It was Mark Singer’s day off from the Northeast Philadelphia car dealership, so he was still sleeping Tuesday morning when his son called. Jeff Singer, a left-handed pitcher who has toiled for six seasons in the Phillies’ farm system, wanted to know what his dad had planned.
“I said ‘Well, you just woke me up,’” Mark Singer said. “He says ‘OK. But what are you doing today?’ I said ‘I have to cut the lawn.’ He said ‘Oh, I thought you might want to go down to the Phillies game.’ I said ‘No, I’m just going to watch it on TV.’ And he goes ‘I’m going to be there so I thought you might want to go.’ I didn’t know what to say. It brought a tear to my eye.”
The Phillies promoted the 28-year-old Singer from triple A to the majors on Tuesday, seven years after he signed with the team while he was working with his father at Dunphy Ford on Frankford Avenue and pitching to a 50-year-old catcher in a South Jersey men’s league. And now he’s a big leaguer.
“He just kept going for it,” said his father. “The ultimate dream is here.”
Singer worked at the dealership doing whatever was needed, making enough money to keep his baseball dream churning. His father is the used car manager and Jeff cleaned cars, drove them to other dealers for trade, and picked up cars from the auction.
He was the first person on the lot each morning and had to unlock all the cars, start them, and make sure the gas tanks were full before the salespeople clocked in.
“He liked to stay busy,” Mark Singer said. “It taught him that wasn’t what he wanted to do. You know? He did whatever they asked him to do. That’s just how he is. You tell him to run through a wall and he’ll run through a wall.”
Singer, who was born in Northeast Philly and grew up in South Jersey, pitched at Holy Cross High and Division III Rutgers-Camden. His baseball dream seemed to be dimming in the summer of 2015 when he was a 22-year-old pitching in the Rancocas Valley men’s league.
But then the independent Camden Riversharks needed a replacement for an injured left-handed pitcher. Rowland George, a Phillies scout, had seen Singer in the men’s league and suggested him to the Riversharks.
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“He always believed that he was good enough to get there. He just needed to be seen at the right place at the right time,” Mark Singer said.
The Phillies signed Singer later that year after he created some buzz in October 2015 by pitching in front of American League scouts at an open tryout in Connecticut. Singer spent the next six seasons in the minors and pitched last offseason in Mexico. The closest he came to the majors was in 2019 when the Phillies brought him to Citizens Bank Park to throw batting practice.
Reaching the majors would always be an uphill climb for an undrafted player who was not on the 40-man roster. But Singer finally reached it.
“He had some ups, he had some downs,” Mark Singer said. “Baseball is a mind game. I give him all the credit in the world. He didn’t stop. He believed in himself and just believed in working hard. He got there. I couldn’t be more proud. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Singer is a free agent after the season and planned to stick with his dream until he turned 30. He stuck with it long enough that he could wake up his father on Tuesday. There’s no guarantee how long Singer’s stay will last as he replaced Corey Knebel, who was placed on the COVID-19-related injured list. But it’s enough to make those six minor-league seasons worth it.
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Singer grew up going to Veterans Stadium with his father to watch the Phillies. And on Tuesday, he had a ticket waiting in South Philly for his father to watch him.
“Now he’s taking me,” Mark Singer said. “I’m more than happy to take the ticket. It’s phenomenal. There aren’t words to express it.”