Let me explain myself before you judge me, fair? I was born and raised in a rural community in Wisconsin, about 180 miles east of Minneapolis, MN, and about 300 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
However, my mother’s side of the family lived in Brookhaven, PA nearly my whole life. I spent a lot of summers as a child out there visiting, and that’s where my love for the Phillies began.
I remember the summer of 1993, and I had just been picked up at the airport on my first solo trip to Philadelphia. I was 10 years old and told my grandma, on a dare from my dad, “The Brewers are better than the Phillies!” and she took personal offense, I think. She laughed at me and said, “We’re gonna fix that this summer!”
She was right. Every night I would come home after long days at the park with the neighborhood kids and turn on the red lava lamp in the front room for good luck. I’d brush my teeth and grab my blanket, and together she and I would sit and watch some of the best baseball of my life.
I’d fall asleep listening to Harry Kalas calling shots from Darren Daulton, John Kruk, and Lenny Dykstra all night. Imagine that childhood, for a moment – no matter what baseball team I was watching, the game was either called by Harry Kalas or Bob Uecker in Milwaukee. The two greatest voices in baseball of all-time in my opinion.
I had a hard time following the Phillies when I wasn’t in the city in those days since there weren’t many options for out-of-market games until later in the 2000’s. From the late 1990’s through about 2005, I didn’t get to follow the team as well as I’d liked. But I collected all their baseball cards.
And then Chase Utley came on board. Utley will always be my all time favorite Phillies player. I loved watching that dynasty do work on the field: J-Roll, the Big Piece, The Flyin’ Hawaiian, Jayson Werth, Chooch, Hamels, Lee, Oswalt, Halladay, Blanton, RAUUUUUUUUUUL, and of course, Utley. It’s sometimes a curse, sometimes a blessing, but I almost always love every player on the team and I have an awful lot of faith and optimism for them all. Win or lose, I’m a ride-or-die for my Phillies.
My favorite Phillies moment to date was being at the rain-suspended 2008 World Series Game 5 when it resumed in South Philly. I happened to be in town visiting family and a bunch of us in the neighborhood decided since we couldn’t get tickets, we would go down to the ballpark and tailgate with folks already there, watching the game from their TV’s.
That night we bounced around from tent to tent, waving rally towels and yelling, “LET’S GO PHILLIES!!!” the whole time. Then we stopped at a pickup truck that had the game on TV, some heaters going, and a generator running. I’ll tell you what, Harry the K was a legend, we all know that. I think the only thing better than being inside Citizens Bank Park watching that game end was being in the parking lot and hearing Harry on TV finally saying, “The Philadelphia Phillies are world champions of baseball!” while at the same time seeing and hearing the fireworks go off in person. The curse of Billy Penn was broken. We had a championship. #WFC, right Chase?
I do my best to visit Clearwater every spring training for Grapefruit League games, and was fortunate enough to make it down there this year before COVID-19 took all our plans and shifted them out and away. I got Adam Haseley to sign my spring training ball, which is a baseball I bring with me every year to get autographs. So far I’ve gotten Aaron Altherr and Adam Morgan on top of Haseley. Keep an eye on Haseley – that kid is going to be special.
I’m looking forward to working with Phillies Bell. I can assure you that you probably won’t always agree with me. But what you’ll always get, is respect in response, a likely irritating level of optimism, and an unadulterated, unwavering love for my Phillies and baseball.