Tonight the Reading Phillies played their final home game of the 2010 season. I was there.
I arrived at the ballpark two and a half hours before the game started. Being at a ballpark hours before the game is just awesome. The first thing I did was walk to Mike’s Sandwich Shop at Bern Street and Centre Avenue. I usually park at the lot by Pear Street, so every time I drive in I pass Mike’s and wonder how good the sandwiches are.
I moseyed into Mike’s and ordered a cheesesteak. While it was not an authentic Philly version of sandwich, it had it’s own charm. The banana peppers were nice touch. After I ordered I noticed an item on the menu listed as “The Thing.” Naturally I was curious. So I asked about it. It turns out it is a cheesesteak with provolone and American cheese that is baked in the oven after being assembled. The next time I’m there I’ll be giving it a try.
While I was sitting at the bar eating my cheesesteak several people walked in. Each one of them was greeted by name by the staff. They know their regulars.
After the cheesesteak had been vanquished I headed to the ballpark. When I arrived the gates were closed; I stopped by the ticket window and purchased a general admission ticket. I took a picture of the front of First Energy Stadium (it will always be Reading Municipal Stadium in my heart) before the gates opened.
Since I had an hour to wait for the gates to open I sat in the shade and read Second Nature. About ten minutes after I started reading an elderly gentleman sat down next to me. He sat quietly for about two minutes, then asked a simple question: “That a good book?” Green light. I love talking to elderly people at ballparks, so that was all I needed to start the conversation. I quickly realized this was going to be a great conversation when I found out he had been coming to games since 1967 (the first year the Reading Phillies existed, baseball was played in Reading before that but the team was not known as the Reading Phillies). He saw Mike Schmidt’s first professional home run. He saw Ryne Sandberg play in the minors. He had stories about Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, a young Roger Clemens. He talked about games at Yankee Stadium, Jacobs Field, Camden Yards, Connie Mack Stadium, and Veterans Stadium. We talked for an hour, past the time when the gates opened. I never got his name, but I did get some great stories.
The Reading Phils were wearing a blue jersey tonight. I like the white jersey with red pinstripes much more, but at least they kept the high red socks. Seeing the entire team with matching high socks is a beautiful thing.
The R-Phils played the New Britain Rock Cats. I saw the Rock Cats play Altoona earlier this year (I wrote a post about it here). Loek Van Mil is not with the team anymore, though he was listed in the program as #37 for the Rock Cats (I think he was promoted). The player wearing 37 was a full foot shorter than Van Mil. Infielder Chris Cates is still with the team, though he did not play on this night. Before the game he was discussing bunting technique with a coach. There should be laws against subjecting teammates and fans to such levels of secondhand grittiness.
The starter for the R-Phils was Yohan Flande. I saw him pitch in June (see post here) and he did not pitch well on that occasion. On this night he was sharp, throwing seven solid innings. He managed to pick off a runner with a move that looked somewhat balk-like to me, the very next inning he was called for a balk on an identical move. The line between great move and balk is paper thin.
A new bat boy has started working for the R-Phils. He’s a little person and wears number 1/2 on his jersey. Just thought I’d pass that along.
The R-Phils hit two home runs and cruised to a 4-1 victory. It only took 2 hours and 5 minutes to play the game (I need to check, but it might be the quickest game I’ve ever attended). I spent the first six innings sitting near the front down in the left field corner; I moved behind the plate for the final two and a half innings. In the 8th I shot this picture with my wide-angle lens:
Fireworks were planned after the game. I left before they started. No traffic. Sweet.