The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
As we near the end of our little experiment, we're glad to hear that so many of you are enjoying the ride. Up next is our old pal Enrico Campitelli of The 700 Level with an assist from his longtime blogging mate Matt P.
1. The guys holding the window open: The Phillies window of opportunity is talked about endlessly here in town: In fact, I'd love to see a word count of how many times "window of opportunity" and "the Phillies" are said together on sports talk radio over the course of a year. They're old, you see, and the Phillies window of opportunity is closing. At least that's what you hear over and over.
But whatever, it ain't closed yet. They may be aging and in some cases breaking down, but they're not dead yet. They're also an incredibly resilient bunch that over the past half decade have taught us to never count them out. Despite a slew of injuries last season, they brought home 102 wins. Jimmy Rollins has been the ring leader, the mouth, the first-pitch home run basher. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard may both be on the mend (we hope), but I find that there's zero part of me that can write them off for done. Then there's Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. Their personalities are so different, but their likability levels for fans are off the charts. Roy Halladay is meticulous in his preparation. He's the ace among aces. Cliff Lee is so talented he doesn't even want to talk about anything but executing pitches. He's Steve McQueen cool. And Cole Hamels, he's grown up here in front of our eyes, and this could be his Cy Young season. Cole's learned through the years and has a bit of Philadelphia in him now. As long as he's in Philly for the foreseeable future alongside Roy and Cliff, I'm pretty sure the three of them alone can keep that window wide open.
2. Twitter: Living in a sports-crazed town with a team in every professional league, I can say without hesitation the Phillies' presence on Twitter is better than any other team I've ever cared about. From the geeky SABR nuts to the casual fan, from the cute girls who are in love with Mike Stutes to the guy who wants to go to the Zoo with Roy Halladay: the knowledge, range, wit and passion Phillies fans bring on Twitter is second to none. And that's not even getting into the Phillies beat writers. They embrace social media and bring more than just boring game stories, recaps and today's lineup, and today's lineup, and today's lineup. You want to know what kind of voodoo bat-and-ball structure is currently sitting outside of Chase Utley's locker? They'll show you.
3. The displaced Phillies fans and the road trippers: Washington, D.C., basically hates us. Mostly because we've not only owned their baseball team but also their ball park. Phillies fans took over Nationals Park to such a degree that people have dubbed it Citizens Bank Park South. But it's not just the cities that are a two-hour train ride away. Whether it's a weekend series in San Diego, Boston or the bleachers at Wrigley, when you travel to opposing team's parks to see the Fightins you know you'll have someone sitting near you who you can talk to about which part of the Delaware Valley they grew up in.
4. The sounds of summer: Harry Kalas was the voice of the Phillies and the voice of most Philadelphians' childhoods. HK may have left us in 2009, but his spirit and passion lives on in Philadelphia, both with the restaurant named after him in the outfield at Citizens Bank Park and the statue of him nearby (complete with the World Series ring he never got to wear), but also our memories, and in the voice of the guys he passed the mic to. When we think of summer, we hear the sounds of baseball on the radio—the low hum of the crowd, leathery voices and pauses that seem to disappear when you switch to television broadcasts. Today, Larry Andersen and Scott Franzke are simply wonderful together on the radio. L.A. brings just the right amount of homerism — which is to say, a lot — and insight that only a former player can give you. Franzke plays off him perfectly and delivers the action in a way that, after attending a big moment at Citizens Bank Park in person, you want to go home and track down the audio to hear exactly how Franzke decided to call it (and how loudly L.A. yelled in excitement to interrupt his call).
Of course, there's also the sound of the Liberty Bell high above the outfield that rings after Ryan Howard or one of his teammates bashes a ball into stands. And Harry Kalas singing "High Hopes" on the Phanvision after a victory — one of the best new traditions in sports. When you hear that bell ring or HK singing about that little ant that can't, you know something wonderful just happened.
5. The Phillies play their home games in one of Philadelphia's best bars: In a city with some outstanding taplines, few bars can compete with the selection you'll find at Citizens Bank Park. All along the middle concourse you can find a series of Brewery Town beer stands with great selections including local favorites, seasonals and other popular choices. Citizens Bank Park is a baseball paradise and a monumental step forward for the city in terms of its stadium experience, mostly lending to its architecture, sight lines and food options. Beer has always gone hand-in-hand with baseball, and there's never been a better time for Philadelphians who love both. -Matt P.
6. The 17-game plan I split with my dad and brother: I'm privileged to have a job that allows me to cover a ton of Phillies games at Citizens Bank Park. While that's among some of the funnest work a guy could ask for, it still involves the word "work." For the past couple of years since CBP has been open, I've also split a 17-game partial season ticket plan with my dad and brother in the outfield near Ashburn Alley and Harry the K's restaurant. I love having "our seats" and going with my dad who talks up all the familiar faces in our section: the middle-aged couple in front of us, the guy my age next to us who is also a Phish fan and his girlfriend, the early twenty-something couple next to them, the family with little kids to our right. It's your own little neighborhood in the outfield of the best park in the entire city. You just have to pay a few bucks to get in every time there's a ball game. So worth it.
I also love eating when I'm out in the crowd. Citizens Bank Park has a ton of delicious eating options. I had to restrain from making this whole list my top-10 food items and beer choices at CBP. A few favorites that never disappoint: Tony Luke's Roast Pork Italiano, a Schmitter if you're in the mood to be gluttonous, ditto the legendary Crab Fries from Chickie's and Pete's. But my dad and I tend to most frequently hit up Bull's BBQ for the pulled pork sandwich platter. Usually, quick, tasty, and you don't usually have to miss any baseball waiting in line. Also, I love a good hot dog a few times a season with onions and mustard. That's baseball food.
7. The Phillie Phanatic: I don't care what anyone tells you. The Phillie Phanatic is the best mascot in all of sports. If you don't agree, here's a tub of popcorn showered down on your ugly mug. Next time you're at a Phillies game, watch the Phanatic stand in front of the opposing team's dugout while their lineup is announced. If you don't laugh, I'm sorry about your life. Our favorite players come and go, but the Phanatic is there every opening day to lead the current squad out onto the field and to remind us baseball is back in our lives. He's there at the end of the season, too, to hold the championship flag when the Phillies clinch another pennant. Also, he hates the Mets and loves his mother. So what if his manners are a little lacking. Grown adults love him as much as toddlers not named Tommy Lasorda.
8. All the cool kids want to play here: After years of seeing players avoid Philadelphia like the plague, the league's elite now consider our city a top MLB option. Ours was not an easy legacy to shake, either. The greatest third baseman in the history of the game got booed here. The best third baseman the team had since high-tailed it out of here as soon as he had the chance. The Vet was no draw, and pitchers wanted nothing to do with Citizens Bank Park early on. And yet, the turnaround from 2007 to the present has free agents willing to overlook New York, and those under contract on crappy teams praying that their GMs will call to conference them in with Ruben Amaro Jr. It's the exact opposite of how we grew up feeling. -Matt P.
9. The skipper. Charlie Manuel was once the Virginia state champion in marbles. Did you know that? Charlie Manuel loves cooking. And fishing. If you've ever had the opportunity to chat with Charlie Manuel about baseball, it's almost impossible not to love the man. The transition from thinking he was a bumbling country boy to believing he's a baseball guru didn't happen overnight for most, but it's certainly happened. He doesn't just have stories, he's got amazing stories, stories about playing baseball in Japan, stories about Geisha girls in Japan, stories about talking hitting with Ted Williams, stories about "babysitting" a drunk Mickey Mantle. "Even-keeled. Don't get too high, don't get too low." Manuel has a way of relating to the $100 million players and the Wilson Valdez's of the world and keeping his team even-keeled throughout a long baseball season. It's tough to put a value on how important locker room chemistry and morale is in a clubhouse, but the Phillies skipper gets the highest of marks in those categories. Charlie Manuel lives and breathes baseball. And he's ours.
10. October 2008. That time we learned what it felt like for Philadelphia to be a champion. "World F-ing Champions," to be exact. Thanks for that one, Chase.
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What are your favorite things about being a Phillies fan?
Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers