The real story behind the Phony Phanatic in Seattle

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The real story behind the Phony Phanatic in Seattle originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

If you watched the Phillies’ 9-0 win over the Mariners in Seattle, surely you saw it, sitting behind the Phillies dugout. A Phillie Phanatic replica rooting on the road team, 2,800 miles from Citizens Bank Park.

What in the name of the Galapagos Islands is going on here?!?

Is this a Phillies fan who traveled to Seattle for the series? Did he drive to the stadium in full costume? Did he go to the game alone, or with friends, or worse yet family?

I was able to track down the fan behind the costume to ask him what possessed him to show up for the game in a homemade version of the best mascot in sports.

Jim is 51 and has lived in Seattle for nearly 30 years. But he was born and raised in Drexel Hill, Delaware County. (Had to figure there was a Delco tie-in, right? Can’t get much more Delco than a knock-off Phanatic costume. The only thing missing was a leprechaun tattoo on the Phanatic’s calf.) He has been a Philly sports fan his whole life, and passed it down to his son, who is 14 and, according to Jim, has more Philly sports hats/shirts/jerseys/jackets than most kids around here. He even wears jersey No. 88 on his rec league hockey team, an homage to Eric Lindros.

So why does Jim, a computer scientist who is a six-hour flight from a decent cheesesteak, come to have a Phanatic costume?

“I made it for Halloween, maybe 2004 or 2005,” he said. “Back then I used to regularly go over the top for Halloween. This is my 2nd biggest production, the most ridiculous being that full-sized Big Bird outfit.

“The costume is pieced together from stuff around the house, Home Depot bargains, and fabric store notions. I'm the opposite of good at this kind of thing, and Halloween put me under time pressure, so there are live outward-facing pins and sharp staples holding most of the head together. My bottom lip is torn up from last night. The head is a garbage can and a big gulp cup, with a party favor tooter for the tongue attached to some cheap rubber tube.”

This wasn't the first time he had worn the costume to a Phillies/Mariners game in Seattle, but last night was the first time he had seats so close to the field while in the costume.

Jim was at the game with his son, and he plans on going to all three games of the series. On Tuesday night, he’s bringing his 12-year-old daughter, and Wednesday he will be accompanied by his wife. That’s a heck of a date night.

Most 14-year-olds don’t think their parents are cool under normal circumstances. What does his son think of his father dressing up in costume out in public?

“He blows it off and walks a couple steps behind me when we're in a crowd, but we laugh the whole drive home,” Jim said. “In the costume, I can't wear my glasses and my vision is obscured pretty significantly, so he's generous with his time when I ask him tedious questions about who's playing outfield or whatever. He's old enough now to make snack runs by himself, so I don't have to fumble with credit card machines in fur hands.”

Wearing a Phanatic costume here in Philadelphia would be enough of a spectacle. Jim said some of the Phillies players did take notice, and left fielder Kyle Schwarber even threw him a ball before the game. But Seattle? You would think the fans would probably stay away.

“Walking in it's all selfies… I'll stop for little kids in Phillies gear, but adults and cops don't get my time unless I'm already stationary. The game starts off with a lot of 'oh great I have to sit next to this guy' and 'down in front' because I'm already tall and the head legitimately blocks people's line of sight. That's followed by 'sit down' when I celebrate back-to-back homers and little things like that. This is Seattle, so people come to the games to pretend they're in Boston or Toronto. That gimmick gets old and their throats get sore quick, and the rest of the game goes down pretty amicably considering I'm a certifiable nuisance. Overall, it's fun for me and people think it's funny.”

Regardless of the public reaction, you can’t argue with the results. A 9-0 shutout? Heck. maybe Jim could start an outreach program, to get a Phanatic in every MLB city. That way, the Phillies always got a taste of home wherever they played.

Just another reason why Philadelphia sports fans are the best around.