Nearly four hours before Monday’s game, there were three figures on the field at Citizens Bank Park.

Hitting coach Kevin Long was behind the screen in front of the mound, firing pitches. Nick Castellanos was in the cage hitting them. And when he was done, his BP partner hopped in to get his cuts.

His partner was his son, Liam.

That night, Castellanos would go 2-for-4 with two doubles to left center.

It was a good process for Castellanos, who came off a miserable weekend in Baltimore where he was 0-for-14. So good, in fact, that he decided to get in the early work again Tuesday. Once again, Liam was taking swings off Long as well. But this time, they had a third member of their early hitting party – Bryson Stott.

Stott has struggled a bit himself this season, with offensive numbers that have been much lower than expected. It’s part of a maturation process for him as a hitter. He’s seeing more pitches and he’s walking more, but the selectivity has not led to better contact. In fact, Stott’s batted ball profile has seen a decline almost across the board.

So, he too came out for this early session.

The results were again a positive, Stott had two hits and a walk. One of his hits drove in the tying run in the ninth inning. Castellanos had a four-hit game, including a walk-off double, as the Phillies rallied to beat the San Diego Padres 4-3, improving to 49-24 for the season.

“You saw the residual effects of early work,” manager Rob Thomson said. “Hopefully it keeps going.”

On most days, batters take batting practice. Whether it’s on the field or in the batting cage. So, what’s different about coming in early?

“You just focus on your mechanics,” Thomson said. “And you’re out on the field and it’s different than in the cage because you can see it. You can see the ball flight on the field as opposed to in the cage. I think it’s just better work. It’s more concentrated. There’s more focus to it. It’s good to do that every once in a while.”

Castellanos and Stott might consider it to be part of their daily routine if it yields the kind of results it has the past couple games.

“It’s a little more focused on my needs, right,” Castellanos said about the early work. “I get to work at my pace. I don’t feel rushed to be fit in a certain time slot or window and I really can get the feelings I need out of the work.”

For Castellanos though, it’s more than that. Having his son, who in the past two seasons has basically become the Mayor of Citizens Bank Park when he’s visiting his dad, by his side in the cage changes everything about Nick’s demeanor.

He admitted as much, after the game.

“I’m always going to be happier when I have (Liam) with me, no doubt,” Castellanos said. “Just like you guys here asking me questions. (Those of you who) have kids would much prefer when your children are by your side rather than across the country.”

You remember earlier this year when Castellanos, ever the philosopher, declared that “Happy people hit better?” Nick is at his happiest when he can share his baseball life with Liam.

As a father, I can relate.

When my children were Liam’s age, if they went and spent a weekend with their mother, or they went on vacation somewhere, or I was travelling for work and they were staying at home with my mom and dad, I wasn’t right. My mood would swing constantly from being overly concerned (that’s the Italian mother in me… thanks, Mom), to being sad that I was home alone and the house was so quiet, to being apoplectic when they would call me and the littlest thing that was different about their routines with their mom would set me off.

Looking back, I can admit that I performed better at everything I did when I had them in tow, and performed much worse when I was spending my time living in the emotions on the more negative side of the spectrum.

This isn’t a justification for Castellanos’ rough year to this point. Being paid $20 million comes with some lofty expectations, and slashing .219/.275/.371 for a .646 OPS isn’t good enough. He needs to be better if the Phillies are going to finish the deal and get owner John Middleton his damn trophy back.

But sometimes it’s easy to forget that these players are no different than you and me when they aren’t playing baseball. They deal with a lot of the same issues we deal with.

Nick is readily aware of his season. It’s why he’s putting in the early work. He’s not nonchalant about his game. He doesn’t take things for granted because he has a fat ol’ wallet to sit on. He cares. He wants to improve. He wants to get back to being the guy who was an All-Star for the Phillies last season.

It’s slowly coming. In his last 26 games he’s hitting .259 with an .807 OPS. That’s a pace that Phillies fans should be happy with.

He now leads all of major league baseball with three walk-off hits.

“Considering I haven’t had the best year, to be able to come through like that when the team needs it, it feels good,” Castellanos said.

On a hot night, it also felt good to have his teammates dump a bucket of ice water over his head during the post-game interview on T.V. But as an added bonus, Stott and Brandon Marsh recruited a third person to help them with their “Day Care” shenanigans.

They had Liam’s help.

Where does that rank for Castellanos as far as baseball memories?

“It’s up there, man. It’s up there,” he said, with a father’s glow on his face.

Say it with him, one more time:

Happy people hit better.