Sunday, October 19, 2008

Phellow Phillies Phans

Back from our vacation at Disney World, and had to share a story about a very cool experience I had Wednesday night, as the Phillies clinched their first NL pennant since 1993.

This vacation was booked months ago, and although I clearly remember seeing the dates and thinking to myself, well, at least it won't be during the World Series, I really had no thoughts at the time that the Phils would even be playing in the middle of October anyway, so the thought that I'd potentially be missing NLCS baseball didn't occur to me, or have me worried.

Once the Phils reached the playoffs, and then disposed of Milwaukee, I knew I'd be missing some NLCS games while we were on vacation, but I figured that since we were on the East Coast, games wouldn't end until near midnight anyway so I could at least catch the last few innings of most of the games that were played while we were away.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I did get to see all of game 1, and I was able to see most of game 2. I had to broadcast a football game that night, so I was able to watch Philly grab an 8-2 lead, and I left for my game right after Manny's homerun made it an 8-5 game.

Listening to the radio broadcast, I was able to follow along until the top of the 9th, when my broadcast had to start. I signed on for my broadcast as the Dodgers had mounted a 2-on, 1-out rally against Brad Lidge.

Luckily, at my high school football game, the national anthem happened at a point in time -- during our commercial break -- that I could go back to the radio broadcast of the baseball game and find out that Lidge had put out the fire, preserving the win.

We left for Disney World the next morning, and had actually budgeted a quiet Sunday night for me -- the girls stayed at the Magic Kingdom while I came back to the resort -- so I got to see game 3. However, the Phils were blown out early, and I watched something else in my room, before falling asleep.

As we were enjoying our time at Disney World, I started to notice something. A lot of people were wearing Phillies stuff. Shirts, hats, jerseys, you name it. For about 5 seconds I thought to myself, "Yeah, sure...everyone's coming out of the woodwork now that they're in the NLCS."

But, then I thought, so what! I'm seeing other people openly showing love for the Phils, outside of Philadelphia. Who cares if they're long time fans or not. In fact, I'd offer to hold the bandwagon door open for anyone who wanted to jump onboard.

Then, that night, as game 4 was taking place, I was trying to figure out the timeframe of certain events, and if I'd have a chance to catch any of the game.

Turns out, we had a late night planned watching fireworks, parades, etc. at the Magic Kingdom. Add in the extra time for walking to and waiting for a bus back to the hotel, and I was looking at about a 11:30-12:00 arrival, most likely after the game had ended.

I was all set to just go back to the room, click on ESPN and look for a score on the ticker, when I started to make my way from the Pop Resort main building, out to the pool area that led to our room.

That's when I heard it.

The sounds of Phillies fans gathered around the Petal Pools Bar that sat nearby one of the resort pools. I could see red hats, and various Phillies shirts and jerseys in front of one of the TV's behind the bar, and the game was still on!

I walked over to see the score, and it was 7-5 Phils in the top of the 9th.

My wife agreed to take our daughters back to the room, and I decided to stick around to see the end.

There I bumped into several phellow philly phans, all sounding as if they were from Philly themselves (hard to misplace the accent), and it was such a treat to be able to cheer on the final three outs with them.

You see, I live in Illinois, and have for most of my life. With the exception of watching various Eagles games of importance over the years with my brother and several of his friends, most of my viewing of Philly games -- and certainly the open cheering for those Philly teams -- has been done alone.

But, here I was sitting with phellow Phillie Phans, probably all from Philly, cheering on the final few outs of a most improbable win. I was clued in by one of them on the game tying homerun by Shane Victorino, and the go-ahead homerun by Matt Stairs to give the Phils the 7-5 lead.

As midnight came and went -- the bar actually was supposed to close then -- so did the Dodgers, and the Phils went up 3-1 in the series.

Everyone that was there cheering for the boys in red vowed to return Wednesday night for game 5, and I thought to myself that I'd like to be a part of that, too.

Wednesday found us again at the Magic Kingdom, and I had bargained my way into a secnario where I would leave around 9:30 to head back to the resort to watch the end of the game.

A phone call from my in-laws clued me in to the fact that Philly had jumped out to a 1-0 lead, and that it was the 3rd inning.

About an hour or so later, I was off to catch a bus back to the Pop Resort, and hopefully to share in the pennant clinching celebration with my new friends.

The Phils had to clinch that night. Hamels was pitching, Philly had stolen back L.A.'s momentum with the 8th inning game 4 comeback, plus, I knew I'd miss game 6 due to yet another football game I had to work, so the game 5 win in L.A. just absolutely had to happen.

I walked fast to the bus, willed a bunch of green lights, and reached the resort shortly after 10pm.

As I walked to the bar, there was a commercial break on the TV, and there were my phellow phillie phans, all gathered, chatting, and looking fairly happy. No hanging heads, no dejected looks, no frowns. Then I heard one of them say, "There's no way Hamels is giving up 5 runs."

That's when I knew we were in good shape. Sure enough, the game came back on the television, and it was 5-0 Phils, but only in the 5th inning!

Wow, a long way to go. I re-introduced myself to the throng, took some bags back to the room, and walked right back, grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a beer, and proceded to watch, root, cheer, and enjoy the Phils' march to the pennant.

With the Phils leading 5-1 heading to the bottom of the 9th, I grabbed our video camera and videotaped the final moments of the game, and the subsequent jubilation shared by the group of phans present. High-fives, woo-hoos, and bought drinks were the norm as the game concluded.

I thanked everyone for making it such a fun experience, and congratulated them on our team reaching the final stage.

Then, I walked back to the room where the rest of my family was relaxing, and told our oldest daughter Megan to grab her suit for a late night swim.

She had been bugging to do some swimming, and as this was our last night in Florida, the time had come. We walked down to the pool by our room, just past midnight.

She had a great time, getting to do something, at a crazy time as well, that she really enjoys doing, and I had fun, too. Reflecting on a memorable night, thanks to the guys in grey on the field in Los Angeles, and the strangers from Philly, who, for a few nights at least, became friends of mine, getting to share in something that hasn't happened since 1993.

Now, here's hoping a similar scene plays out at that very same bar in the next few days.

Cheers to all of my phellow phillie phans.

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