Notes: Players thrilled to meet Brock
Hall of Famer interviews Howard for book on Robinson
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Lou Brock stood on McKechnie Field on Tuesday morning, looking very much like he could still swipe 100 bases and hit at least .290.Even at age 67. But the Hall of Famer came to Bradenton as the co-author of a soon-to-be-released book, "The Pitch," which chronicles the lasting impact of Johnny Sain's first pitch to Jackie Robinson on April 15, 1947, the day Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier. "Jackie went on the field in the top of the first inning [as a member of home team], but he wasn't validated as a big leaguer until that pitch came," Brock said. Brock stressed Sain's importance to the moment by the sheer fact that he pitched to his new contemporary -- eventually striking him out in that at-bat -- instead of send a message at Robinson's head that some might have wanted at the time. "He could have released a missile, but he released a baseball," Brock said. "The question was why? Johnny always said it was because '[he] was a big-league pitcher.'" Sixty years later, the moment still resonates with Brock, whose goal on Tuesday was to interview Ryan Howard for the book. The former Cardinals star sees the National League's reigning Most Valuable Player as the latest great African-American slugger whose life has changed because of "The Pitch." "[Robinson] meant everything," Howard said. "If the Dodgers organization hadn't taken that chance, I wouldn't be here right now. I owe everything to the guys who came before me." Sain started that day instead of lefty Warren Spahn -- who was still feeling his way at the Major League level, because the Dodgers were loaded with righty hitters. Brock visited Sain in a Chicago nursing home in June, five months before the former pitcher passed away. Though unable to speak, Sain gripped a baseball and showed Brock the grip he used for the pitch, a curveball, and smiled. "The whole world is watching this moment in time, and everyone wanted to know what the outcome of the pitch would be," Brock said. "Ryan Howard is the [next player] who is going to have a great career based on the significance of that pitch. That pitch opened doors, opportunities, destiny."
Philling in: Righty Adam Eaton won't travel to Winter Haven on Thursday; instead, he will pitch the "B" game against the Blue Jays at Knology Park. He'll be opposed by A.J. Burnett. ... Howard has hit at least one hit in all four of his Grapefruit League games.
Coming up: Brett Myers makes his second Grapefruit League start on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET against Toronto's Gustavo Chacin at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla. J.A. Happ, Brian Sanches and Clay Condrey are also scheduled to pitch for Philadelphia.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.