Jewish Phillie Dalton Guthrie Tries to Make Big League Club

Dalton Guthrie (Courtesy of Miles Kennedy/The Phillies)

By the time the 2023 Major League Baseball season begins on March 30, the Philadelphia Phillies might be a step closer to making a minyan. Outfielder Dalton Guthrie, 27, has a chance going into spring training to join Jewish backup catcher Garrett Stubbs on the team’s opening-day roster.

If he does, he will enter a baseball season as a big leaguer for the first time. Guthrie reached the majors last September after an injury to right fielder Nick Castellanos. Playing for a team in a playoff race, Guthrie went 7-for-21 at the plate with a home run and six walks. He finished with a perfect fielding percentage in 70 combined innings in the outfield (62), at third base (seven) and at second base (one).

“I’m excited,” Guthrie said. “Whenever I’ve come into spring training, even in the minors, I’ve always been fighting for a spot.”

Guthrie grew up in Sarasota, Florida, with a Jewish mother, Andrea Guthrie, and a Catholic father, Mark Guthrie, the MLB pitcher for 15 seasons (1989-2003) with several teams. During the holidays, Guthrie and his two brothers were among the kids who celebrated Chanukah and Christmas. That, according to the 27-year-old, was “the best of both worlds.”

But for the rest of the year, religion was not a daily presence in the family’s life. Dalton Guthrie attended the Goldie Feldman Academy at Temple Beth Sholom in Sarasota for kindergarten and first grade. Andrea Guthrie said she sent her son there because she had heard from friends that it was a good school. At Goldie Feldman, Dalton Guthrie went to temple and practiced reading Hebrew along with his secular schooling. But before second grade, he tested into Pine View Elementary Magnet School in Land O’ Lakes, and his formal Jewish education was over.

Guthrie did not have a bar mitzvah. It was also difficult for the family to observe the High Holidays during the MLB season when his father was traveling. Andrea Guthrie’s mother would call her and remind her that it was Yom Kippur, and she would say, “OK, I’ll try to fast!” The Jewish mother made sure that her children got a Chanukah dinner each year with her parents.

But beyond that, she believed in teaching her kids about her religion and then letting them make their own decisions. It was a philosophy that the Guthrie parents shared. Mark Guthrie took his son to midnight mass one year to show him what Catholicism was like. But he did not force his son to practice.

“I’ve had friends whose parents push things on them, and then they go off to college and do the opposite,” Andrea Guthrie said. “I wanted to let them learn it and, if that’s the way they felt, they’ll continue that.”

Dalton Guthrie saw his first big league action with the Phillies last September. (Courtesy of Miles Kennedy/The Phillies)

Today, though, Dalton Guthrie’s religion is baseball. The 2017 sixth-round pick of the Phillies spent years surviving and advancing through the franchise’s minor league system. Andrea Guthrie said her son has always loved to play all positions, and he has used that mindset to make himself useful in the minors, too, playing at every spot but catcher and first base.

But while Dalton Guthrie was always a useful fielder, his hitting didn’t catch up until June 2021. Guthrie, then at Double-A Reading, was in a slump, so hitting coach Tyler Henson reviewed film with him going back to his high school days. They discovered that the player’s hands had fallen too low to catch up to fastballs and react to breaking balls.

Henson asked his pupil if he wanted to sit out to work on his new stance. But Guthrie said he wanted to play. He went out that night and ripped two hits.

“You could see him start to free up mentally,” Henson said.

Later that year, Guthrie got called up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he finished with a .292 average. The next season at Triple-A, he hit .302 with a .363 on-base percentage, earning his call-up.

“A lot of guys that get through the minors, what they do is adapt,” Guthrie said. “Find new ways to succeed.”

Guthrie has gotten through the minors. But now the challenge is staying in the majors. He knows that all he can control is his approach. He said his father “was never the overbearing dad.” The only times Mark Guthrie got mad at his son growing up were when he didn’t try his hardest.

“If I can give all my effort, I can live with that every day,” Guthrie said. ■

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