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June 20, 2024

Eytan Shander: The Phillies through a child's eyes — what could be better?

Eytan Shander can't wait to take his toddler to see the Phillies this weekend.

Phillies Opinion
0670_09132023_Phillies_Braves_ballpark-fans.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Phillies fans take in a game against the Braves back in 2023.

I’m excited about the Phillies.

If you have kids, then you most likely remember the moment one of your teams became a part of their lives. It happens every year around the globe, where young children are indoctrinated into a sports culture – some a little livelier than others. 

Here in Philadelphia, depending on the season or team, it’s just a little different.

From 1 to 162, we carry the water of fandom for our teams throughout the ups and downs of regular seasons, hoping to live out another playoff where the fantasy of winning it all becomes reality. Some of us have experienced it all, others just a little more than the rest of us. But it all starts with the first game, the first time you step inside the stadium, smell the peanuts and popcorn, and get your first real visual of players hitting the field.

For the first time in his young life, my son Teddy will see a Phillies game live and in person. He turns 3 on Saturday and we are heading to watch Zach Wheeler face the Diamondbacks. I’m nervous, excited, can’t sleep, bought him five shirts already, and a ton of other emotions.

While the Phillies have bent over backwards to already ensure this will be a special moment for young Teddy, it’s become the most important sporting event I will attend. 

We are so incredibly lucky as young parents with children who are first experiencing this great game of baseball. We aren’t stuck watching an awful team, there’s no “process," and the guys on this club are genuinely fun to root for – as players and people. The parent in me just wants my kid to enjoy every second of it, and the fan in me knows we are beyond lucky to have this product to show him.

It could be like the London community getting their first real dose of NFL football with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hey, here’s one of the worst products we have, but trust us, you are gonna love it.

But in Philly, we have Bryce Harper, Wheels, Ranger, Nola, J.T., the Daycare, and so much more. From the gestures to the smiles to the trash talking – this team doesn’t forget anything which I love – this Phillies team is the perfect introduction to baseball and our city.

I don’t want Teddy to experience Philadelphia sports through the lens of anger and anxiety. We don’t listen to local radio in the car. We watch games at night or during the day as his interest in the players and what they do continues to grow.

But I also know how I am when our teams lose or even worse, make stupid decisions to ensure they stay bad. While frustrations of losing have shifted from teams to bets over time, as my work focus shifts, Teddy actually got sad for the first time when the Phillies lost yesterday to the Padres. I’m not sure if he totally got it, but the majority of what he got out to me was he was "sad about the Phillies."

I’m excited about the Phillies, not just this team but what they mean to my family. Maybe it’s the time of the year during his young life, but no sport has gravitated to my son more than baseball. He’s way too comfortable with a bat in his hands – for a three=year=old boy – and loves to throw.

They may not win the World Series in his lifetime, but Teddy steps into an arena of fandom that isn’t matched anywhere else. 

The Sixers are a mess, more focused on telling themselves it will be ok rather than fixing anything. The Flyers need help, maybe it’s time, maybe it’s another 1-2 players, but they aren’t competing with either of these teams in the Cup Final. The Eagles are a chore.

We are born and indoctrinated into the belief that at some point the other shoe will fall, at some point this shit will go bad – usually real bad for us. It’s what made 2017 so incredibly special to so many of us, something we knew would never happen.

Baseball is different. Having a team like we do now, the players and fans that make up the experience is a blessing for any young fan – be it my child or yours. Working in sports for 20 years in this city can jade a person, rather quickly in Philly. It became hard for me to experience games as a fan, rather looking at it through the angle of a radio or tv personality.

It became tough to watch games with because the joy wasn’t the same, it was at one point an awful dichotomy of wondering whether a win or loss would be better for work, versus life. While I still write here and do a bunch of TV for FOX29, those days seem behind me. It started with getting Teddy to watch the games in the first place, but the change culminates when we hit the field on Saturday.

It’s a first for him but also a first (in a long time) for me. Normally we are told not to live vicariously through our children, especially when it comes to sports. That’s mostly when it comes to them playing, not watching. In this case, the Phillies are a family affair – a return to fandom through me that comes with watching my son experience it all for the first time.

Eytan Shander is a long time radio and TV personality in Philadelphia. In addition to his weekly column, you can currently listen and watch him on Fox29’s Good Day and other sports shows. He’s giving betting advice on OddsShopper. A lifetime Eagles fan, Eytan lives just outside the city with his wife.

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow