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Friday, April 15, 2016

The "Excitement of Opening Day at the Phillies" Story

My nephew Matt and I waiting for the game to begin.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing amongst a sea of red and even though my sweatshirt is a bright red, it has the letters QO, for Quince Orchard, on it instead of "Phillies."  I believe I am one of maybe a dozen or so fans who doesn't have a players name stretching across the back of my shirt or the letter "P" on the front.  Today is the opening game of the 2016 home season for the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.  
My Christmas gift from my wife, minus the hat.
This past Christmas my darling wife bought me two tickets for opening day as a Christmas present.  She actually sent our daughter the money for the package of tickets and gift card for food or memorabilia so I wouldn't see a charge on our credit card statement.  Christmas morning our family gathered in our living room to open presents and when I began to open this huge box everyone stopped what they doing to watch me.  I opened box after smaller box after smaller box until I reached the 6th box inside the big one.  Inside that final wrapped box were the tickets.  Found out later my granddaughters had the best time wrapping all the boxes and were thoroughly enjoying me opening the boxes, one after another, after another ......  My intention was to take my wife, but she said she was fine if I wanted to ask someone else to go to the game with me.  I finally decided to ask someone who could drive me in exchange for a free ticket.  Asked both my sons, but they would have a hard time missing work.  Thought of my brother but he has this phobia about driving in traffic.  
Opening Day display outside Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
So, I asked one of the biggest Phillies fans I could think of .... my nephew Matt.  He loves the Phils and travels to Phila- delphia many times a season to watch games.  Didn't take any prodding when I called and invited him.  We made arrangements to leave Lancaster at 10:00 AM for the 3:05 PM game.  Why so early?  To celebrate in the parking lot after we arrived, be some of the first in the stadium when it opened and eat at Harry K's (Harry Kalas was a longtime Phillies broadcaster who died in 2009 after 38 years in the booth) while watching batting and fielding practice for both the Phillies as well as the away team San Diego Padres.  Matt and I, wearing our new, bright red, Nemours giveaway Phillies hats, had the best time walking around the stadium after eating, looking at the Phillies Hall of Fame as well as a timeline of Phillies highlights both housed behind the ivy-covered centerfield wall.  
Large hot dog with kraut and chips for lunch.
A little after 2:00 we found our seats in Section 201 which was in right-centerfield.  Wasn't long before we saw on the huge scoreboard screen the Phils coming down 10th Street outside the stadium following the Cardinal O'Hara High School Marching Band.  The Phils then entered the stadium and walked onto the field from centerfield, finding their way into their dugout in time to see military representatives unfurl an American Flag that covered the entire outfield.  
Philadelphia Boys Choir and Men's Chorale prepare to
sing America the Beautiful and God Bless America.
Then one of the highlights of my trip to the ball park, the Phila- delphia Boys Choir and Men's Chorale sang "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America."  There must have been close to 75 voices singing and the music seemed to rise up the sides of the stadium and envelope the huge crowd of over 45,000.  I could feel chills and a few tears as their voices echoed throughout every nook and cranny of the grand stadium.  After team introductions for both teams, the National Anthem was sung correctly by bass Kane Kalas, son of Harry.  Just as the stadium announcer began to tell the crowd that the Navy Parachute Team was not able to parachute into the stadium because of high winds, this gigantic military plane rumbled directly over our heads spewed red, white and blue smoke from its engines.  
The huge flag was held by members of the Armed Forces.
Now that was a sure attention getter.  The first pitches were thrown out by: Phila- delphia Police officer Jesse Hartnett who was hailed by Pres. Obama as a hero after surviving a violent attack by an assailant while on duty; Matt Collins, a young boy who was representing Nemours Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children; and team captains from the recently crowned NCAA basketball champs Villanova University Wildcats.  The game was almost anti-climatic after all of that hoopla.  
Two members of the Villanova basketball team
throw out the first pitches for the game.
The most exciting part of the game was when the Phils loaded the bases with no outs and Ryan Howard, long time Phillie who seems to be on the downswing of his career, came to bat.  He was lifted for a pinch-hitter to the applause of the crowd.  The pinch-hitter lifted a ball into shallow left field between the shortstop and leftfielder.  They both missed the ball ..... but wait!  The third base umpire had raised his hand and declared the infield fly rule.  
The military plane flies directly above us.
In this case the umpire feels the defense can easily catch the ball and calls the play to prevent him from inten- tionally dropping the ball so he can get more than one out on the play.  Well, he really blew it and the Phillies ended scoring only one run in the inning and deflated both the team and its fans.  Matt and I left at the end of the 8th inning to avoid the rush, knowing the Phils just didn't have it in them to win.  Matt made mention that the crowd today will more than likely be the largest in the entire season, due to a team who today fielded a team with a few players who neither Matt or I had heard of before.  Gonna be a long season for the Phillies I fear.  Didn't take the fun away from our trip together today to see our favorite Philadelphia Phillies.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The ballpark off in the distance.
We were some of the first people in the ballpark.
Matt enjoying one of the new mascots.
Took a trip to one of the many stores.
Photo of the scoreboard from behind the centerfield wall.
Preparing the "Bullpens" which were used heavily during the game.
Preparing the field for the game. The turf is natural grass.
Phillie Phanatic leads the team onto the field.
Kane Kalas sand the National Anthem.  I got his photo off the scoreboard since we were too far away for a shot on the field.
Game action. 
Flags showing team achievements in the past.


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