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11/4/10 – One long year

Today is the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I should write for this specific entry. But I decided that I would reprint the article I wrote for last March. I think it perfectly summed up my feelings then and now, almost eight months later. It was the best therapy for me. I’m still comforted when I read it. And true to my word, I became more passionate about the game. I watched Phillies games this season with more fervor, but took their losses in stride… as best as I could. I was able to watch the World Series without a trace of disgust or envy (well, maybe just a little). Instead, I put myself in the shoes of Giants and Rangers fans, and remembered what it felt like to experience something so incredibly special. This season I was truly a “baseball fan”, and I could not be any prouder.

Dad, we miss you. We love you.

Dad’s glove

Originally printed on 3/25/10


In the last couple weeks, I have been racking my brain trying to come up with a great preview of the 2010 season for the Philadelphia Phillies. What should I focus on? Should I add fuel to the fiery debate that was the blockbuster trade of Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay? Should I compare the defensive metrics of Pedro Feliz and Placido Polanco? Should I discuss what kind of season the Phillies will get from Brad Lidge and more importantly, Cole Hamels? Should I even spend a few keystrokes on the thought of Albert Pujols in red pinstripes? Should I start getting you all prepared for the possible departure of Jayson Werth? Should I mention the beard?

Finally, I realized that all of these issues have already been beat in to the ground. Every Tom, Dick and Harry Kalas has weighed in. What could another random blogger possibly contribute to the vast sea of internet banter?

So, I decided I would take a cue from myself and pen another piece similar to this particular article from last season. Like every other baseball fan who lives and dies by “the statistic”, I thrive on cold, hard facts.

This time, you will not be getting anything of the sort from me.


On the morning of November 4, 2009, the same day as Game 6 of the Phillies-Yankees World Series, my father passed away. I awoke that Wednesday excited about the upcoming game that evening. Yes, it did not look promising for my beloved team, but I had a glimmer of hope. When you’ve gone that far, there is no turning back. All you have is hope. That was all forgotten in a matter of seconds. When I received that call, nothing else mattered. The Phillies had become meaningless.

During the next couple hours, thoughts about the World Series started creeping back into my head. Like in any trauma, a person’s brain will begin to veer off into illogical and strange directions. I thought about my mother-in-law, an avid Yankees fan. I began to feel a sense of sadness that my father’s death will be ruining her joy in seeing her Yankees possibly win another World Series. I didn’t think that maybe she was feeling exactly the same way I was feeling, that baseball didn’t matter, and that a man she had come to respect and love with all her heart, was gone.

On the train ride back to his home, I pulled out my phone to check for any email or voice messages. As if I begrudgingly decided to tackle that nagging chore I needed to do, I checked the score of the game. Fifth inning, 7-1 Yankees. When my wife asked how it was going, I gave a shrug.

When we arrived at his home, I turned on the television. The first image to pop up was a shot of Ryan Howard and the rest of the Phillies bench, dejected. The crowd, roaring. Next pitch, Shane Victorino grounds out to Robinson Cano. The Yankees didn’t even start their celebratory mobbing before I promptly turned off the set. Again, I gave another shrug.

During this winter, as I was trapped by the massive bastions of snow outside our windows, I began to ponder about this upcoming season. In the middle of watching the constant rebroadcasting of classic games on the MLB Network, I kept thinking about how high will my enthusiasm be this summer. Will I even care? These thoughts scared me. At a time when I needed a positive distraction in my life, the thought of baseball was not bringing me any comfort or joy.


Spring Training is in full swing, and all has changed. Much like the hope and promise every Major League ball club exudes during the spring, my life is now filled with that same sense of positivity and anticipation. The weather is getting warmer, flowers are beginning to bloom, the air smells fresh and new… and the start of a new baseball season is right around the corner. Now I’m excited.

My dad would not have wanted me to shelve my love for this game. That would be completely unacceptable. One of the many areas in our lives that brought us closer was our love for the Phillies. If I discard them, I am discarding a piece of me, and even worse, the memory of my father. Why would I want to ruin some of the best memories of my childhood… the same memories that have been repeated over and over between father and son for a century? Some of the most valuable lessons in life I learned from my dad in the backyard, having our daily catch after he got home from work (even though he encouraged me NOT to use two hands to catch a fly ball if I wasn’t comfortable with that. To this day,
I still get an earful). In these last three, postseason-bound seasons, the first lesson I learned about baseball was driven home even more. It’s just a game. A glorious, intelligent, beautiful game. Just have fun. And that was our attitude going in to each and every series. Sure, during the regular season we would analyze every player, praise a player one day, damn him to the seventh circle of baseball hell the next, but when it came to the playoffs, our mindsets changed. We would call each other after every game. We didn’t breakdown pitch sequences. We didn’t scrutinize a particular player’s at bat. We just made very general observations of that game… “how about that play?!” If they won, we just told each other how happy we were and how much we were looking forward to the next. If they lost, we just shrugged. True, we could not see each other, but we knew. We’ll get them next year…

So I can now answer the question I posed to myself back in the winter. Will I care? More than ever. I will go to more games. I will embrace my inner 10 year-old even more, collecting more baseball cards. This summer I will coach my softball team. Next winter I will be in Clearwater, FL, participating in Phillies Fantasy Camp…with my dad beside me.

Yes, I have plenty opinions on what transpired in the off-season with the Phillies, and I will have many many more as the season moves along. But for now, I am reveling in the beauty of the game. No statistics. No contract talks. Just the sound of a ball snapping inside a glove. Just the game.

…and the Phillies will win the NL East and return to the World Series for a third straight year.

(Oh well, one out of two ain’t bad.)

3/25/10 – Good Day

As I am apt to do, I woke up extremely early. What had awoken me was a flood of ideas for my Phillies season preview article for that I had been mulling over for weeks. I couldn’t type fast enough. I was so proud of what I was doing. It was such a release. By the end, I made myself tear up. I could not wait until my wife woke up so she could read it. After telling her how excited I was to show her, she sat down. She turned around with the same welled-up eyes and said simply, “it’s fantastic”.

Like my application, I looked over the article about 31 times before I posted it.

One hour later, Joyce, the enrollment coordinator, called me. My application was accepted.

I could do anything that day.


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I don’t know exactly what age I was when I first learned that my favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, held an annual “fantasy camp” at their Spring Training facility in Clearwater, FL. According to the “second most important male voice in life at the time”, Harry Kalas, attendees would spend several days playing baseball with other camp-goers and ex-Phillies players.  I looked to my dad to make sure I heard that correctly.  Harry might as well have said the entire Phillies team will come to my house and play nine innings in our backyard. It was that preposterous. Harry wouldn’t lie to me, right? Dad gave me a reassuring smile and told me it was indeed true.

My hopes were immediately dashed though when I found out that you had to be at least 30 years of age to attend. Once again, the powers that be were denying this kid the basic human right to have fun. Thirty?! That’s an eternity! (So goes the thought process for every boy and girl that age).

Years went by and my desire to fib about my age and attend Phantasy Camp had waned. My love of baseball turned to other interests like music and playing drums. My posters of Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose were being replaced with rock stars and Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. In addition to Schmidt, it also did not help that my favorite player, Garry Maddox, had retired. Compound that with the fact that my team went through a pretty long period of less-than-stellar play on the field, save for the statistical outlier that was 1993 (easily one the most fun-filled seasons following the Phillies… although did you have to lose 15-14 at my first ever World Series game? Come on. That was painful).

I moved to New York City in early 2001 and I followed the Phillies with even more fervor.  Baseball was slowly making a comeback in Philadelphia. There were a lot of reasons to get excited about this organization. That season saw them turn around with a winning record, led by new manager and Phillies legend, Larry Bowa. A new ballpark was on the way. Amazing homegrown talent was coming up like Jimmy RollinsRandy Wolf, and Pat Burrell. Catcher Mike Lieberthal was coming in to his own. Outfielder Bobby Abreu became a quiet superstar. Later, free agent Jim Thome graced Philadelphia with his presence. Chase Utley soon followed, along with a first baseman making a lot of noise down in the minor leagues named Ryan Howard.  And as any baseball fan knows, what has become of Philadelphia Phillies baseball in the last half of this decade has been nothing short of pure bliss for their fanbase. Right Harry?

My dad and I outside Citizens Bank Park, July 24, 2004.

In the last several years, my dad and I became even more fanatical about our team. Whenever it was on the phone or face-to-face, our conversations centered round the Phillies.  He and I had always been extremely close. The Phillies made us even closer.

On November 4, 2009, my father passed away.  Apart from the obvious shock, pain and heartache that surrounded me that day, what made it even worse was the fact that it was the same day as Game 6 of the World Series against the Yankees… a game (and Series) the Phillies would lose. I wrote an article for detailing that day.

Once I was able to start focusing again on the things I loved to do, the idea of attending the Phillies Phantasy Camp went off like a light bulb. Why not? I had the time and resources now (I also finally met the age requirement. I would turn 35 during the camp in January 2011… same day as Carlos Ruiz… let’s add in “birthday present to myself” shall we?) I ran the thought by my wife. She didn’t even let me finish my sentence before she gave me a hundred emphatic “yeses”.  Not only would this be a wonderful, exciting, and therapeutic experience for me, but it would be the ultimate tribute to my father: A man, no matter how tired he was after a long day at work, would rush home to have a catch with his son in the backyard before the sun went down and to talk about baseball. A man who used sports as a way to comfort ourselves after my mother passed away when I was 14. A man who made his only child his number one priority.

I called the very next morning. After a 20-minute phone conversation with the enrollment coordinator, I knew I made the right decision.

And I knew I had to document this entire process…