Results tagged ‘ atlanta Braves ’

1/15/11 – High Hopes…

In addition to the now daily, “you are going to Phillies Phantasy Camp really soon” email from the ESF folks, I received something else yesterday that really got me in to the spirit… like I need anymore fuel to that particular fire.

A friend of mine from D.C. sent me a DVD released in 2003 called “High Hopes: The Anatomy of a Winner: The Story of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies”. Enclosed was a note saying how he found this DVD while cleaning his apartment, and thought I would appreciate it and get me in the mood for Camp.  I must say, this was a mighty thoughtful gesture. You are the best, Steve.

I stopped what I was doing and popped the DVD in.  Almost immediately, I started beaming. A 90-minute documentary about my favorite team of all time, narrated by Larry Andersen and John Kruk? This was going to be fun. The only DVD I have relating to this team is the MLB-sanctioned postseason highlight film. It’s not bad, but you don’t get a great sense of what that team was all about. This film… THIS is what I want to see. Anyone who distinctly remembers that season will be instantly transported back to that time, and how much fun it was to follow those characters.

When that season started, I was a junior in high school. I remember watching the first game against the Houston Astros with my dad, marveling at Terry Mulholland’s complete game and newcomers Pete Incaviglia and Jim Eisenreich’s instant impact, knocking in a run each. I didn’t want to hinge the outcome of the entire season on one game, but there was definitely something very different about this team. They looked REALLY good. This movie did such a great job returning me to that particular night.

The rest of the film was perfect. It brought back so many memories. It gave me the chills hearing the radio and TV calls of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn… all the great highlights and stories I will never forget, and some that had completely slipped my mind…

- I totally forgot that poor Jim Eisenreich was called “Jeffrey Dahmer” because of his slight resemblance to the famous serial killer. You KNOW he has a good sense of humor to be able to put up with that.

- Game 6 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies bring in Stephen Gunzenhauser, the music director of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, to conduct “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7thinning stretch. As he is leaning out of the booth, a fan steals his oversized baton mid-song. He was left there to continue in his nice tux and tails, sans baton. Classic.

But what really makes this DVD special is being able to watch all the in-depth interviews of the players who I will be meeting in five short days. These guys are good old-fashioned ballplayers that every person can easily relate to.

They love the game. They love the camaraderie. They love to have fun. That’s what that team was all about. That’s what baseball should be all about.

10/4/10 – Happy October

…aaaaand exhale.

Major League Baseball’s regular season came to an incredible end yesterday. It could have been even more dramatic depending on the outcome of two games in the National League, one of them being the Phillies versus the Atlanta Braves. The number of possible scenarios to determine the final playoff slots was just mind-blowing.  I think one of my softball teams was even involved somehow. In the end, many a travel secretary breathed a huge sigh of relief as the playoffs were set nice and neat.

So with that all settled, the Phillies, who ended up with the best record in the Majors, now face the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Division Series. I am really intrigued by this matchup. When I first started writing for prosportsblogging.com in 2009, I covered the Reds for the first half of the season. A lot of people found them a bit of a surprise this year, taking the NL Central crown. I did not expect them to run away with the division, but I knew with their pool of very talented young players and ^cough^ Scott Rolen ^cough^, they were going to make it very interesting for the favorite St. Louis Cardinals.

These two franchises have some history together…

Bill Giles, the Phillies chairman and part owner, started his life in baseball tagging along with his father, Warren Giles, who was a longtime executive for the Reds, and whose name now adorns the National League Championship Trophy.

- The Big Red Machine steamrolling the Phils in the 1976 Championship Series.

- In 1983, three members from The Big Red Machine (Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan) played together on the Phillies, leading them to a World Series appearance.

- In 1989, Paul O’Neill, after misplaying a line drive, kicked the ball perfectly to the cutoff man to prevent Steve Jeltz from scoring, pretty much summing up Jeltzy’s career in baseball.

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I was fortunate to see the first game of the 1993 NLCS against the Braves at Veterans Stadium. If you all remember, that was one helluva game. So I decided I would take my perfect Game One record and get a ticket for the opening act of this season’s NLDS. Needless to say, I am extremely excited. As anyone who has ever attended a postseason baseball game knows, nothing beats the atmosphere of the playoffs. It’s otherworldly. It’s nothing short of a religious experience.

Through a co-worker, my dad was able to not only get tickets to the NLCS, but also the ’93 World Series.  I was so excited that I would be going to these games with him, but surprisingly, he did not attend either game with me. He insisted I bring one of my friends because he thought I would have more fun with them and they would appreciate it more. I begged him to go. I didn’t want anyone else with me for those games, especially since a Phillies postseason appearance was about a frequent as a Haley’s Comet flyby. He didn’t relent. I ended up going with two different friends and had a blast at both, even though they lost the World Series game we attended.

Still, I really missed him at those games. His only answer to my befuddlement about his voluntary absence was a simple, “I just don’t feel like going”. He worked hard every day, commuting in and out of Center City Philadelphia. I’m sure the LAST thing he wanted to do was drive back in to the city and deal with 62,000 people in the Vet parking lot on a weeknight. I can’t say I don’t blame him if that was the case.

I’m sure another reason was the fact that he was that kind of man… a man who immediately thought of himself last and only wanted me to have as much fun as possible.  As the years go by, I find myself to be more and more like my dad in that aspect. My wife frequently tells me how much I don’t “do anything for myself”. Well, like the Phantasy Camp, I’m doing something for myself, have fun and go to Game One on Wednesday. Unfortunately, she cannot go with me, but, if the planets align just right (i.e. H20 shuts the Reds down), we will be going to more playoffs games. So even though I’ll be flying solo on Wednesday, my dad has no choice but to go with me this time.

9/19/10 – Closer

It is now officially four months until camp. This has gone by quicker than I imagined. I’m sure as it gets closer and closer, it’ll get excruciating. 

As of this morning, the Phillies are leading the NL East by three games over the Atlanta Braves. They have the best record in the National League and only two wins behind the Yankees for best in the Majors. They have a very good shot at posting a better record than their 2008 and 2009 counterparts. And as has been the case since 2007, they have saved their best baseball of the regular season for September. I think I can speak for all Phillies fans when I say that I truly cannot believe what this team has done, and is continuing to do. Back in June, I had come to terms with the fact that a postseason appearance quite possibly wasn’t in the cards for this team. Oh, how things have changed.

The weather is getting cooler, the nights are getting shorter… 

I am very excited.

9/11/10 – Nine Years

Since it’s inception, the MLB Network airs “Nine Innings From Ground Zero” every year at this time. Apart from my memories of that specific day, I feel so grateful that I got to experience the emotions surrounding the return of baseball in New York City and the end to a very memorable season that was featured in the documentary. Watching Mike Piazza of the Mets blast that 8th inning home run in their first game back to New York was storybook perfection. I was able to drop my team-specific allegiance, and just root for the game of baseball. Later, I was lucky enough to attend Game 5 of the World Series at Yankees Stadium.

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of either of the local New York nines, but you could have not asked for a better experience at a baseball game… the overwhelming national pride, Ronan Tynan’s 7th inning rendition of “God Bless America”, the incredible Fall weather, and an amazing end to spectacular World Series game, no matter who won.

Today, my wife and I took the 7 train out to Queens to see the Phillies take on the Mets at Citifield. As it was nine years ago, the weather was stunningly perfect. A late afternoon baseball game made it even better. In addition to all the wonderful and emotional tributes given by the Mets organization before and during the game, the one that gave me the biggest of chills was the replay of Piazza’s home run, complete with Gary Cohen’s beautiful call of that shot. I was immediately transported back to that time and, once again, realized why I love this city and why I love baseball.

The Phillies unfortunately lost the game and are now tied with the Atlanta Braves for the NL East Division lead.

I was with the love of my life, experiencing a simple joy together. Nine years later, that’s all that matters.

8/24/10 – Things to Come

When I first spoke to Joanne at Phillies Phantasy Camp back in March, she had mentioned that in addition to the five-day camp experience, there would be an alumni reunion that next August at Citizens Bank Park. All the 2011 camp-goers would don our customized uniforms, go on to the field and be announced by longtime Phillies PA announcer Dan Baker. When I told my family and friends about this extra little perk, every single one of them pleaded with me to tell them the date as soon as it was confirmed, as they all want to be in attendance. All of a sudden, I feel like Ryan Howard every time the Phillies visit his hometown of St. Louis to play the Cardinals. I’m going to need to get a LOT of tickets.

Last Saturday, the Phillies were at home hosting rookie pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and the rest of the Washington Nationals. One of my cousins had posted a status onto Facebook saying that he was at the Phillies game with his dad, one of my father’s older brothers. He had taken my uncle as part of his birthday present. I thought that was fantastic, especially since my uncle is not apt to going to a lot of live sporting events.

About five minutes after his posting, my cousin sent me a message telling me that the 2010 Phantasy Camp attendees were on the field before the start of the game. I shook my head in disbelief. Of all the games he could have taken my uncle to, it happened to be this special August game for the camp alumni. All of this may seem like nothing more than a coincidence to most people, but what makes this little story more special for me is my uncle and father share the same birthday.

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A month ago when the Phillies fired their hitting coach, Milt Thompson, the team was mired in a deep funk. In addition to a month-long, team-wide slump, the injury bug seemed more like an injury infestation. At one point, this squad was leading the division by five games. Within two months, they found themselves in third place, seven games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves and even worse, the New York Mets. At this point, I had made my peace with the fact that this team may not make the postseason. It would be OK. What I have experienced in the last couple years has gone beyond anything I could have ever wished for as a Phillies fan. It’s extremely hard for a major league baseball team to accomplish what they already have in the last three seasons. Yes, this team is just as strong as the others and another World Series appearance was not out of the question. But, as most sports fans know, a team on paper and a team on the field can be two completely different realities. Not only does a successful baseball season require skill and talent, but there’s a whole lot of luck involved too. This seemed like one of those seasons.

Well, just as Al Pacino once said in that movie that is somehow associated to the first two Godfather films, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in”.

The Phillies have pulled up their bootstraps, and in the last month have played their best baseball of the season. In just one week, they reduced their deficit from seven to two and a half games, where they currently stand. At one point, they were only one game behind the current division leader, Atlanta. As of now, they stand in first place of the Wild Card lead, just ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. For the first time since the beginning of the season, the Phillies fielded their original opening day lineup. Everyone is back. September is right around the corner and the timing couldn’t be any better.

This last year has been very tough for my wife and I. But, just like this team, we’ve dusted ourselves off and got back doing what we do best… living our lives. Even if the Phillies just sneak in to the postseason with the Wild Card and gets embarrassingly swept in the NLDS, I would consider this season a complete success, almost as much as the 2008 championship. Just like a regular baseball season, life is a marathon, filled with long, hot streaks and seemingly unending deep slumps. You take what’s given to you and you adapt. If you can get through the adversity, and know that at the end of the day, you can honestly say you have done your best while staying true to yourself, then you are truly a success.

And just like baseball, if you have bad year, there’s always next season…

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