Garrett Stubbs, Phillies’ unlikely spark, is back home in the San Diego Premier League.

The first time Garrett Stubbs returned to Petco Park as a Premier League player, he called his parents as they crossed the pedestrian bridge that connects the stadium to the Omni San Diego Hotel.

“Stay there,” he said.

A few minutes later, Stubbs appeared on the square, waved his hands, and shouted from about 300 feet away. He couldn’t get any closer. It was the summer of 2020, the pandemic raging and the ball fields had no fans, even those with children on the team.

“It was kind of bitter,” Stubbs recalled.

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This week will be different. Stubbs is back in his hometown, this time as Phillies’ backup catcher, and has a rooting department. Keyword: section. According to his father, T. Pat Stubbs, more than “a few hundred people” take part in each game. Given the likelihood that Stubbs will rarely start the series in the finals, there may be more crowds on Sunday.

Stubbs, 29, visited Houston with Astros last year and started a game with Padres. But that appearance, seven months after he was traded to Phillies for minor league outfielder Logan Cerny, came after he hit his first Premier League home race (May 22 against the Los Angeles Dodgers) and home team (June 15 against Miami). Marlins). He strikes.

Like a backup defender who makes the most of his limited playing time, Stubbs is becoming a fan favorite more than just because of his slight growth and lack of background. This weekend, his family and friends are hoping for a new chapter.

“We’re wearing our powder blue and red stripes,” Pat Stubbs said on the phone this week. “This whole Phillies experience has been fantastic and really a dream come true for how it worked.”

Stubb has its roots in San Diego. He grew up in Del Maris, a beach town located 20 miles north of downtown. Padres’ season tickets have been in the family almost since the team’s first season in 1969. His grandmother Maxine is hardened and rarely misses a game.

They went to the games at the old Qualcomm stadium. When Stubbs and his brother CJ, now a catcher of the Astros farm system, were 5 and 2, respectively, their mother took them to the 1998 National Parade Championship Parade in Padres. T. Pat remembers how Stubbs tried to get Rickey Henderson’s attention in 2001. Stubbs favorite: Trevor Hoffman.

“He always came in when we won,” Stubbs said. “He came to the ‘Hell Bells.’ It was like yes, that’s the guy.”

That was not enough to keep the score. Stubbs made a map where the players were on the court and paid attention to the squares that were called.

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When Garrett and CJ started competing, Stubbses still packed up the car after the game and drove to see Padres, a ritual that Pat described as a “family thing.” Before the opening of Petco Park in 2004, T. Pat brought his sons to the construction site and took a picture of a place with a home plate.

“It was just a fun photo,” he said. “I just wanted my kids to play in the Little League without ever seeing them continue playing as they are.”

Stubb’s earliest and most shaping baseball influences were in San Diego. He learned to catch Ed “Hoggy” from Herrmann, San Diego, and an 11-year-old Premier League catcher, mostly on the Chicago White Sox team. He met with Kevin Towers, CEO of the missing Padres, and Bruce Bochy, then leader.

Oh, and then there were Tony Gwyn’s beating hours. Really. The Hall of Famer saw Stubbs playing at the age of 12 or 13 and offered to help.

“He was very gracious about his time, and it was a meaningful time,” T. Pat recalled. “He sat there talking about hitting and saying you don’t have to get the ball out of the park to make an impact on the team. You can hit the ball through 5-6 holes. [on the left side of the infield] and you get two RBIs for it.

Stubbs’ biggest takeover of Gwynn?

“I was young, so it’s a little foggy right now,” Stubbs said. “I almost didn’t talk all the time. Really nervous. But he was such a happy and calm guy. He always smiled and he just liked being on the baseball field.

Stubbs was a freshman at Torrey Pines High School, despite weighing 5 feet and weighing 105 pounds. (Even now, he’s on the list at 5-10 and 173, and he’s usually considered a bat boy.) As a parent, he hit 0.391 and continued playing at USC.

“He’s been underestimated all his life,” said Matt Chess, a coach at Stubbs High School. “He’s been looked at and watched. But he realized, ‘I know I’m undersized, so I know this game better.’ He stole 25 ships as a catcher, throwing out about 40 of his 46 children in his younger year.

The whole story still amazes T. Patit, who suffocates while discussing his sons’ careers and jokes that he annoys his friends with how often he wonders how far Garrett and CJ have come in baseball. Before each game, he sends the same message to his sons: “Have fun today.” As he said, “That’s all it is. They’re playing the game.”

Living as a Realmuto undergraduate means less playing time than almost any baseball catcher. So when Stubbs left his home last week, T. Pat’s phone exploded with at least 300 text messages and 50 voicemails.

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Unlike two years ago, this weekend Stubbs has many opportunities to meet family and friends. He also brings a gift. He recently said he plans to give his first home run ball to his parents, another symbol of how far he has come from those grand days.

“Looking up where my family and I have been sitting since I was a child and now sitting in the square,” Stubbs said, “it’s kind of like I don’t know if nostalgia is the right word, but one of those moments. and you would be watching the big league players and wanting to be like them and now finally getting to where you look up at the seats you looked down on before. It’s pretty cool. “

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