Dressed in neatly pressed khakis, with black sunglasses dangling over his blue sweater vest, Ed Wade casually strolled into the Phillies’ dugout, took a seat in the middle of the empty blue bench, and crossed his legs.
An hour before the Phillies were set to square off against the Cincinnati Reds at Veterans Stadium on a sunny Sunday afternoon earlier this month – just one week before the team’s last home game – Wade wanted to soak up his surroundings.
Wade, who has been the Phillies’ general manager since 1997, knows the Vet like the back of his hand. His memories of the Concrete Jungle pile high like the garbage found between each aisle.
This is the place where he went as a Temple student during the 1970s, where he saw Mitch Williams pitch the final out of the 1993 National League Championships Series, and where he fell in love.
As a Phillies intern in 1977, Wade met an usherette he eventually married.
Wade will carry a lot of memories with him from the Vet to Citizens Bank Ballpark next season, even if the Phils faltered in their bid to secure a National League Wild Card playoff bid last month.
Still, Wade was able to enjoy one of his more successful years as a Major League GM.
“I enjoy every season,” Wade said. “I enjoy the competition. Unless you’re competitive by nature, you’re not going to enjoy working in this game.
“You have to start taking long hours into consideration and some of the other factors,” he said. “You have to have a competitive instinct to play.
Every game is something special for us whether it’s in the heat of a pennant race or if it’s trying to evaluate a player’s future.”
Wade lives for the three hours that follow after the umpire yells, “Play ball.” He lives by the words of several books and speeches he’s heard throughout his life.
For anyone looking to get into the sports world or work in a front office someday, Wade knows a thing or two that might help get that foot in the door.
His first piece of advice is to brush up on Secretary of State Colin Powell’s “13 Rules to Live By.” Next, familiarize yourself with former President Teddy Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena, a speech which gives theories and ways of overcoming fear and maintaining confidence.
As he dispensed this advice, Wade pulled a worn and wrinkled card of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, out of his right pocket.
“I carry St. Jude around all the time,” Wade said.
Ed Wade, general manager of a major league baseball team, a hopeless cause?
He played the game sparingly at Temple and started out as a public relations intern with the Phillies, making a paltry $2.50 an hour back in 1977. Wade has come a long way to become a GM.
Wade recites the words of Powell’s “Rules to Live By” often, particularly those who advise the reader to share credit and take all the blame.
For Wade, it’s exemplified through blockbuster trades, free-agent signings and a winning team.
“I try not to personalize that stuff a whole lot because I’m a firm believer that there’s so many people involved in what I do,” he said. “It’s got my name on it, but I clearly recognize it’s a collective effort.”
Wade corroborates with about 130 people in making decisions.
And the hours on the job can be long, if not ridiculous. When the Phillies are home, he usually comes to work at 9 a.m. and punches out a little after 11 p.m. when the game is over and he’s met with manager Larry Bowa and the team’s trainer.
Wade usually makes half the team’s road trips. When he can’t travel, he watches the games on television or visits the minor league clubs. After the last regular season game, he gets on the phone with other GMs for trade discussions.
He attends GM meetings in November, and December is reserved for organization meetings. Then it’s off to instructional leagues and spring training.
All in all, he’s on the road six months out of the year, leaving little time to spend with his wife, Roxanne, and three children, two of whom are in college.
Every workday involves evaluating the club and finding ways to improve, but he’s learned that planning out a day rarely works.
Voice mail, e-mail and overnight developments constantly take him in a different direction.
But the one routine Wade has followed throughout the years is starting his day with a cup of Lipton tea. He can tell the difference between his favorite brand and Tetley.
“I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life,” he said.
One thing Wade has always had throughout his career is a support system, from his wife to the fans, all the way to the team president, Dave Montgomery.
When he had an interview with the Houston Astros for a public relations position in 1977, former Phillies owner Bill Giles paid for his ticket to New York for the interview.
Wade also was given a ticket to the World Series that year and sat six rows behind home plate, where he saw New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson smack three home runs in the game.
Wade’s career as a player ended right after his freshman year, when he was a center fielder under long-time Temple coach Skip Wilson.
He remembers Wade as an intelligent kid who had a lot of integrity, but he never thought he’d be in the position he is today.
“Whatever he was doing, you knew you were going to get the best job he could possibly do,” Wilson said. “He’s never slacked off, and that’s how I remember him.”
Wade always works at full-throttle, from the off-season acquisitions to helping out his alma mater in any way possible.
When he took over as GM, Wade helped out Temple’s baseball program by allowing the team to use the Phillies’ batting tunnel during the winter.
About five years ago, when Wilson and his wife went on a road trip across the East and Midwest, Wade made sure a pair of tickets would be waiting for the Wilsons at a few major league ballparks.
By summer’s end, Wilson has taken in games at Yankee Stadium and Boston’s Fenway Park, in addition to stops in Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago and Pittsburgh, all thanks to Wade.
These days, though, Wade is busy with helping to ease the transition into the Phils’ new stadium, Citizens Bank Ballpark, which he drives past every day when crossing the Walt Whitman Bridge en route from his home in South Jersey.
Prepping for the new stadium is almost like a second full-time job for many people in the organization, Wade said, from configuring the training room to the visiting clubhouse up to the executive offices.
While he’s moving forward, he won’t forget about the past, especially the Vet, which he feels has been poorly portrayed over the years.
Gone will be the rat-infested corridors and urine-stained floors, but forever will remain the memories of the 1980 championship team, among other things.
“The emotional ties and the intangibles are more of what we’re going to take out of the place than any single event,” he said.
Running a major league franchise is no easy task. Wade would like to bring a contending team into the new ballpark.
He’s seen how other ballparks have been opened recently and wants to do things the right way.
He wants to win. He wants championships. The 1993 NLCS ring he wears on his right ring finger is nice, but he wants more.
He’s a serious man, a businessman. But behind the straight face and earnest demeanor lies a regular human being.
“He hasn’t changed a whole lot,” said Temple baseball assistant coach John McArdell, who was Wade’s teammate at Temple. “He was always a little quiet and always level-headed. He doesn’t swear, I’ve never heard him curse once. What you see from him is what you get.”
Don’t be fooled by his poker face. He knows how to have a good time.
“I’m not a prankster, but I think I have a good sense of humor,” Wade said. “I’m just trying to do my job and have fun doing it. When you’re mad about something, get over it. Tomorrow’s another day.”
For now, however, Wade is content to just sit and watch for a while. He’s come a long way to get to where he is on this Sunday afternoon.
Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com.