L: R. Betancourt
W: J. Diekman
Walk off win
Citizens Bank Park
The last time that I visited Philadelphia I went to a game at the old Veterans Stadium. The one thing that I remember from my time at the Vet was that the field looked like green paint on concrete. I am happy to say that Citizens Bank Park is a gigantic leap forward in architectural design and a wonderful home for the Phillies.
I slept in later today than I have in a long time. I jumped out of bed around 1 PM and hurried to get to the ballpark. I think all of the hours of driving and days standing in the hot sun are starting to catch up to me. After a quick shower and a shave I made my way to Citizens Bank Park and the parking lot that is shared by the Phillies and the Eagles. Let me preface this next anecdote by saying that fans of Philadelphia sports teams have a very specific reputation. Before I type it out right now, I guarantee that I know exactly what is going through your mind right now. “They are all animals and they booed Santa Claus”. In the different ballparks I visited this summer everybody wanted to warn me about going to a game in Philly. I was told not to wear my Tigers hat for fear of getting something thrown at me. As soon as I stepped out of my car I was greeted by a group of tailgaters. The literal first thing that they did was offer me a beer. They smiled and laughed with me and told me stories about going to games at both the Vet and Citizens Bank Park.
Here is the dirty little secret about sports fans. No matter what city you go to, the stands are filled with amazing people, average people and horrible people. There are times when the horrible people make the most noise and that is what gets the news coverage. Most times the average and amazing people are in control, but nobody wants to write or talk about that. Some cities may have had more incidents of horrible people acting horribly, but that is not an indictment of the city as a whole. The people of Philadelphia could not have made me feel more at home and I loved talking to each and every one of them.
Now that the Phillies have their own baseball only stadium to play in, there is plenty of room to honor their rich history. There are several statues both inside the stadium and outside of the gates including one for Steve “Lefty” Carlton (fittingly outside of the Left Field gates). In addition, there is both a wall of fame and a wall depicting an illustrated history of baseball in Philadelphia located in center field. A nice touch by the bullpens is an instructional guide on how to grip certain pitches complete with a mold of a baseball to practice on. It allows the fans to witness professional pitchers throwing a certain pitch while learning said pitch at the same time. Finally, this great area behind the center field wall comes with its own secret opening to get a cool view of the deepest part of the ballpark covered in ivy.
While I was looking for some food, I came across a fun (or phun if you want me to be local) spot that included a giant trivia wall, a running the bases game and former Phillies left fielder Greg Luzinski signing autographs. For photos check out the gallery above. Here is where I may lose some of you. Let me apologize before you send me your angry emails. I did not have a Philly cheesesteak. I am not the biggest fan of cheese and I figured that it would be wasted on me. Instead I indulged in something called The Schmitter. This behemoth sandwich includes steak, grilled salami, fried onions, tomatoes, “special” sauce all on a kaiser roll. I hope I did not let you down, but I am happy with my choice as this sandwich was delicious.
One can not discuss the Philadelphia Phillies without mentioning the Philly Phanatic. I am actually a bit surprised that the word processor I am currently typing this on thinks that “Phanatic” is spelled wrong. Being the undisputed best mascot in all of sports for the past 35 years should be enough for spell check to recognize your name. Everywhere I went from the gift shop to the field, I saw images of the Phanatic. For the most part, as an adult person without children of my own, I ignore mascots. I appreciate their place at the ballpark when it comes to entertaining the kids, but I am rarely impressed with their antics. The Phanatic is the one mascot that will always get a chuckle out of me. With his four wheeler zipping around the field and watching him constantly mock and annoy opposing players and coaches will never not be funny to me.
A question that I have been asked a few times is what has been the most exciting game of my tour so far. I have had a couple of no hitters go into the sixth inning and seen plenty of mammoth home runs launched over the fence, but no one game really stands out. I have yet to experience any extra innings, but I have had three walk-off victories for the home team. There is a common thread among the three exciting ninth inning finishes and that is that they all occurred in NL East ballparks. My tour began with the Mets walking off on the Yankees, then the Nationals stunned the Mets in the bottom of the ninth. Today's game featured the Phillies making a dramatic comeback scoring two in the ninth to send the crowd home happy.
This was a great back and forth game all day with the Phillies striking first before the Rockies fought back taking a 2-1 lead. The Phillies would tie it up in the fifth, only to see the Rockies regain the lead in the eighth. Finally with Denver closer Rafael Benancourt on the mound, the Phillies plated two as the fans exploded out of their seats. This game also featured a solid performance from Phillies starter Cliff Lee as he gave up only two runs scattering nine hits over seven innings. Overall this may be in the lead for most pure excitement I have had over a nine inning game on this tour.
Coming to the ballpark alone has been an interesting experience. I am used to going to movies, restaurants, comedy clubs and a host of other activities alone, but sports is something that I most often go with other people. I have had some of the most enlightening conversations with my seatmates in cities across the country. The one common thread among all of the different stadiums is that my conversations have been with families, couples and groups of friends. In Philly I sat between two gentlemen who were also at the ballpark alone. The three of us bonded over our desire to take in a ballgame despite having nobody to come with us. The man on my left was in Philadelphia on a business trip from Oregon. He happened to be a Rockies fan so he made sure to buy a ticket on his last day in town. The man to my right was from Texas and like me, he was on a stadium tour of his own. His journey was going to take him five years, but we traded road stories for most of the game. In between pitches the three of us got to know each other a little better with discussing topics ranging from baseball to business to transcendental meditation. It was truly a unique experience to see three grown men dedicating three plus hours of our lives to watching a child's game and talking to strangers. I honestly can not think of any other form of entertainment that encourages this behavior.
Before I came to Citizens Bank Park, my memories of Philadelphia baseball was of Veterans Stadium. I am extremely pleased that the Phillies now have such a gorgeous place to play. For those of you who think that all Phillies fans are animals, let me assure you that they are not. Are there some nasty folks in the stands? Of course. But guess what, there are nasty folks in your home ballpark too. And to use a cliché, if you do not think that there are any horrible people at your park, than I am sorry to say that you are that person. I am sure that if I was rocking a Mets, Nationals, Braves or a Marlins hat people would have given me a little more razzing (ok maybe not a Marlins hat). But ultimately if you are in somebody else's home, you should respect their stuff. Don't be obnoxious and chances are you will be ok. Thanks for showing me a great time Philadelphia, I hope to come back soon!
Next up: Rogers Centre
Game Time Temp: 85
First Pitch Time: 7:05 PM
National Anthem: Strings in Motion with Heart Strings
Seventh Inning Stretch: Generic music
Total Pitches Thrown: 283
Total Hits: 22
Total Singles: 12
Total Doubles: 8
Total Triples: 0
Total Home Runs: 2
Total Walks: 2
Total Strike Outs: 14
Total Errors: 1
Game Time: 3:12
Attendance: 36,578 (83.8% full)
Home Plate Umpire: Jim Wolf
Miles Traveled: 30 miles
Time in Car: 55 minutes
Sleep Time: 10 hours
Bottles of Water: 6
Food Eaten: None
Ballpark Food: Schitter sandwich, ice cream helmet
Scoreboard Cap Game: Under Cap #1
Money spent on parking: $15
Money spent on ticket: $80.00
Cost of Program: $5.00
Money spent on food: $17.00
Total money spent on Merchandise: $21.18
Total Money spent at stadium: $133.18
Total Money spent today $252.18