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FIELD TRIP OF DREAMS

AROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES IN 49 DAYS


Citizens Bank Park
Philadelphia, PA
Cleveland Indians at Philadelphia Phillies
April 3, 2004

By Ken Schlapp

Once my big trip in 2003 was over, I knew I was not finished tracking down and hunting baseball stadiums.  Specifically, Citizens Bank Park was under construction in Philadelphia when I was there in 2003, so I knew I would be taking the “short” drive to Philly for a game in 2004.  In fact, there was no way I could resist heading down there for the first game ever, so I dragged Efrem, Frank, and Ed down the Jersey Turnpike to Philadelphia for the exhibition game against the Indians to open up the stadium.

To start, I will say that I love this place; it is eons better than Veterans Stadium was which was still somewhat there in crumpled ruins next to Citizens Bank Park in the parking lot.  At least, as far as Efrem was concerned, it was an easy walk to see the ruins of an old stadium and we did not have to search all over for a plaque, we can easily spot the crumpled stadium.  It was part of our walk around the outside of the stadium, as per my “new stadium” tradition.  That initial walk also started to win me over right away, by how much of an improvement this stadium was.  The red brick on the outside, with the obviousness of the open-air stadium can be appreciated from the outside.  Although The Vet was not a dome, its circular enclosure made it seem like it was, while Citizens Bank is clearly an outdoor ballpark.  Then there are the statues outside of the gates of Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, and even Connie Mack (it is great to see that they even remembered the old Philadelphia Athletics Manager).  It was clear from the start that the Phillies are opening a new stadium, but not forgetting their past.  Carlton and Schmidt stand out to me as the two players that broke my heart over and over again as a Mets fan, but I still appreciate how great they were.

Once inside, you can walk around the extremely wide concourses to get your food, beer (I especially like the Yards beer made especially for the stadium) and souvenirs without having to squeeze past a large crowd.  The best part of these wide concourses though, is that you have a completely clear view of the field while you are making your purchases.  They do sell standing room only seats here, so even without a seat you can have an incredible view of the game.  Considering that you can drive here from New York in under two hours, I had returned to see games here many times since it opened and many of those times I bought standing room only tickets and watched from directly behind home plate.  If you get there early enough to worm your way up to the front, you even have a counter to put your beer, food, and elbows on to relax and enjoy the game.  The great part is that this is not relegated to the field level; there are similar standing room only sections on the upper level too.

Next stop: Ashburn Alley.  Richie Ashburn was the star centerfielder for the Phillies from 1948-1959, but known just as well as their broadcaster from 1963 to 1997.  He was loved in both capacities in Philadelphia, so much so, that they were considering naming the new stadium after him.  However, they went with the more economical naming rights of Citizens Bank, but they did not forget about Richie.  They have honored him with an area of the stadium called Ashburn Alley.  When he was a player, the tall grass area between home and 3rd base was known as Ashburn Alley because that is where he placed many a bunt single during his career.  Although Ashburn Alley is not located on the infield, it is located behind center field where Richie played for so long.  It is the best spot to visit before, during, or after the game.  Along the concourse, there are stars on the ground to showcase all of the Phillies that have made all-star teams.  There is also a large display of the Phillies history from inception in the 1800s to the present on the Memory Lane displays.  They also put the Phillies championship flags up here.  Once again, I am pleased that the Phillies get their fans and honor their history.

Right outside and around Ashburn Alley is a food concourse with plenty of good options, which further encompass the Phillies history.  You can go to Harry the K’s Bar & Grill, which is in honor of their other long-time broadcaster Harry Kalas or you visit Bull’s BBQ.  Bull’s is named after former Philly Slugger Greg Luzinski, who terrorized my Mets for many years, but who I also remember most by the glove I used for many years with his signature on it.  The funny thing though was that at the time I got his signature glove, he was a DH for the White Sox.  However, in my opinion, the best option is still the Philly Cheesesteak, which is as good here as it was in The Vet.  I have to have one every time I come here.  There is also a very cool souvenir stand back there, where I bought an old Philadelphia Athletics cap.

Citizens Bank Park also has a bar called McFadden’s attached to it that is open before, during and after games.  Just know that if you enter McFadden’s from inside the stadium during the game, that you can no longer return afterwards.  This has to do with the baseball rules forbidding the sale of alcohol after the 7th inning.  I have been there after games a few times and it is a good place to grab a beer with a bunch of baseball fans.

A good option for the young fans is to head over to the Phanatic Phun Zone over by the 1st base gate or to the Phanatic Giant Slide on the Terrace level.  You know there is no way you can talk about a Phillies game or stadium without mentioning the Phillies Phanatic in some way or fashion.  He is still the biggest clown of a mascot as there exists and is a show on his own.

The bullpen is an interesting story in itself.  It is located in left center field with one pen on top of the other.  When I went to the initial game, the Phillies pen was the one that was located closer to the concourse and the fans, with the visiting pen closer to the field.  However, in true Philadelphia form, the fans were heckling their own pitchers so much that they switched the order during the 2004 season so that the visiting pen is now closer to the fans.  I love the fact that the Phillies are okay with their fans getting close and heckling the opposing pitchers, but not their own!  Since the stadium first opened, they have also added a Phillies Wall of Fame right by the bullpens.

Our seats for this game were in the upper deck, right behind home plate, which is a great place to see the game.  I have gone back to sit in this section many times since that day.  It is not nearly as high as the upper deck in Shea or The Vet, so you have a good view even if you are on the very top row.  The best part about sitting up here is that you get a great view of both downtown Philadelphia and the Ben Franklin Bridge.  You can clearly see the giant scoreboard and Jumbotron in right field from these seats.  I would not put the scoreboard on par with Shea, but it is nice and has all of the key elements you need: the line score, both lineups with player’s averages and ERA, and in-game and season-to-date statistics for the player at bat.  You can also see the out-of-town scoreboard on the right field wall, which is set up the same way as in PNC Park, where you can tell the inning, number of outs, and base runners at all times.  I really like that the new stadiums are now regularly built with these features. 

The deep blue seats are similar in color to the seats that were in The Vet, but somehow they look a lot nicer.  What is clearly nicer though is that this stadium has a natural grass playing surface as opposed to the awful Astroturf that was in The Vet.  Regardless of the rivalry between the Mets and the Phillies, I am definitely a fan of Citizens Bank Park.  I only wish that when they altered the park in January of 2012 for NHL’s Winter Classic, that I could have been there to see the Rangers put a hurting on the Flyers.  It would have been great to see a hockey game here too, especially when you combine a Ranger win with a Flyer loss.  I do not have a deep hatred for the Phillies at all, but the Flyers….

Before the game got started, there was a ceremony to officially open the stadium.  During this opening ceremony, the Phillies paid tribute to the workers that built the stadium, at which time all the fans cheered to show their appreciation for a job well done.  However, when Philadelphia mayor, John F Street was introduced, the fans erupted with a cascade of boos. I know that it seems wrong, but I loved this contrasting dichotomy of responses for the mayor and the union workers and truly appreciate the Phillies fans for who they are.  There is never a doubt about how they feel and that is how it should be.

The game got started with a plethora of flashbulbs going off at the same time as thousands of fans simultaneously attempted to capture the first pitch from Vincente Padilla to Matt Lawton.  I was of course one of them.  Lawton grounded out to 2nd base to record the first out in the Citizen Bank Park history.  Padilla then struck out the next 2 batters for a 1-2-3 inning.  After Jeff D’Amico retired Marlon Byrd and Placido Polanco, Jim Thome hit a monstrous home run into the 2nd tier for the first hit, home run, and run in stadium history, and gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead to boot.  As he was circling the bases, the Liberty Bell in right center field lit up and rung to sound in the home run.  It was nice of Thome to do this so early so I would quickly get to know the stadium’s new found home run tradition.

Padilla shut down the Indians in order through the first 3 innings, before giving up 2 runs and the lead in the 4th.  Omar Visquel led off the inning with a double, moved to 3rd on a balk and scored on Casey Bake’s 2-run homer.  The fan that caught the home run, threw the ball back on the field in Wrigley Field tradition.  I think that is nuts!  If I catch a homer, I am keeping the ball whether my team hit it or not.  I think that tradition should stay in Wrigley.  Padilla was replaced by Ryan Madsen to start the 5th frame, and he was rocked for 3 runs.  Coco Crisp singled with one out and was moved over by D’Amico’s sacrifice and scored on Vizquel’s single.  Jody Gerut then doubled in both Matt Lawton (who walked) and Vizquel to give the Indians a 5-1 lead.

As the bottom of the 5th started the fans let out a big cheer, but not initially for the Phillies, it was because the sun came out!  Then they cheered for the Phillies as they mounted a 4-run rally to tie the game up at 5.  Byrd and Polanco both singled to start the inning.  After Thome grounded into a fielder’s choice, Met-killer Pat Burrell lit up the liberty bell with a 3-run homer.  Bobby Abreu then walked, stole 2nd, and came around to score the tying run on Jimmy Rollins RBI double.  After walking David Bell and pinch hitter Ricky Ledee, Jeff D’Amico was relieved by Chad Durbin after giving up 5 runs.

Neither teams scored in the 6th, but this was the inning that a multitude of lineup changes began, which signiField that this was still just a spring training game, regardless of the importance of the opening of a new stadium.  Chris Lapinski hit a solo home run for the Indians to leadoff the 7th inning to give them the lead 6-5, which would be the final score.  Although the Phillies threatened in the 7th, they were shut down in the last 2 innings by Rafeal Betancourt and Kazuhito Tadano (of gay porn fame) to seal the victory for the Indians.

Bottom line – This is a great new stadium and I was proud to have made it to the first game ever in a stadium for the first time in my life.

Basic trip facts:
-Stadium # 32
-Old Stadium Sites visited – Veterans Stadium (Total – 22)
-Under construction Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 2)
-Miles traveled – 260 via Car (Totals: Driving – 18,689, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total – 21,829)
-States, provinces, Districts and/or commonwealths passed through – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania (Totals: States – 48, Provinces – 2, Districts – 1, Commonwealths - 1)
-Seats – Upper deck behind home plate.
-Prices: Parking – $10.00, Beer – $5.50, Hot Dogs - $3.00, Program (including pencil) – Not Sure, Souvenir Soda Cup – $4.75
-Credit Card giveaway –  None
-First Pitch -  1:20 PM
-Attendance – Unknown
-Results – Indians 6, Phillies 5, W – Scott Stewart, L – Rheal Cormier, S – Tadano
-Home team record to date – 20 wins, 16 losses
-Record of “team I was routing for” to date – 16 wins, 20 losses
-Lodging – New York, New York

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