For me, there is easily one part I would consider to be the best. Sure, it ended with disappointment, losing a series that they should have won handily, but when the playoffs started, there was excitement about what lay ahead. When the teams were finalized and schedules were created, there was a bit of unease about the first matchup they had in Miami. No, that team isn’t as good as the Phillies, but in a three game series, anything can happen. It would be crushingly disappointing had they lost that series to begin their march toward the NLCS, but thankfully they asserted their will with ease.
I was lucky enough that I was able to bring my son to that first Marlins game of the wild card round. We usually go to around 4-5 games a season, sitting somewhere up top since, well, have you looked at ticket prices? We got lucky enough that someone sold us tickets for this game and my wife and I could bring him and a friend. I kept telling the two that this kind of game is different from every other game they’ve been to, that there is no sitting down, screaming is kind of a requirement and that they’d be exhausted by around the sixth inning. It all came true. You know all the moments, so there is no need to rehash them. Needless to say, watching my son get to experience everything that is good about postseason baseball will be the highlight of the season for me.
I’m originally from South Philly and grew up in West Deptford. In the late 90s, I moved to Atlanta for work and have been stranded there ever since.
On April 4th, 1999, my roommate and I attended the Braves home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field in Atlanta. Marlon Anderson got three hits and drove in three runs. Scott Rolen knocked in a pair of runs and came across home plate once. Mike Lieberthal, Ron Gant, Doug Glanville, Bobby Abreu, Desi Relaford - it was a hell of a lineup.
The Phils wound up with the victory that afternoon, 7-4.
That was the last time I saw the Phillies win a game in person.
I attended plenty of games. Almost every time the Phillies come to town, I’m there for at least one game of the series. And every time, the Phillies lose.
The first time I traveled home to catch a game at CBP, the Braves happened to be in town. Phillies lost.
In 2022, my daughter and I attended Game 2 of the NLDS in Atlanta with Zack Wheeler on the mound.
Once a year, I splurge on really good seats right next to the visitors dugout. This season, it was a game in late May. The night before, Zack Wheeler pitched 8.0 scoreless innings. The night before that Taijuan Walker led the Phillies to a win. My oldest daughter wore her Castellanos jersey, and the man himself came over and autographed it for her. Dave Dombrowski sat behind us before the game. The air was eclectic. You could smell the impending victory.
And then they sent Dylan Covey to the mound as a starter and he gave up seven runs and Topper pulled him before he could even finish the inning.
Phillies lost and made sure to give me the middle finger while doing it.
I was resigned to the fact that I would never see the Phillies win again, but I’d be damned if that kept me from cheering them on in person.
Over the summer the kids and I bought tickets for a game at CBP. It was the July 1st game against the Nationals.
The night before the Nats beat the Phillies 2-1. Another loss felt as inevitable as the sunrise.
But a loss was not to be. Zack Wheeler was electric and the bats went into overdrive.
In one game, the Phillies made up for every loss I sat through for the past 24 years. Three-run Bohm bomb?
Two-run Casty homer?
Kyle Schwarber grand slam?
When the dust cleared, the scoreboard read 19-4.
And then Shaq (aka “Diesel”) took the field and, to my surprise, put on an awesome show.
That game was easily my personal favorite moment of the season.
That and every time the Phillies beat the Braves into the ground.
I had the luxury of being in attendance at nearly half of the Phillies’ home games this season, but my feel-good, top moment of the season was actually a home game where I was not in attendance.
On August 1, the Phillies traded a promising second base prospect, Hao-Yu Lee, to the Detroit
Phillies Tigers in exchange for their only All-Star on the season, Michael Lorenzen. At the time, Lorenzen was 5-7 with an ERA+ of 124. He wasn’t the flashiest possible addition, but with Ranger Suarez’s injury status up in the air, it was a commendable move by the Phillies brass to bring in another starter who could give them innings. In his first start with the Phillies in Miami on August 3, Lorenzen gave up just two runs on six hits in 8 innings. It was his second start for the Phillies that nabs my top game of the season, though. In his first start at home in Citizens Bank Park on August 9, Lorenzen threw the 14th no-hitter in franchise history. It was the first Phillies no-hitter since Cole Hamels on July 25, 2015, and the first thrown at home since Roy Halladay in the 2010 NLDS. What a way for Lorenzen to endear himself to the home crowd.
What made this day even more special is that this game had even more excitement than just the “MikeLo No-No.”
Nick Castellanos hit two homers in that game, to reach 200 for his career. And Wes Wilson, who at the time had more than 2,800 minor league plate appearances, made his Major League Debut. In his first at bat, he hit a home run.
A no-hitter, a 200th career homer, and a first career homer in a Major League debut. All of these moments are important in their own right, but to have them happen in the same game was really something special.
This season obviously ended on a bitter note, but for me personally it will always be one of my most memorable. It was the second season that I’ve had some sort of season ticket plan, this time being the Sunday day game package. That allowed me to be in attendance for some great moments, such as a 7-6 come from behind win against the Mets where the Phillies scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th thanks to three walks, an error, and two straight hit by pitches with the bases loaded.
It was also the first time my friends and I decided to take some road trips to Phillies away games, one to Yankee Stadium and one to Nationals Park. The Washington trip was one of the best weekends of the year for me, as we toured the sights on Saturday and then watched Kyle Schwarber and Drew Ellis both club two home runs in an 11-4 win on Sunday. We all immediately made a pact to make this trip again next season.
But the best parts for me came in the NLDS against the Braves. The main reason we secured a season ticket package was to ensure we were able to get postseason ticket access. We were lucky to get tickets to the bat spike game and the 10-6 win in the NLCS in 2022, but we had to sweat out the ticketing process. This time, we had them secured before the postseason even started.
Our first postseason game of 2023 was the Bryson Stott grand slam against the Marlins in the clincher of the Wild Card Series. Our final game of the year was Bryce Harper’s now legendary two homer stare down of Orlando Arcia in a 10-2 win. But the highlight of the season for me was actually the next night.
We had to get up that next morning after that game to prepare for another friend’s rehearsal dinner and his wedding the day after, a wedding my season ticket partner and I were both in. We rode the high of that drubbing of the Braves to power through the exhaustion to function through the rehearsal. We planned to duck out of the dinner a little early in order to watch Game 4 in the hotel bar. Little did we know, the father of the bride had the exact same experience and plan of the last 24 hours as we did. So, half of the wedding party took over that Marriott hotel lobby and made them regret staying open until midnight. The joy of watching Johan Rojas’ game saving catch in the seventh with all those people is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. And hey, if the best thing this team does every year is knock the Braves out of the postseason, it could be a lot worse.
My favorite moment of the season was getting hit in the face.
Let me explain: It was game 2 of the NLCS, the Phillies were leading the series 1-0, and potential stretched endlessly before us, the crowd at the Bank. The game had begun with a Trea Turner error allowing the first batter to reach base safely, but this had only served to enhance the feelings of invulnerability when the next three batters went down quietly at the hands of a sturdy looking Aaron Nola. What could’ve been a wobbly start suddenly looked like a boast: you’ll have to get lucky to get anything tonight, and even luck won’t bring you much.
The situation was crying out for one of Chef Schwarber’s signature appetizers in the form of a leadoff homer. We didn’t get that. But we also didn’t have to wait long: Turner strode to the plate and immediately made amends for his error with a mighty swing. The crowd, having been given plenty of experience over the course of a homer-happy postseason, had become pretty good at judging the ball off the bat. Everyone knew it was gone before it went over the fence.
The crowd around me erupted into a sea of high-fives. I put my hand up, beckoning the guy to my right. He gleefully obliged, but his aim didn’t quite match his energy. He palmed me in the face, then apologized immediately. But I didn’t mind at all. Why would I? The Phillies were in the playoffs, they had the lead, they were riding a tremendous wave, and I was there. For that moment, all was right with the world.
As ultimately disappointing as the ending was (and as much razzing as I was forced to take from an obnoxious Braves-loving coworker during Game 7), this team of lovable himbos gave us a season I’ll never forget. Bryce’s return, the Trea standing ovation, the Weston Wilson/Nick Castellanos/Mike Lorenzen game - it’s all the stuff of legends. I was only able to make it to two regular season games this year, one of which happened to be the night of Orion Kerkering’s electric debut in September.
For me, easily the best part of 2023 was being in attendance for NLCS Game 1. I was lucky enough to be chosen in the ticket lottery and the second I saw the email, I treated myself to four outfield seats for me and some friends as a belated birthday gift. I’ve never lost my voice so early in a game and the excitement of the first inning was worth the headache I gave myself from screaming “Gaaaaaaaallen” for the next four. Besides the game itself, being able to experience playoff baseball with some of my favorite people is something I’ll never forget. For one night in South Philly, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. Wish it could have happened six more times.