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Fate and Ryan Howard: Phillies 10, Rockies 6

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There were other players in this game, but none more important than Ryan Howard.

Colorado Rockies v Philadelphia Phillies
OH GOD I LOVE YOU RYAN HOWARD
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

On a night when the Phillies won, and the team inducted Jim Thome into (onto?) the Wall of Fame, the game ended up being about one thing.

Ryan Howard.

It was all strangely emotional. Howard came up in the bottom of the fifth inning with the bases loaded and the score knotted 3-3. And as he walked to the plate, I thought “He could do it. He could hit a grand slam. He probably won’t, but with Ryan Howard, there’s always a chance.” He saw just two pitches. The first was a ball. The second one he sent to the Rockies’ bullpen in right center field, and everyone went absolutely nuts.

The CSN camera crew, God bless them, had someone stationed in the luxury box where Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu were watching the game with Charlie Manuel. (Oh, to be a fly on the armrest of that luxury box.) The reaction of Thome and Abreu was somehow even better than Howard hitting that grand slam. They stood and cheered, fists raised in solidarity with their bomb-blasting brother. It was a perfect, beautiful moment.

I agree with John. That’s the coolest moment of 2016.

It occurred to me shortly after he sent that ball to Jesus that I’d probably watched the last grand slam, and possibly even home run, hit by Ryan Howard in a Phillies uniform, and at Citizens Bank Park. It hasn’t been a graceful end for Howard, and I’m sure this isn’t the way he wanted to go out, but the crowd wanted it last night.

I’m getting teary just reading that tweet, because Howard’s relationship with Phillies fans has been strained for years. We love him because we remember the player he was, and we know he isn’t sucking on purpose, but it’s hard to ignore what he’s become. This grand slam didn’t validate his late-career ultra-slump, but for a few moments it felt like old times. Like anytime Ryan Howard came to the plate, he could send a pitch to a stratosphere, and Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins would cross home plate in front of him. Oh god, I’m crying now.

There are a lot of Ryan Howard home runs worth remembering. Large, long, majestic, important, game-tying, game-winning, and so on. But last night’s homer is one I want to remember forever. It felt like fate. It felt like destiny. But most of all, it felt like the beautiful acceptance of a career and a legacy that we’ve all wanted for Ryan Howard and Phillies fans.

The Phillies won 10-6, but this game will be remembered for Ryan Howard’s (probably) final grand slam as a Philadelphia Phillie. That’s more than enough for me.