Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Day at the Ballpark

Baseball should be played in the afternoon when the sun is shining and the skies are blue in a stadium designed to bring people together and bring them close to the action on the field.

Ryan Howard awaits pitch. Above, Roy Halladay finishes a pitch while Plácido Polanco playing third base is in position to field a possible hit toward him.

It was exactly this type of day on May 6 when the Phillies battled the St. Louis Cardinals in a sold out Citizens Bank Park. The only thing disconcerting about the day is the corporate name of this beautiful stadium in South Philly.

Fans watching the game.

The game provided plenty of hitting, quality pitching and some dramatic tension as the Phillies won 7-2 in a game played at a brisk pace. Jayson Werth hit an opposite field home run and Raul Ibáñez hit a towering shot into the right field upper deck.

The upper tiers of the stadium between innings.

The tension came in the seventh inning with two outs when it appeared that Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay was going to be replaced. Halladay, currently the best pitcher in baseball, prefers to finish the games he starts, a rare feat in these days of specialty pitchers. He was not going to be finishing this game, as he already too many pitches. But it appeared he wasn’t going be finishing the inning with runners on first and second when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel jogged out to the mound and the infield players crowded around for the familiar routine that means a new pitcher was about to be replaced. The crowd stood up waiting to applaud Halladay’s effort but instead broke into cheer as they saw Manuel jog off the field without making the change. Halladay needed just one pitch to finish the inning.

The backdrop for this otherwise routine game was a sea of red and white, representing the Phillies colors worn by nearly everyone in the stand-room-only crowd that appear on every angle of this fan-friendly venue.

The standing-room-only crowd.

Of course, a Phillies game isn’t complete without that big green furry thing roaming around the stadium known as the Phillie Phanatic. Described on his Wikipedia page as being “overweight” with “clumsy feet, extra-long beak, curled up tongue, gawking neck,” he has been the official mascot of the Phillies since 1978 and one of the most recognizable sports mascots in the country, if not the world. A figure very similar to the Phanatic named “Slyly,” serves as the official mascot of a professional Japanese baseball team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Below is a video of the Phanatic taunting Cardinal players on top of the Phillies dugout followed by a promotion for fans to vote for Phillies players in the upcoming Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

The game was played during a promotion known as the Business Persons Special. It’s an afternoon game played on a weekday. The games almost always start just after 1 p.m. The Phillies schedule a handful of these games each year. It serves several purposes: For the fans, it gives them an excuse to skip a half-day of work to go to the ballpark. For the visiting teams, it is always played during the last game of a series, so it gives them the opportunity to skip out of town early to their destination on a road trip. Even for the home team players, staff and umpires, it gives them a rare evening off. It’s best when the weather cooperates and the home team wins. I guess you would call it a win-win-win-win-win situation.

Ryan Howard's image on the Citizens Bank Scoreboard.

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