Phillies World Series Game 5 was Best Game I Ever Saw Live

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Phillies World Series Game 5 was Best Game I Ever Saw Live

I was an intern at NBC Sports Philadelphia (then Comcast SportsNet) during my senior year at Temple University in 2008.

In case you forgot, the Phillies won the World Series that year.

Before Game 4 of the Fall Classic started on Sunday, Oct. 26, I turned to one of my best friends, who also happened to be an intern with me and said, “Have your dad call Jayson Stark and get us tickets for tomorrow.”

Guess what?

I never told anyone at NBC Sports Philadelphia this before, so here’s my coming clean moment: I wasn’t sick on Monday, Oct. 27. I called Pat Devlin at the assignment desk and told him I wasn’t feeling well … while holding a World Series ticket in my hand.

Maybe it was the two 40s of Miller Lite I had before hopping on the subway to the game, but I didn’t even notice the puddles of ice cold water throughout the open areas of Citizens Bank Park that night.

I think you know how the story goes …

The sound was deafening. No one was sitting, the rally towels were in full force and that aura of knowing we were celebrating that night kept my heart rate up.

Fast forward to the sixth inning and the game goes into full rain delay. Weirdest thing about that? PEOPLE WERE LEAVING THE STADIUM. Come hell or high water (which we were getting fairly close to) I’m not leaving without that effing trophy.

Well, it didn’t end that way that night. We all left, soaked to the bone and sober. Here’s where things get really weird.

As we’re waiting for the Broad Street Line to show up, I’m looking at what seemed like hundreds of tickets scattered about the rail lines. Who throws away a World Series ticket??? Could they not hear over the PA system telling everyone to hold onto their ticket stubs?

Fast forward to Wednesday night and we’re back on the subway … with some very entrepreneurial salesmen offering us tickets to the game for a discounted price. And these tickets were legit. Remember the stubs scattered about the subway? Well they got scooped up and were being re-sold.

Why is this the craziest game I ever saw live? Because there were empty seats in that stadium the night we celebrated. Where rally towels waved and those blue seats were painted Phillies red with rabid fans two nights earlier, blotches of empty seats were visible in nearly every section of Citizens Bank Park.

Didn’t matter. However many bodies didn’t make it that night, the one’s that were sure as hell made up for it. And when Brad Lidge delivered the nastiest slider he’s ever thrown to Eric Hinske on an 0-2 count … it felt like there were a million of us in that stadium. Deafening doesn’t even come close. It was BLISTERING. The delay, the weather, Chase Utley’s incredible defensive play to nail Jason Bartlett at the plate, Brad Lidge going 48-for-48, and celebrating as a whole city … you’re damn right it was the best game I ever saw live.

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II


Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

On today's Phillies Talk podcast, Jim Salisbury and I discussed what Spring Training II could look like amid Jim's report that the Phillies will likely get to stay home and train in South Philadelphia.

• Benefits of having camp at home.

• Who could Phillies play in Spring Training II?

• What happens to the minor-leaguers? Will there even be a minor-league season?

• Just how big could regular-season rosters get?

• Spencer Howard will likely put pressure on Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez.

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