Biddle lives dream with favorite team

First-round draft pick Jesse Biddle tries on his new Phillies jersey after signing a contract at Citizens Bank Park. The lefthander will head for Clearwater, Fla., next week.
First-round draft pick Jesse Biddle tries on his new Phillies jersey after signing a contract at Citizens Bank Park. The lefthander will head for Clearwater, Fla., next week.

The Phils' No. 1 draft choice doesn't lack confidence.

Posted: June 11, 2010

Two months before the baseball draft, Jesse Biddle sat at a Five Guys on City Avenue with one of his advisers, Adam Karon. Biddle had one question.

What are the chances I go to the Phillies at 27?

Not good, Karon said. He estimated it at 5 percent.

"I tried to prepare him for the worst," Karon said.

Biddle wouldn't hear it.

"I'm going to the Phillies," he told Karon.

How could it end any other way, Biddle thought. Here's the kid from Germantown Friends School who has adored the Phillies all his life. He was in the stands (both nights) for Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. He sat in the rain so long he was too sick to go to the parade two days later.

On Thursday, the 6-foot-5 lefthander put on a white Phillies' jersey with "BIDDLE" on the back for the first time in his life. The Phillies' first-round pick signed his first professional contract.

He will report to extended spring training Tuesday at Clearwater, Fla., and soon begin play with the Gulf Coast League Phillies.

"It's been a wild ride," Biddle said.

Biddle and the Phillies agreed to a $1.16 million signing bonus, the amount Major League Baseball's slotting system recommends for the 27th pick. It is slightly less than what Nick Franklin, the 27th overall pick in 2009, received from the Seattle Mariners.

When asked why negotiations finished so quickly, Biddle pointed to the "Phillies" logo across the chest of his first jersey.

"The best way to get to the major leagues is play as soon as you can out of high school," Biddle said. "This organization is one I trust. The signing bonus money is obviously very helpful. But that only means so much."

Area scout Eric Valent, the former Phillie, was the first from the organization to see Biddle in June, 2009. He saw the pitcher nine more times before Monday's draft. Valent estimated that a member of the scouting staff or front office was at almost every Biddle start this past season.

Even Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee checked out Biddle.

"I liked what I saw," Dubee said.

Valent said Biddle started separating from the pack during his senior season. He was 9-2 with a 1.06 ERA for GFS. He struck out 140 in 591/3 innings.

How's this for foresight: When Valent and scouting director Marti Wolever saw Biddle at the East Coast Pro Showcase in Lakeland, Fla., last August, Valent set up behind home plate with his radar gun. Wolever went to the third-base stands. Biddle began warming up and Wolever texted Valent: "There's our 2010 first-round pick."

Wolever said the final meeting with Biddle before the draft, a bullpen session in front of many front office members at Citizens Bank Park last Wednesday, sealed the deal.

"They said we don't put too much stock in how you throw," Biddle said. "It's just a bullpen. I took it as if I don't throw well, maybe it doesn't matter as much. But if I throw really well, it's going to have a big impact on how they view me. When you look at it that way, there's no pressure.

"I think they were pretty impressed."

Uh, yeah. Now Biddle, 18, will begin his professional career. He's likely four or five years away from making the majors, Wolever said, just like any high school pitcher.

"But in Jesse's mind he thinks a little bit earlier than that," Wolever said.

So, what's Biddle's timetable?

"I'm getting the start tonight," he said. "Roy Halladay's now the number two."


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/magelb.

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