Friday, July 27, 2007
Game #4: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
As I learned upon showing up to Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia, the Phillies had decided to celebrate July 25th with a “Christmas in July” theme. And in keeping with this theme, the game itself featured many of those characteristics commonly associated with that most wonderful time of the year. Just to name a few
• Presents: This game was Cole Hamels Bobblehead night. Woo hoo. And especially impressive, it was Cole Hamels night on a night when Cole Hamels was the starting pitcher. Imagine the effort required to coordinate that. [Side note: These bobbleheads are now selling for >$24 on eBay]
• Spending More Money Than You Intend To: Of course, the natural result of bobblehead night is… yep… a complete sellout. Which had me resorting for the first time on the trip to buying a scalped ticket on the street in front of the ballpark. Ah well... it was still cheaper than Fenway or Yankee Stadium.
• Grown Men Dressed in Odd-Looking Oversized Suits: Ok, so this time it’s the Phillie Phanatic, best known of all MLB mascots, rather than Santa, but he’s still just as entertaining for all involved.
• Spirit of Giving: In a true spirit of giving, the Phillies, not content with letting Hamels get the win on his own Bobblehead night, decided to try to give away the game in the top of the 9th. Two of the most gifted around at handing back sure-thing wins paired up to make sure it happened, as Antonio Alfonseca (he of the six fingers and six toes) and Jose Mesa (best known for handing the Marlins the World Series in 97) turned a 2-run lead into a 1-run deficit in a heartbeat. Heck, this spirit of giving continued into extra innings, when manager Charlie Manuel (whose nickname appears to be “idiot”) took the bat out the hands of his second best hitter by asking him to bunt with two-on and none-out out later in the game. Let’s just say there’s a good reason this team has lost 10 thousand games.
• A Little Christmas Magic: Inspired by rally caps, Rocky music, and (to my left) a large pink finger, and down to their last out in the 9th, Jimmy Rollins hit a ball to deep center that two outfielders should have had a chance at. But, in a true comedy of errors, first the two outfielders got in each others’ way, dropping the ball, letting Rollins get on base, then the throw to the cutoff man was mishandled, letting Rollins break from 3rd, then the throw to the plate was offline, letting Rollins score on what was, for all intent, an error-induced inside-the-park home run. Not something you see everyday.
• Midnight Mass: Finally, on the stroke of midnight, and in the bottom of the 14th inning, Ryan Howard, twinkle in his eye and all, sent everyone home happy with a soaring home run, letting everyone get their bounce on. See Howard round the bases here
Oh yeah… the park.
Citizen’s Bank Park, despite the generic name, is one of the newer among the new-generation old-style stadiums, and one for which they’ve really done a great job. Among parks I’ve been to in the past, it’s most reminiscent of Coors Field, with common modern/traditional elements such as exposed brick and steel, odd-shaped field dimensions, wide open concourses, and great sightlines. It was also the first park on the trip to really cater to the non-hardcore baseball fan, as the off-the-field distractions were plentiful, including, among others, a Build-a-Phanatic workshop run by the Build-a-Bear chain, caricature artists, kids games aplenty, and pitching nets to allow fans to find out their fastballs stack up against MLB pitchers.
The food and beer selections were excellent, with a huge variety of food stalls of all sorts, including an exceptionally crowded BBQ stand, a chicken rotisserie, and three different varieties of Philly cheesesteak. Ok, ok, so I admit to having tried two of them, but in my defense, I was at the ballpark for 6 hours, and I didn’t finish the second. Beer stands were scattered all over the park, with what seemed to be a different collection of microbrews and imported beers on tap at each one.
The one drawback to the Citizens Bank Park experience is the location. Placed in the middle of a sports complex in Southern Philly, it’s possible to stand in one place and be surrounded by the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field, the Flyers’ and 76ers’ Wachovia Center, and the minor league Phantoms’ old Spectrum all at once. While this did provide for plenty of parking, and induced a fair bit of tailgating from local fans, the complete lack local activity, and the missed opportunity to explore central Philly were both disappointments.
Finally, I was quite struck at the frequency with which scores from the Phillies’ minor league affiliates were posted on the scoreboard. As the Phillies’ primary AAA affiliate is the Ottawa Lynx, this definitely caught my eye each time it came up.