CLEARWATER, Fla. — You might have heard that slugger Rhys Hoskins made some changes to his batting stance and swing over the winter.
Hoskins isn't the only prominent Phillie who made some adjustments in the off-season.
Word around Phillies spring training camp is that the Phanatic has made a few alterations himself. Fans will get a peek at the Big Green Guy's new look Sunday when the Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates at Spectrum Field. Aaron Nola will be the Phillies' starting pitcher, Hoskins will be in the lineup, and, yes, the game will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Don't fret, Phanatic fans.
The lovable ol' whatever-he-is is still green, still furry and still funny as all get-out, thanks to the comic "personality" that has been developed over 41 years by Tom Burgoyne and before him, David Raymond. That Phanatic will still race around the ballpark on his four-wheeler, shoot hot dogs toward the sky, shine the head of bald guys and torment players in the visiting dugout.
But his shoes might be different.
Some of his measurements may be different. (The result of some off-season work in the weight room, perhaps?)
There are apparently other creative changes, as well, but we'll all just have to see for ourselves when the Phanatic joins one of his biggest fans, Bryce Harper, on the field Sunday.
Changes are nothing new for the Phanatic. His shape, markings and attire have evolved over the years and "evolve" is probably the right word because, according to the Phillies media guide, he was born in the Galapagos Islands, the place that helped Charles Darwin form his theory of evolution.
The changes to the Phanatic's look come as the team is embroiled in a lawsuit with Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, who were hired to design the original Phanatic costume back in the late-1970s.
The Phillies purchased rights to the Phanatic in 1984, but federal law allows artists to renegotiate rights to their work after 35 years.
In 2018, Erickson and Harrison informed the Phillies that they would seek to wrest the rights to the Phanatic away from the team unless it paid them millions. Last year, the Phillies filed a lawsuit against Erickson and Harrison in New York federal court to keep their beloved mascot. The Phillies contend that the Phanatic's four-decade rise from a costume to a Philadelphia sports and cultural icon is the result of their own creative forces and investment and therefore makes the creature property of the team.
The Phillies' rights to the Phanatic will expire on June 15, but the club is hoping the latest round of creative changes will be enough to legally continue its use of the Phanatic.
Legal feuds involving the rights to characters like the Phanatic are not new. There have been notable disputes over the rights to Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear.
Citing litigation, Phillies officials have declined comment on the matter for months and did so again this week.
But enough with all this legalese.
Rev up the four-wheeler. Can't wait for Sunday and the big reveal.