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April 06, 2023

Eytan Shander: Trea Turner's home debut will be a bright day for Philadelphia

Trea Turner's first home game as a Phillie in front of a raucous Philadelphia crowd will be a great day for this city's sports scene, writes columnist Eytan Shander.

Do you remember Stacy Andrews day?

The thrill of it all.

In reality, debuts have come in all shapes and forms, but few stand out like the anticipated first sight of Trea Turner in Philadelphia. Sure, we’ve seen tremendous performances by some top athletes in their Philadelphia debuts  Roy Halladay sitting down nine Nationals batters or Cliff Lee’s road debut allowing just a single run in a complete game win. 

Trea Turner’s first time in a Phillies home uniform represents something much greater than anything he can do in one game. It solidifies this team  when healthy  as a perennial contender. A team that always has a chance so long as their guys are upright. It validates the searching, the spending, the failures and the pursuit of a championship.

It's also a chance for you to yell, scream, smile, hug your neighbor  or any other way you express joy. This moment is for you as much as it is for Turner. Which is why it’s a little different than even Bryce Harper’s debut, one consisting of pandering through press conferences and t-shirts alike. Harper was the alpha. Turner should be the omega. What began with a gigantic contract to an MVP ends with the Phillies being one of the gold standards in baseball.

It's just impossible to think that if given the option, players would not want to be a part of what Harper and now Turner are building. The organization has responded to Harper and other’s in this city begging them to continue to spend. Be aggressive, trade  which they will have to do as a result of multiple injuries  just keep spending. We needed that to happen post-Harper signing in order to believe it. Turner’s debut reaffirms it, one more time, we get to see a team that’s truly built to win the World Series.

Last year, they were not. But it’s what they did after that magical run that was as important as the journey itself  capitalizing on it. Turner represents other players  even this year  who have done this before, but few have represented so much in carrying a bat or helmet or hockey stick in their debuts. It’s hard to top the Halladay or Eric Lindros performances, but carrying a weighted level of importance is hard to match.

Friday's debut is a lot like something we saw in 2004.

Turner feels like a mirror image of Terrell Owens arriving at Lehigh and then Lincoln Financial Field. A meaningless preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens gave us two things. The first was the macro, something similar to Turner, of just having a final piece of the puzzle. The biggest piece; necessary and large enough to put any team over the hump. It happened to be our team with a history void of any Super Bowl.

The very first play was the second gift. It was a bonus, not necessary, but totally uncanny. It was a script. It fed right into the crowd  I was sitting 20 rows or so above the Ravens sideline  and made Eagles history.

We didn’t have the benefit of hindsight at the time, but we knew this was going to be a special time for the Eagles. We know it’s a special time right now for the Phillies. Turner’s arrival encapsulates this more so than anyone else we’ve seen in quite some time.

Lee chose the Phillies over the Yankees. Halladay and the rest of the Four Aces meant the run was solidified. I’m sure there were plenty of fans who felt the same or similar way with them as they do with Turner. Maybe even more so. That’s fine. It’s not a hierarchy for me, but Turner should be discussed with the same weight as those arms.

Think about some of the debuts you anticipated the most in our long sports history. I’ll push you to think outside of the box. How excited were you to see Carson Wentz the year after the Birds won the Super Bowl? They were expected to return to the playoffs, we had no idea about the colossal failure that would soon come, it was natural as a fan to expect a healthy Wentz would pick right up.

How about James Harden? I was on the radio during the Jimmy Butler era and was super excited to see his arrival in a Sixers uniform.

There are plenty of athletes and sports to choose from, most carry amazing memories of their debuts and careers that followed. But only a handful come with such magnified importance as Trea Turner.

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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