Phillies Home Opener
There were many differences in my experience of yesterday’s Phillies home opener compared to last year’s. Instead of a three-train trek, I was once again charioted down to Citizens Bank Park by my fellow Phantasy Camper/roommate Sam. A quick PATH ride to his home in Jersey City truly beats wading through the throngs of humanity at Penn Station. Plus, I got to actually spend the time having a nice conversation, instead of draining my iPhone battery playing various (fill in the blank) With Friends games.
The weather was about 30 degrees warmer this year, but the early Spring wind returned, transforming the Cit into Candlestick Park East. Sitting on the right-field side, up in the 200 level put us directly in crossfire of the whipping breeze. But the sun was just warm enough to make us forget about our neighbor’s wayward hot dog wrapper slapping us in the face.
The one other difference? The Phillies lost this year.
But hey, lil’ Freddy Galvis got his first major league hit! Really, the only highlight of the entire game.
It was still the home opener. It was a beautiful Spring day. Baseball has returned. Phillies loss? Who cares?
Discussions with Sam and my good friend Tom, who was my game-mate for the day, seemed to focus a lot on our memories of seeing the Phillies at the Vet during our younger years… our very first games, the lean years in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the other-worldly ’93 season, and everything in-between. I don’t know if it was the relative ugliness of this game’s performance, the looming cloud over this team with age and injuries, and the very loud and consistent boo’ing (even after “God Bless America”!), but this sense of nostalgia (even if it was a tad negative) really warmed my heart. I thought of my dad a lot this day. Nothing excited me more as a child than getting in our ’77 Plymouth station wagon, making the 20-30 drive north to the larger-than-life Veterans Stadium. Armed with a cooler stocked with a full lunch supplied by my mom, I would take whatever free promotional gift was given out that Sunday, take our seats and gaze out at that bright green field that seemed about as big as the Atlantic Ocean. I never remembered who won. I didn’t care. I had the best time.
After Chooch’s last at bat, we made our to the Diamond Club for a quick Phantasy Camp reunion. Our attention was drawn to the incredible painting called the “Dream Scene” by Jamie Cooper that adorns the wall above the stairs leading down to the Club.
Everyone’s gaze was stuck on this incredible image.
We just stared and smiled at all the memories. It’s a wonderful selection of all the most important Phillies players and personalities. Easily, the best little tribute in the whole painting came in the form of the small vase with the single rose, standing on the table in front of Dallas Green… He may not be painted in to the scene, but he’s still there.
Tom and I made our way down to the Club and went outside to check out the view of the grounds crew taking care of the field. I’m 36 years old, but still feel like a little kid, completely surrounded by the echos of a professional baseball game.
I took him over to the other end of the Club to show him the window that looks down on the Phillies batting cages. We had just missed Placido Polanco taking some post-game swings. The sea of baseballs strewn all over the cage proved work definitely still needs to be done to get this offense kicked in to gear.
Phantasy Camp stalwarts Larry Andersen and Scott Palmer made an appearance to greet us Campers. After that game, I’m sure L.A. could have used a drink.
Our reunion was brief, but was still able to speak with fellow Campers and discuss our desire to return once again. But what made my afternoon was being approached by a woman named Sumi, the wife of Craig Gerhart. Campers from this past January (and readers of my diary) know Craig as easily THE happiest man in the world. His infectious child-like, positive attitude and never-ending smile was absolutely incredible. Sumi had come over to tell me how much she loved this blog and how happy Craig was to be mentioned. She told me he signed up for next year right before the game. Not at all shocking. Craig is exactly what Phantasy Camp is and should be all about: Being a kid.
We made our way back to our respective cars, taking in the beautiful weather. We stopped to snap some pictures of another one of our childhood baseball icons.
We passed the various statues that adorned the ramps at the old Vet. They acted as official greeters to our own Roman Coliseum… when we were kids and just being at a baseball game was everything.
When we didn’t care who won or lost.