I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was taking my almost two year old daughter, Josie, to her first Phillies game of the year on Sunday night. I mean, it’s been almost a decade since there has been any meaningful baseball played in south Philadelphia.
Josie has gone to two games before, but this would be the first time that just her and I went and the first time that she had any semblance of a clue about what was going on around her. Phillies baseball is very important to our family, and I want to make sure Josie gets to experience it.
The Terrys love Phillies baseball and it truly is woven throughout my family’s history.
My grandparents named my Dad, Richard, after Richie Ashburn. It’s also my middle name, and even though it’s after my father, it’s really because of Whitey. I remember those same Grandparents and parents taking me down to the Vet to watch our favorite team play. The whole city fell in love with the 1993 team when I was 7. I got to watch Mark McGwire belt homer after homer into the upper deck of the Vet at the 1996 All Star Game batting practice. My Dad or Mom and I went to every home World Series game in 2008 and 2009. What a time to be alive.
In more recent history, Josie’s mom, Dani (my wife), and I went on our first date to Opening Day 2012. I had a photo assignment to do for photography school, and we ran all over Citizens Bank Park that day. She kept up with me stride for stride the entire time.
At the end of the day, I was about 90% sure I had found the one. I was right. We were engaged by the end of the 2012 season, and we married the next summer.
Along comes Josie
In September 2016, the day we found out that Dani was pregnant with Josie, we already had plans to go to the Phillies game. I know they were bad that year, and their chance of making the playoffs was 0% at the time of the game, but it was still one of the most exciting nights of my life. I just so happened to catch my first batting practice home run ball that night. The ball is currently sitting on my dresser with Josie’s footprints stamped the side of it from the day she was born.
My family loves the Phillies. Our lives are intertwined with them. We have made friends with employees at the ballpark (I’m talking to you, Denise at Bulls BBQ. She’s the nicest lady. She gets Josie and now Nick gifts for Christmas and their birthday. She’s wonderful).
We absolutely love the Phillies, but these past 6 years have been really difficult. I don’t know what was worse: watching them on TV or going to see the stadium 1/3 full. I’m not sure how Phillies management expected the fans to spend their hard earned money to support a team that may barely win 70 games, but there were much better ways to spend at least $100 to go on a date with my wife. We made sure we went to at least one game per year, but anything above that was really hard to justify.
Since my first date with Dani on opening day in 2012, the Phillies have lost the NL East by an average of over 22 games. It’s one thing to have an average ball club, it’s another to have a club whose best case scenario is going .500 but will most likely finish with 65 or 70 wins.
Which brings us to this year
I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, when John Middleton said he was going to spend stupid money this year, our initial reaction was probably something like “Yeah John, whatever you say.” Then he signed McCutchen and traded for Segura and Realmuto. He added some really good pieces, but it looked like our spending spree had ended. Our offseason acquisitions were finished, and the team would likely finish somewhere around .500. We may win 85 games if the ball bounces our way.
Well, you know the rest of the story by now about how our offseason ended. We got our man, and our man got his city. No more questions about NY, LA, or SF. He wanted us, he got us, and he’s pushed every single button correctly for how to woo Philadelphia fans. He’s fun, engaging, plays hard, hits bombs. It really is a joy to see.
Josie and Dad at the Game
I, like so many other people once the signing was announced, purchased some season tickets. We have the Sunday package, so the Sunday Night Baseball finale against the Braves was our first chance to see the new look Phils in person. We got to the ballpark a little before they opened the gates in Ashburn Alley and the line looked like something I hadn’t seen in years. It was HUGE, almost back into the parking lot! Wow, all these people are here this early, this really is special.
We made it inside, but unfortunately someone (possibly me) had told Josie a couple days earlier that they had ice cream (ok, it was definitely me, but I didn’t think she would remember). Also, I may have mentioned that it comes in a little hat. I heard “Ice Cream Hat” the entire ride down, and the ice cream cream ladies said we were their first customers. I’m positive we were their only customers.
We then settled in, and the stadium was almost full on a 45 degree night in March.
Each time Bryce came to the plate, it reminded me of the month of September in 2007 for Ryan Howard. I don’t remember exactly how many homers or game winning RBIs he hit that month, but it had to have been close to 20 if not more. Everyone was locked in, and expecting great things.
It was can’t miss baseball.
Folks, that’s what we have in Philadelphia these days. We are heading into a golden era of Philly sports. It was an absolutely incredible feeling to be at Citizens Bank Park and actually be excited by what was happening on the field.
Josie and I had an absolute blast. I kept thinking about how she’s going to be 15 when Bryce’s contract ends, and how we have a legitimate chance for a long and prosperous run at multiple World Series titles.
Your Phillies’ family is back. Make sure you get down to the ballpark, bring your family, and make some memories. You will be glad you did; this Dad sure is.