Phillies fans say: Let the games begin

Abbie Brewer (right) and Libby Morrison (second from right) were among the tailgaters at Citizens Bank Park before the Phillies played the Toronto Blue Jays.
Abbie Brewer (right) and Libby Morrison (second from right) were among the tailgaters at Citizens Bank Park before the Phillies played the Toronto Blue Jays. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 01, 2013

The sun was shining, the fans were decked out in red and white, and the Phillies were losing to the Toronto Blue Jays.

But those at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday for the Phillies' last exhibition game before the regular season begins on Monday retained high hopes for the season to come.

In the tailgating lots outside Lincoln Financial Field, buoyed by the sunny weather, fans said they were feeling optimistic even after a dismal 2012 season.

"We're excited - we're ready to roll," said Tyler Madden, of Stewartstown, Pa., happily grilling hot dogs in Lot K. "We're ready for a rebound for sure."

Though the ballpark was not filled, attendees were enthusiastic. Third baseman Michael Young greeted fans outside the Phanatic Attic, and Ryan Howard drove groups to the third-base gate in a golf cart before the game.

"I'm 100 percent ready to go," Howard said after the game. "As long as we can stay healthy, I think we can do big things. It's not 2012 anymore. It's 2013."

On the Budweiser Rooftop inside the stadium, Doug Henningar squinted at the field. It was the third inning and the Phillies were down, 5-1, but Henningar said he wasn't worried, about this game or the season.

"I think we'll do much better than the Flyers, at least," he said, laughing.

Below, fans milled about on Ashburn Alley and sipped beers as they watched the game. The more fashionable wore furry, bright-green hats shaped like the Phanatic; most stuck to standard red and white.

Jeff Heary, of Chester Springs, wore the hat the team handed out the day Veterans Stadium closed for good. He and his family have been tailgating at games for years, and three generations of Hearys ran in the Phillies 5K last weekend to get their tickets to Saturday's game.

"This season will be awesome; it's the Phillies," he said. "When we do great, it's awesome, and when we don't, it's still fun."

Fans' hopes for the season ranged from the practical to the downright frivolous: that starter Roy Halladay will bounce back from a spring-training stomach virus; that the Phillies will make it to the World Series; that Cole Hamels will keep his new mustache; that "Chase Utley will stay as beautiful as he is," said Emma Morrison, 26, of West Chester.

"If Halladay rebounds, we should be in good shape," said Tom Esterly, 42, who was tailgating with Madden. "A lot of it depends on him."

Across the parking lot, Chris Massicote, 24, was more interested in simple revenge.

"This is the season we beat the Nationals into the ground," he said. "The Mets are meaningless to me now."

Despite a third-inning rally, the Phillies could not best the Blue Jays; they finished with four runs to Toronto's 10. By the top of the ninth inning, swaths of seats in Citizens Bank Park sat empty. But most fans were simply content to be back in their ballpark.

"You can't beat it," Esterly said. "There's sunshine, there's baseball, spring's finally coming around. 'Tis the season."


Contact Aubrey Whelan

at awhelan@philly.com, 610-313-8112, or @aubreyjwhelan on Twitter.

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