Three states. Four trains. Just over four hours.
It took awhile, but we made it to Citizens Bank Park on Friday afternoon for the Phillies’ first game of the 2011 season against the Houston Astros. And, as an extra, added bonus, we would be sitting with fellow Campers and having a reunion/after-party at the park’s Diamond Club.
Unfortunately, because of the Eagles-like weather, it seemed a lot of folks made some last minute cancellations, based on the number of empty seats around us.
One person that did fill his seat in our section was Phillies great, Larry Christenson. What struck me about this was that at Game 6 of the NLCS last season, Christenson again, sat only a couple rows in front of us, in a completely different part of the ballpark. One more time Larry and I’m going to start think you are stalking me.
(On a side note, Larry was the starting pitcher of my first ever Phillies game at Veterans Stadium in 1982. I have no idea if they won or lost… it doesn’t matter.)
I had every intention of taking a lot of pictures to document the day. After snapping a few of the opening ceremonies, I decided to pack the camera away. The weather was brutal. My hands were best suited inside the pockets of my down jacket. They did make an appearance to clap for each of Roy Halladay’s six strikeouts.
The weather didn’t improve, ex-Phillie Brett Myers was out-pitching Halladay, the Phillies’ bats continued right where they left off at the end of ’10, and by the seventh inning, they were losing 4-0. The in the Diamond Club after the game couldn’t come soon enough.
The golden orb in the sky, struggling to make an appearance, finally broke through the cloud in the ninth inning. Then, this happened:
Sam, a friend who I met at Camp, sitting next to me, took this video. After his fantastic video of DeSean Jackson’s miracle punt return last December, Sam knows when to film that Decisive Moment.
Thank you John Mayberry Jr. We can run to the warmth of the Diamond Club now. I can finally have a cold beer and bask in the glow of the Phillies first win of the season.
Three of my former Driller teammates, Nick, Lee, and Connie, were in attendance. We shared laughs. We reminisced. And in only three months, our hits went farther and our plays more dramatic. I can’t imagine what they will be like by next January.
Later, ex-Phillie and Phantasy Camp Legend Tommy Greene made an appearance at the Diamond Club. Greene was the first Legend I spotted when I arrived at the hotel back in January. Sitting poolside, I caught sight Tommy ordering a round of beers from across the tiki bar… so yes, this was just like Camp all over again.
During the reunion, I had the pleasure of finally meeting the only female player at the Camp, Martha Eyerly. The Drillers never had the opportunity to play against her team, so this was the first time I got to speak to Martha. She mentioned how she also wanted to keep a diary/blog of her time down in Clearwater. I, for one, would love to read a 2012 Martha Eyerly Phillies Phantasy Camp Diary, especially if it involves her throwing out Mickey Morandini at first base during the Legends game again.
We decided to make our exit and Sam generously gave my wife and I a ride back as far as Jersey City. We spent the car ride catching up and discussing our possible return to Phantasy Camp for 2012.
Based just on the relationships made in that short time, you can probably count me in.
As always, my dad was on my mind this day. The one and only time he and I attended a game at Citizens Bank Park was back during the park’s inaugural season of 2004. It was in July, but the weather was unseasonably cool and overcast. We sat in the nosebleeds, directly above where we were sitting today. The walk up to our seats was eerily familiar. I was convinced it wasn’t just the weather that created a certain coldness and dreamlike loneliness for me. There was definitely something off.
But just like that game in 2004, the sun eventually came out for us. And the Phillies won.
And all was right with the world again.