A trio of former IronPigs - 3B Maikel Franco, RHP Aaron Nola and 1B Tommy Joseph - along with new IronPigs manager Dusty Wathan and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin are the Guests of Honor for the 2017 Phillies Winter Banquet presented by The Air Products Foundation, Coca-Cola Bottling Company of the Lehigh Valley and Service Electric Cable TV & Communications. The annual event will be held on Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Sands Events Center in Bethlehem.
The annual Phillies Winter Banquet is IronPigs Charities' flagship event. All of the money raised benefits IronPigs Charities, a non-profit organization striving to provide educational and recreational opportunities for children in the Greater Lehigh Valley area.
Tickets are $85 per person or $775 for a table of ten. Championship tables, allowing patrons entrance to a private pre-event reception are also available. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour and commencement of the auctions and raffles. Seat or table reservations are now on sale and available by calling (610) 841-PIGS (7447) or visiting phillieswinterbanquet.com. Interested parties are reminded that seating is limited and the Phillies Winter Banquet has sold out in years past.
The main program for Phillies Winter Banquet features players and personnel from the Philadelphia Phillies and includes a dinner and open bar, a sports memorabilia silent auction, raffles and an entertainment portion with the special Phillies guests.
Maikel Franco, 24, established himself as one of the premier young sluggers in baseball in 2016, slugging a career-high 25 homers while driving in a career-best 88 runs. In fact, his homer total was the most by a Phillies third baseman since Scott Rolen in 2001 (25). Overall, he led the Phillies in RBIs and slugging percentage (.427) and was tied for the team lead in home runs and extra-base hits (49).
During his 2015 rookie campaign, Franco finished in the top 10 among NL rookies in nearly every category, including 2nd in slugging percentage (.497), 5th in average (.280), 7th in doubles (22), T-7th in HR (14) and 8th in RBIs (50) following an early-season promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In 2013, he was named the Paul Owens Award winner as the best player in the Phillies minor league system after leading Minor League Baseball in total bases (308) and pacing Phillies farmhands in all three Triple Crown categories (.320-31-103).
Aaron Nola, 23, was limited to just 20 starts last season due to injury but still managed a career-best 23.0-inning scoreless streak that was tied for the longest in the NL in 2016 and was the longest by a Phillies starting pitcher since Cole Hamels (24.2) in 2014. He also tossed 9 consecutive quality starts (4/22-6/5/16) - the longest streak since Hamels tossed ten consecutive quality starts in 2013. Nola started his Major League career in impressive fashion - going 6-2 with a 3.59 earned run average in 13 starts in 2015 following his promotion from Lehigh Valley. Despite not making his ML debut until July 21, the Baton Rouge, La., native still finished tied for the Phillies' team lead in victories (6) in 2015.
The Phillies' first-round pick (seventh overall) in 2014 rocketed through the system to reach the big leagues -- becoming the first Philadelphia draftee to make his ML debut the following season after being drafted since Pat Combs (11th overall in 1988) in Sept. 5, 1989. Nola dazzled in his IronPigs debut, tossing five scoreless innings in a 3-0 shutout of Buffalo on June 18. He started his Triple-A career with a 12-inning scoreless streak and became just the second Phillies farmhand since 1999 to win his first three career Triple-A starts, joining only Tyler Cloyd (2012). His stay in Lehigh Valley lasted just six starts, as the righty went 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA.
Tommy Joseph, 25, had one of the best seasons of any NL rookie despite beginning the year in Triple-A Lehigh Valley and not attending ML Spring Training as either a 40-man roster member or non-roster invitee. Joseph had batted a myriad of injuries that cost him nearly the entirety of the prior three seasons before his breakthrough 2016 campaign in which he ranked 3rd in HR (21), 6th in RBI (47) and 9th in batting average (.257) among NL rookies. He batted .347-6-17 in his first 27 games before getting his first call-up to the Major Leagues on May 13. At the time of his promotion, Joseph led the in IL in average (.347) and OPS (.981) with ranking fifth in XBH (13), tied for fifth in HR (6) and tied for ninth in RBI (17).
Joseph was acquired by the Phillies from San Francisco on 7/31/12 as part of the Hunter Pence deal after originally being selected by the Giants in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft. The Phoenix, Az., native was ranked by Baseball America as the 3rd-best prospect in the Phillies organization.
Pete Mackanin, 65, was officially named the 53rd manager in Phillies history on Sept. 22, 2015, after serving as interim manager beginning on June 26, 2015. During his time at the helm in 2015, the young Phillies squad posted an increased winning percentage of .420 over 88 games after starting at .351 through the first 74 contests of the season.
Even though the Phillies are the third Major League team Mackanin has managed, 2016 was the first-time he spent the entire season as a full-time skipper. The Chicago native served as interim manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates for 12 games in 2005 and later sported a 41-39 record in the same capacity for the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. He first joined the Phillies staff as Charlie Manuel's bench coach from 2009-12, then returned in 2014 after spending one season as a scout for the New York Yankees.
As a player, Mackanin was drafted by the Washington Senators in the fourth round of the 1969 Draft before enjoying a nine-year ML career. In 548 games, the infielder finished with a combined .226 average, 30 home runs and 141 runs batted in for the Texas Rangers (1972-73), the Montreal Expos (1975-77), the Phillies (1978-79) and the Minnesota Twins (1980-81). In 1975, he hit a career-best 12 HR, which still remains the Expos' single-season record for HR by a second baseman.
Dusty Wathan, 43, becomes the fourth manager all-time for the IronPigs, following Dave Huppert (2008-10), Ryne Sandberg (2011-12) and Dave Brundage (2013-16).
In 2016, the 43-year-old guided the Fightin Phils into the Eastern League playoffs by winning the Eastern Division title with a 89-52 (.631) record - the second-best mark in all of full-season Minor League Baseball behind the International League's Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders (91-52, .636). For his efforts, Wathan was named EL Manager of the Year for a second consecutive season.
Overall, Wathan owns a 631-565 (.528) record in 1,196 career games over nine seasons as a skipper in the Phillies system with SS-A Williamsport (2008), Low-A Lakewood (2009), Advanced-A Clearwater (2010-11) and Reading (2012-16). The Jacksonville, Fla., native piloted Lakewood to the 2009 South Atlantic League Championship and was named SAL Manager of the Year.
In his five seasons with the Fightin Phils, Wathan posted a 373-335 (.527) record and led the team to the postseason in 2012, 2015 and 2016 and is also the winningest manager in club history.
The Phillies Winter Banquet beneficiary, IronPigs Charities presented by The Air Products Foundation, is a recognized 501(c) (3) non-profit organization on the state and federal level. One of the annual highlights of the Winter Banquet is the distribution of grants to local non-profit organizations, which will exceed $90,000 at this year's event. In fact, over $738,398 has been distributed at this event since debuting in 2008. Since its inception in 2007, IronPigs Charities has made more than $1,000,494 in monetary contributions.
The state-of-the-art Sands Bethlehem Events Center, a spacious 50,000 square foot venue, opened in 2012 on the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem campus and has already hosted a wide array of premier musical acts, comedians and sporting events. The events center is directly located adjacent to the Sands Hotel. Winter Banquet attendees may enter at any of the Sands Boulevard entrances off 3rd Street and follow the signs directing you to the rear of the hotel.
The IronPigs are debuting the brand-new Bacon, USA, Membership Program next season -- a year-round IronPigs experience pass featuring numerous new amenities such as savings on parking at games and at the Majestic Clubhouse Store at Coca-Cola Park, on-field VIP access to watch batting practice, access to an annual holiday party, an invitation to an exclusive player and coaches photo session and more. For more information, visit ironpigsbaseball.com or call (610) 841-PIGS (7447). Memberships and group outings are on sale now.
The 2017 IronPigs baseball season is presented by Capital BlueCross.