Spause: Baseball is back, and so are the ‘phans’

A look at Philadelphia fandom at the Phillies’ home opener.

Brianna Spause
The kiss cam swings around to focus on Jimmy Johnson and Melanie O'Reilly at the Phillies Home Opener on April 8.
The kiss cam swings around to focus on Jimmy Johnson and Melanie O’Reilly at the Phillies Home Opener on April 8. | Brianna Spause TTN

The doors slid open, unleashing a flood of bodies into AT&T Station. Movement quickly became a vicious battle to the top as fans shoved their way off the train, and fumbled up the staircase like zoo animals.

The stampede continued onward, drawing an unmistakable path to Citizens Bank Park.

The beeline of fans dressed in their best Phillies gear functioned as a living, breathing arrow leading to the highly anticipated Opening Day festivities.

Baseball season is back in Philadelphia, a day “Phanatics” count down to all year. Each step closer to the field is one closer to the mania that the city holds a seemingly deserved reputation for. And each step closer to the field gets louder.

As cars whiz down Pattinson Avenue in the mid-afternoon sun, they create a backdrop to the soundtrack of jazzy street musicians and vendors.

“Pretzels! Gatorade! Get your water here!” competitors echoed one another the entire length of the block.

The hot fuss isn’t contained to the streets, however. The stadium was packed with fans determined to get their fill of hot dogs and crab fries without missing a moment, making the subway station look like a playground.

The Phillies were up against the Milwaukee Brewers for the home opener in the warm sunshine on Tuesday, but that wasn’t how it was originally planned. The crowd came out in masses despite the game being rescheduled Monday due to April showers.

Welcome to Philadelphia, folks – where we love our cheesesteaks, our sports teams and our freedom of speech. Being a fan in Philadelphia is an experience all its own. It’s all about the game, and not about the game at all.

“[It’s] a sea of red – everyone is obnoxiously loud and cheery, and that’s totally acceptable and encouraged,” diehard fan from Langhorne, Pa., Alexandra McNamara said. “People become best friends, all supporting our team. We are the most faithful fans of our Philadelphia sports, whether we win or lose.”

And in case you didn’t hear, it was a painful defeat as the Fightin’ Phils chalked up a 10-4 loss in the playbook. It’s the experience that counts at a ballgame, however, not the outcome.

“I would take watching the game in person over being at home any day,” Janet Wyckoff of Bensalem, Pa., said. “I love the aroma of fresh popcorn and feeling the warm sun on your face. It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose. The TV rots your brain anyway.”

You can hole yourself up on the couch with peanuts and cracker jacks at any point throughout the seven-month-long season, but there’s nothing better than a little fresh air and the real thing. In its 10th year, Citizens Bank Park has stepped up its concessions game by adding several gluten-free and vegan options to the menu.

That’s not to say you can’t bacon up your beefy nachos, but now you can just do it with your eco-friendly friends.

Now, baseball is relatively easy to follow. It’s the kind of game that keeps you on the edge of your seat, punching the air for every out – in our favor or not. Take the game downtown to the stadium, and you start scratching your head.

It’s a constant question of who started the booing, why they’re doing it and why it’s so fun to join in. It doesn’t matter if it was a beautiful home run like the one Ryan Braun ripped straight down the middle at the top of the fourth that was greeted with a mad dash for the treasured ball – the boos are unstoppable.

But the crowd didn’t seem to like Braun much anyway. Or at all for that matter. Philadelphia loves a winner, but only when they’re dressed in red pinstripes. And that wasn’t the case of the Brewers’ left fielder, who hit three homeruns – boos – had seven RBIs – more boos – and made defensive play of the game – perhaps the biggest boo of all.

It’s the City of Brotherly Love, not sportsmanship. That’s where the love of the First Amendment plays in.

Philadelphia loves its own fans almost as much as the game.

“Kiss her!” cried out a drunken college-age student as the “Kiss Cam” swung around to Melanie O’Reilly and Jimmy Johnson.

“How embarrassing!” Johnson sputtered out immediately, doing his best to hide his flushed cheeks.

“It was embarrassing, hilarious and fun all at the same time,” O’Reilly said. “It’s the home opener, so why not? I love the energy here all the same.”

“I love baseball, so what’s showing a little love on screen?” Johnson said after shaking off the big-screen shock. “I wait all off-season listening to the MLB radio, and I just couldn’t wait for the season to get started. This was a great way to start it off.”

There’s a lot you can say about Philadelphia fans, granted we did throw snowballs at Santa Clause at an Eagles game in 1968. So we don’t like losing, who does? The Phillies mascot is the Phanatic for a reason.

Making it out to the game is an intense experience – it’s the sun in your eyes during the 7th inning, the moment of anticipation before the umpire yells “safe!” and it’s the accessibility to a crowd with a fierce loyalty to the boys in red that will make anyone a believer.

“It’s an unforgettable and heart-warming experience to be around people that have so much faith in the game, our team, and city,” McNamara said. “I [keep coming] back because it will always be home for me.

It will always be a place where I’ve shared memories with people I love watching a sport that I love.”

Brianna Spause can be reached at

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