The atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park Monday night against the Yankees was reminiscent of the Phils' Golden Era from 2007-11 when the ballpark was alive every night providing extra juice for the players.
Unfortunately, not all of the 44,136 fans at CBP for the series opener were providing that juice for the Phillies. It was more like half of them.
Citizens Bank Park was about as filled with Yankees fans as Nationals Park used to be with Phillies fans when the Phils were atop the NL East and the Nats were cellar-dwellers. Just walking through the concourse, there were as many Aaron Judge jerseys as there were Aaron Nolas.
Exiting the stadium in the second inning after Phillies Pregame Live, there was a loud, raucous cheer. I figured it was either a great defensive play by the Phils or their first run. It wasn't. It was the reaction to Gleyber Torres' RBI double.
This was the biggest crowd the Phillies have had in a non-home-opener since September 2013. It was the first time they've drawn 40,000 fans in a non-home-opener since July 2, 2016 against the Royals — a Saturday night on July 4 weekend with a fireworks show.
The Phillies, despite entering Monday night with MLB's 10th-best record, rank 19th in attendance this season with an average of 24,713 per home game. They've filled just 56.6 percent of seats.
Interestingly, the number isn't all that much higher than it was last season, when at this point the Phillies were 27 games under .500. They averaged just 600 fewer fans per game last season.
It may come down to the majority of the city just not yet buying into this team. The Phillies are 41-35 but they've had some horrible, demoralizing losses at key times. Opening day after Gabe Kapler pulled Nola. May 6 in D.C. when Hector Neris' meltdown cost the Phils a series win. Sunday night on national TV, when the Phils couldn't hold onto a 6-2 lead. Those kinds of games count as only one loss each in the standings but from a fan's perspective, they can be signals of a team being a pretender.
It also could be that the majority of casual fans aren't being drawn to the ballpark by any particular player. Nola has been great for a calendar year, but do his 7-inning, 2-run outings bring out the fans? Odubel Herrera's approval rating isn't as high as it probably should be given his skill set. Rhys Hoskins is a difference-making offensive player, but until the team starts winning consistently he's not going to connect with the fan base the way that 2008 core did.
It will be interesting to see how this develops as the summer progresses. The "kids are in school" argument can no longer be used.
If the Phillies hover in the wild-card race over the next three weeks and make an addition or two at the trade deadline, that could be the tipping point that gets some more fans to the park.
But even if they don't, this is a team that could sure use some additional fan support. Phillies fans claimed for years during the down period that they'd come back once the team was on the rise with young players and a legitimate plan was in place. Well, all of that is true now and the numbers haven't changed much.