foot-11-inch 185-pounder sported a .296 batting average with 1 HR, 13 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
After watching several teammates receive similar news in recent weeks, the lefty hitting speedster was stunned to learn he was being released early Friday.
Speaking exclusively with PhoulBallz.com's Jay Floyd, Rice expressed his greatest appreciation for the Philadelphia organization.
"The Phillies helped me out in so many ways, in the game of baseball and life as well," Rice said. "I've learned so much these past couple years and have all of my coaches and people in the organization to thank for that, along with the chance to do what I love and getting a shot at professional baseball."
With no plans on giving up on continuing to live his dream, the 23-year-old Rice feels his pro career is nowhere near finished.
"I feel they made a mistake in releasing me but it is a business and I can't hold that against them. I wish all the guys in the organization much success, but I do plan to take this opportunity to prove them wrong," Rice stated.
With a clear emotional investment that predates his contractual ties with the organization that gave him a shot, Rice also expressed an undying attachment to the club that had just parted ways with him.
"It's hard to get released, especially from the team you rooted for your entire life, but I have always been a Phillies fan and as short as my time was with them, I will forever be a Phillie at heart," Rice confessed.
Clevlen was signed by the Phillies after being released by the Braves and the Reds organizations at separate points last season. The 28-year-old was a 2nd round draft choice of Detroit back in 2002 and has played in 59 combined big league games with the Tigers and Braves.
Lanning was signed in 2010 after being released by the Twins organization. The 24-year-old was an 8th round draft selection of Minnesota in 2008. In 43 games last year with Class A Lakewood, Lanning posted a .260 average with 8 doubles, 5 HR and 12 RBI.
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