Brett Phillips' middle name, Maverick, comes from the TV western starring James Garner. When presented with an opportunity to do some opossum wrangling on Wednesday night, though, the Astros prospect decided to pass.
Instead -- or perhaps inspired by his brush with the animal kingdom -- Phillips homered for the fifth straight game on a night when an ambling marsupial took center stage in Class A Quad Cities' 6-5 loss to visiting Clinton.
"I'm sitting on deck and I'm getting a good glance on the pitcher," Phillips said, recounting his fifth-inning at-bat. "Out of the corner of my eye, I see this thing. He comes out of the other dugout. Quickly, my bat turns into a sword and I take a few too many steps back from it. I watched that thing squabble all over the field or however you want to say it. That thing was trying to ravage things on the field, but he was in the wrong spot looking for trash."
The opossum provided a brief and humorous pause in the evening's festivities.
"There was no warning whatsoever," Phillips said. "That thing came out guns to the wall and I said, 'I am not messing with that thing.' I went into defense mode and not offense mode. I didn't go into attack mode, for sure."
As Phillips and the rest of the over 3,000 players, coaches and fans in attendance at Modern Woodmen Field looked on, two members of the River Bandits grounds crew did their best to capture the meandering critter. Quad Cities players supplied an empty trash can to a worker who corraled the animal near the shortstop position.
"Then he was trapped under the trash can and everyone was like, 'What do we do now?'" Phillips said. "This Superman guy came from left field to save the day. He lifted the trash can, the tail came out and he lifted that thing up by its tail. Shoot, he has way more guts than me. He showed that thing off, showed everyone his prize. Then he threw it in the can and walked that thing off."
"Superman" was River Bandits operations manager Bill Duncan, who restored order. With the opossum hustled off to an undisclosed location, Phillips stepped to the plate with a man aboard and launched his fifth home run in as many games, a two-run shot to right-center field. The 20-year-old became the first Quad Cities player to accomplish the feat since at least 1998.
"It's been great," Phillips said. "I've been blessed with a great season so far, and I'm just trying to finish strong here in the month of August. It usually gets the best of guys, and I understand that, being my first full year, maybe the bat can get a little heavy. Right now, I'm just eating it all up. It's been great the last five days, just trying to get balls up in the zone and getting good swings on them."
With an opossum-sparked rally of their own, the LumberKings erased a four-run deficit with a five-run sixth, then snapped a ninth-inning tie on Chantz Mack's sacrifice fly.
The rally came against Quad Cities reliever Andrew Walter (4-3), who allowed a run on two hits over a 1 1/3 innings with a walk and two strikeouts.
The loss was the River Bandits' second in 11 games.
"I think we're going to put [the opossum] on display on the field for everyone to see," Phillips said. "No, I'm just kidding. I think we've been playing pretty good baseball, possum or no possum."