Philadelphia fanatics gather on Opening Day

Hi’s Eye heads to Citizens Bank Park to see how Phillies fans are feeling about 2019


Photo Jared Greenspan

Hopeful fans flock into Citizens Bank Park, eager to watch their new-look Phillies for the first time in 2019.

It was a picture-perfect afternoon for Opening Day, with warm temperatures combining with clear blue skies at Citizens Bank Park. Thousands of fans of all ages gathered in their red and white uniforms, ready to cheer on their Philadelphia Phillies in game 1 of a 162-game journey.

To say that the atmosphere was electric would be an understatement. Whether it was on the subway ride to the stadium or on the line to enter the stadium gates, cheers were sung, fists were bumped and high-fives were exchanged, everyone a part of the same happy family. There seemed to be a surge of optimism and excitement in the air that was infectious to anyone who entered it, even those stuck waiting on the endless entrance lines.

Dorothy and Kathy, Phillies fans since 1964, said it was a typical Opening Day. “The atmosphere is always like a carnival,” Dorothy said. “We come every year and it’s always fun on Opening Day, rain or shine.”
Yet beyond plain optimism, there was an extra layer of confidence and bravado permeating the fan base. The Phillies had just capped an eventful offseason which saw them add all-stars JT Realmuto, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen, along with the biggest fish in the free agent pond, Bryce Harper. Nothing epitomizes the brash buoyancy more so than the banner featuring Harper that draped the entrance: “It’s On, Philly.”

Harper-mania was in full effect, the fans embracing the signing to the tune of countless Harper jerseys and even cardboard cut-outs of Harper’s head. “It’s the ‘Bryce is right’ now, not the ‘price is right,’” said Bobbie Holliday, a Phillies fan conducting a vlog outside the stadium. “I’m happy. Right now it’s dope, all this good energy.”

John, who was born into his Philadelphia sports fandom, added: “There’s just a lot of hope and optimism heading into this year, more so than we’ve had the past couple of years. The Phillies have brought a buzz back to spring ball, something we haven’t had in a little bit. The city is rejuvenated.”

The Harper signing, according to Daniel, a lifelong Phillies fan, will have an astronomical impact on the city’s sports culture, with Harper ascending to grandee status.
“For Philadelphians, there’s a part of you that identifies with your sports teams, your sports heros, and I think that’s why the Harper thing is huge,” he said. “People are looking for their next hero, especially with the Phillies, to take them to the next level.”

The offseason acquisitions, coupled with the young nucleus of players the Phillies already had intact, have most fans expecting playoffs down the road. The Phillies have not made the postseason since 2011 so the fan base is craving a return to October baseball.

“We want to see 2008 all over again,” said Matt, referencing the year the Phillies won their second World Series. “We were here for ‘08, now we’re here for ‘19. The team’s got to build from here, but it’s definitely playoffs-or-bust.”

While the less-optimistic takes were few and far between, some expressed concerns over how the team would mesh under manager Gabe Kapler and how the back end of the rotation would shape up behind aces Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Still, if Opening Day made anything clear, the self-described dedicated, passionate, loving (but wild) Phillies fan base is gearing up for a return to baseball prominence.