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October 24, 2022

A 13-year wait: The Phillies' pennant-winning scene at Citizens Bank Park

The last time the Phillies were heading to the Fall Classic, I was 15. I didn't know I wanted to be a sportswriter. I didn't know much of anything outside of reading Batman comics and spending lazy summer Sunday afternoons watching the Phils. Though the Fightins would fall to the Yankees in the World Series that year, I wasn't sweating it much. The Phillies, of course, had won it all just the year prior. With a core of All-Stars in their prime, I assumed late October baseball in Philadelphia would be a staple for years to come. 

It wouldn't be. The Phillies wouldn't be National League champions for another 13 years. The elite 2010 and 2011 regular seasons did not result in fans pouring onto Broad Street and climbing greased-up poles. The primes of those stars ended earlier than Phillies fans had hoped. Managers cycled through. Prospects flamed out. Apathy had set in for a decade. The Phillies took what felt like a permanent back seat in the Philadelphia sports hierarchy. 

I returned to Citizens Bank Park for a playoff Phillies game for the first time in 11 years earlier this month. It had been over 4,000 days in between postseason games down in South Philly, but I was in attendance as Rhys Hoskins spiked his bat and sent the crowd into a frenzy. It was the loudest I had ever heard CBP and this is coming from a dude who was there for both halves of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. The vibes for this team screamed, "champions."

I was able to buy two tickets to the NLCS last week. The only game available was Game 5. It was an easy "Phillies in five" prediction for me then. That was fate. I was going to be in the ballpark and watch a team that was, just a month ago, "the same ol' Phillies," not just march into the World Series, but kick down the door with frat boy anthems blasting on their way. 

The plan was coming together. The Phillies had the 3-1 series lead. I hung out in the infamous Jetro Lot for a few hours before the game, made sure I was geared up with a Phils rain jacket from Mitchell & Ness, and made my way into the stadium with my fiancé. 

That was the kicker for me. I associate the Phillies so much in my head with being a kid, going to games with my dad at the Vet or CBP or later on going and hanging out with my friends in high school for day games. For a sport that's inherently nostalgic, it gets heightened to another level for me. Now, I'm an adult. I felt like the luckiest guy on the face of the planet walking into the stadium to write about the Phillies, as my job, with my fiancé Ashley, who I met in outrageous fashion at the Eagles Super Bowl parade

This isn't a situation where I'd say to her, "Imagine telling us when we first met almost five years ago that we'd be going to a game where the Phillies make the World Series." Imagine telling us that three weeks ago! What an agonizing group they'd been this season. It's been a whirlwind. It was a whirlwind at Citizens Bank Park, as a rainy, cloudy and windy day made for less-than-ideal baseball weather. Hey, the last time I went to a rainy Phils postseason game, things worked themselves out. 

I'm sure some people will find it disgusting that I enjoy this beer, but nothing says summer to me like drinking a Bud Light Lime at a hot Phillies game. I don't like it in any other setting than that. But when it's 90 degrees out and the Phils are on? It's heavenly. Yesterday was a terrible day to drink a "Blime," as my friends have jokingly taken to calling them, but, hey, I may never find myself in a Phillies NLCS game ever again. I needed to have one. It was warm and kind of terrible for the last third of the 25-ounce beer, but it meant something deeper to me. 

When Ash and I got to our seats after I bought my Blime, we were sitting next to a father and son. The kid was probably in early high school. He, of course, reminded me of my younger self. I doubt he even remembers the team winning the World Series in 2008. At one point after we were cheering and high-fiving and living it up with 45,000 of our new best friends, I turned to him and said, "I was your age the last time this team was good. Soak it up because you'll think about today for the rest of your life." 

 I was the guy trying to tell him he was in "the good ol' days" before he actually left them. 

I know I'm going to think about Bryce Harper's two-run, eighth-inning home run forever. I'll think about going numb until I 100 percent saw that ball land in the left field stands before screaming my head off and hugging my fiancé with tears running down my face as I called my dad so he could hear what the stadium sounded like in one of the greatest moments in Philly sports history. 

After an all-time win, I headed back to Jetro. I met up with my best friend Mike and we popped a couple of bottles of champagne. I then wound up in a "Dancing On My Own" mosh pit with a bunch of strangers. 

Where the hell else in the universe would you rather be than Philadelphia? 

Savor this, Philadelphians. At some point, your favorite team will no longer be good and there won't be these constant parties. All you'll be left with is a supercut of those high highs. Players come and go, but the memories of being in the stands with your friends and family while celebrating never leave you. 

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