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Why I’m a fan of the Phillies: They got me early

At the moment, it’s more habit than love.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the refreshed The Good Phight! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

When I was seven years old, I went to my first professional sporting event.

It was 1983, and I was not into baseball enough to realize the Phillies were heading for the NL pennant that season, carrying the final vestiges of the greatest core of talent the franchise had ever seen up to that point.

I don’t remember who the Phils played that day or whether they won or lost. I don’t remember any details about the game itself, either. In fact, there are only two things from that beautiful, sunny day that I can recall.

The first was the enormity of being there. I walked into Veterans Stadium, which at that point was not the squalid hole in the earth that it would later become, and was awed by the color.

The artificial turf reflected a bright shade of green that I had never seen before. The brown dirt and sparkling white lines were a glorious contrast to the green, and at the time, the seats at the Vet were all the colors of the rainbow.

Veterans Stadium in the 1980s

The crowd seemed huge, which makes sense given that the Vet sat more than 65,000 people. It was one of those impersonal, dual-purpose, cement slabs that were all the rage at that time. But I loved it.

I was young and naive.

The second thing I remember was I got a free, regulation-size, wooden bat with Mike Schmidt’s name on it. Now, you couldn’t get away with a promotion like that today. You’d have dozens of dead and injured souls lying on the ground before the end of the 6th inning.

But that afternoon at the ball yard was the trigger. From that point on, I watched virtually every game on TV and listened as Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn taught me the ins and outs of the game during countless nights of unwatchable baseball through the late 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s.

I went to as many games as I could afford, which wasn’t too hard given that until the Vet closed in 2003, you could general admission seats for $5 a pop.

I collected baseball cards. No, that’s not accurate. I was obsessed with baseball cards. I was fascinated by them and by the volumes of statistics located on the backs of each one.

The more I watched the game, the more I learned. I fell in love with the World Series and wished desperately at the start of every season that the Phillies would find their way there. I convinced myself that Ricky Jordan was going to be the next Chuck Klein, that Juan Samuel would be the next Lou Whitaker, and that Rick Schu would be the next Mike Schmidt.

I cheered when Terry Mulholland threw his no-hitter in 1990. I was irrationally exuberant as a dead-end team in 1991 won 13 games in a row. And in 1993, I finally got my wish when the Phillies reached the Fall Classic in 1993.

We don’t talk about what happened after that.

And even though I left virtually every season disappointed, the Phils had me in their grasp. I was hooked. I fell in love with the game and, as a result, the team who played just 15 minutes down I-95.

Right now, it’s harder to be a fan. As someone who follows the team religiously and analyzes them as a time-consuming hobby, the 2017 squad has been difficult to stomach. The losses have piled up during a season in which this multi-year rebuilding process was supposed to bear some fruit, and the fanbase has turned apathetic toward the franchise in a way I haven’t seen since the late 1990s, when the baseball strike of ‘94 almost killed baseball in Philly.

The comforting thing is that I’ve seen worse. I’ve lived through worse. Things eventually got better. And although the experience of watching a Phillies game right now is about as enjoyable as having your fingernails ripped off, I still enjoy the torture.

I am a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, even as they drag me through this baseball hell.

And it will always be so.

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