READING — For Símon Muzziotti, this opening day will hold a bit more significance.
When the Reading Fightin Phils outfielder takes the field against Somerset on Friday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, it’ll mark his return to full-season play after visa issues cost him nearly all of the 2021 campaign.
“I am ready,” Muzziotti said at the team’s media day on Tuesday. “I missed last year, almost the whole season, so I want to play 140 games this year.”
The Venezuela native was stuck in his home country for most of last season, unable to make his way into the United States as the minor leagues returned to play. Muzziotti was finally activated on Aug. 31 once he entered the U.S. and made quick stops at each level of the minors to end the year.
“It was amazing when I came back after six months of not playing,” he said. “I love to play baseball. When I can’t do it, it’s tough on me.”
Muzziotti batted .296/.375/.380 in 20 minor-league games down the stretch last season. Now, after the canceled 2020 season and losing most of last year, the 23-year-old is poised to play regularly for the first time since 2019.
“It’s a great year for him — because he pretty much hasn’t played the last two years for the most part — just to go play,” Fightins manager Shawn Williams said. “He’s another kid that’s extremely special.”
The lefty has strong bat-to-ball skills as well as speed that translates in center field as well as the basepaths. He also brings infectious energy off the field, even following the struggles of the previous two seasons.
“He has a great attitude,” Williams said. “Even when he got to us last year he was excited to be here, excited to play. He’s the same way right now. He has an outstanding attitude, and I think other guys feed off of him, too.”
Back in the swing of things ahead of this season, Muzziotti joined the Phillies for big-league games in spring training this season. The experience with the major leaguers is something he can take into the Double-A season in Reading.
“It’s pretty good when I’m playing with (Bryce) Harper, (Alec) Bohm, Didi (Gregiorius),” Muzziotti said. “(Players) you see on TV, I’m playing with them. It’s amazing.”
If not for his difficulties getting into the U.S. last season, perhaps he would’ve been playing with those guys sooner. The Phillies needed outfield depth at points last season, and Muzziotti had been seen as someone close to major-league readiness.
With two lost seasons behind now him, there’s only one way to get back on that track to the majors — play. Muzziotti is here, and he’s ready to get started.
“I think the biggest thing for him is just the fun,” Williams said, “because he hasn’t had it. He had two years where he couldn’t do a whole lot. Now, he’s here and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.”
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