This is the dual nature of the game, the inner conflict, the emotional tug of war.

Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. are friends. Good friends. Really good friends. The Astros' general manager identified the spare outfielder as front-office material when he held the same position with the Phillies. The current Phillies general manager asked him to be the godfather to his second daughter.

They have done deals together. Last summer, when the Phillies needed pitching, Amaro sent prospects to Houston (lefthander J.A. Happ, outfielder Anthony Gose and infielder Jonathan Villar) for righthander Roy Oswalt. It's possible that without Oswalt, the Phillies could have missed the playoffs last season.

For the next 3 days, though, they will be wishing each other nothing but the worst. The Phillies open the season with a series against the Astros. During those games, each wants nothing more than to beat the other's brains out. After it's over, they'll smile and shake hands and root for each other until they meet again at Minute Maid Park in September. That's just the way it goes.

They're an odd couple in a lot of ways. Wade's playing career fizzled at Temple. Amaro made it to the majors. Wade got his start in baseball as an intern in the Phillies' public relations department. Amaro was born into the game, the son of former major leaguer Ruben Amaro Sr. Wade comes across as buttoned-down and corporate. Amaro has a bit of gunslinger in him.

It was those contrasts, in part, that attracted Wade to Amaro in the first place. "I thought the perspective he could bring was different than mine. Not only a former player, but a former player with his uniform still unlaundered, so to speak. He was not that far removed," Wade said. "He always struck me as very bright, articulate. Obviously, the Phillie roots couldn't have run any deeper. The fact that he was bilingual. Everything that's been talked about as his attributes all existed when he was a player."

Late in spring training of 1998, Amaro was fighting to hang on as a player. Wade had recently had the "interim" tag removed from his GM title. Amaro just wanted to plant a seed, to let him know that at some point he'd like to stay with the organization as a scout, minor league coach or manager, whatever. He was blown away when Wade offered him the assistant general manager's job on the spot.