A first-time All-Star, Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand has sparked the contending club with a .308 average, 19 homers and 65 RBIs through his first 119 games. The gritty outfielder has continued to shine in the field as well. Rowand recently spoke with MLBPLAYERS.com about the season, playing in the City of Brotherly Love and fantasy football.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You're well into your second year with the Phillies, how is the mood this year?
Rowand: We have a lot of great guys on this team. The city's been great in supporting us. We're competitive; we're in the playoff race. There's not much more you can ask for.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Philadelphia is known for being a tough sports town. But you play hard, so it seems like it would be a good fit for your style. Is that how you've been received?
Rowand: Sure. I was a little leery about it when I first found out I got traded. I didn't know what to expect. I heard it was a rough city. I've known Pat Burrell for a long time and he eased my mind. He said, "You're not going to have any problems here. The fans are going to love you the way you play."
MLBPLAYERS.com: And you busted your face on the wall not long after you got there.
Rowand: That helps, too. I really think the Philly fan base, and fans in general, appreciate a guy who lays it all out on the line every day. They've been wonderful to me both years I've been here. They've been really great.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you have fan club in Philly? Fans are notorious there for dressing up in support of their favorite players.
Rowand: Not specifically, but they have signs up every few games that say, "Rowand's Rowdies." There are always different signs up in the park. They come up with new stuff all the time. The best is "Flash's Follies," for Tom "Flash" Gordon. They have Batman, Robin, Superman, Mighty Mouse, Flash, everything.
In Chicago, I had a group called "Aaron's Amigos." They were in Wrigley Field the first day of our series there recently. They should all be graduating college pretty soon. They were freshman in college when they started it.
MLBPLAYERS.com: The Phillies reaching the 10,000-loss mark was inevitable, and obviously it has nothing to do with anyone associated with the present club. But how did you guys handle the extra attention?
Rowand: We laughed at all the media who were making a big deal of it. Some of the guys on the team who have been here the longest have only been here around six years out of what, 100? So no one had that much to do with it. Pat Burrell's probably the longest-tenured here. We should count his losses. I'm going to get on the computer and do that and figure out a percentage. But really, we laughed it off. It has zero bearing on what we're trying to accomplish here, and the goals we have this year.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You're in the thick of what looks to be a pretty exciting race with the Mets and Braves in the East and a bunch of teams in the Wild Card. How great is it for you to experience a race like this again, especially since you were hurt last year?
Rowand: Last year at this time, we were just trying to catch up at this point. We didn't catch up until there were two, three weeks left in the season, and that was just for the Wild Card. This year I'm healthy at this point, and playing, and can be a part of it. Last year it was tough to watch and not be able to contribute to the Wild Card race down the stretch. It should be exciting the rest of the season.
MLBPLAYERS.com: It's tough to lose Chase Utley for a while, but you got a nice pickup in your old teammate Tadahito Iguchi. How big was that pickup?
Rowand: It was huge. He's a lot more underrated than people might think. He's a great player. He's definitely a better second baseman than people give him credit for. He can flat-out hit. I knew when we got him, it was like a message sent from the front office to the clubhouse that we're going to make a run of this. It demonstrated that the front office was all in by bringing in a guy like "Gooch." He's as clutch as they come. I've seen him get more big hits in clutch situations than every one else I've ever played with, and I only played with him for one year.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You're a big football fan and a fantasy football enthusiast, give us some fantasy sleepers and busts for the season.
Rowand: One sleeper is definitely Daunte Culpepper. Busts? I'd say Edgerrin James. I don't think the Cardinals will be able to run the ball the way they think they can. They think they can run first, but I don't think that will happen. Cedric Benson's going to be a sleeper, too. He's better than people think.
I'm usually in three leagues. I run a league at home, I'm in another league with other players from around baseball and I'm in the Phillies' league.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.