Monday, June 01, 2009
The Philadelphia Resolution
"Now, if you really want to make amends," said Charlie Slowes (joking) to Sean Hoff-Events Operations Assistant at Citizens Bank Park, "You would send these two out to the mound and throw out the first pitch in the same outfits they are wearing!!" Sohna and I were in the Visiting Broadcast Booth in Philadelphia. It was Saturday afternoon, May 30th and we were being given a private tour of The Phillies Ballpark. "Can you imagine the response here to that?" Charlie concluded. His radio partner, Dave Jageler, busting out laughing.
The Philadelphia Resolution was taking place.
Just a short time earlier, at 5:02PM, The African Queen and I had walked inside a baseball park we figured might not ever be on our agenda again. At the request of The Philadelphia Phillies Baseball Club, we were back as guests for two of this weekend's three game series with Our Washington Nationals. A culmination of a long, drawn out process which began last September 27th. The very day The Phillies clinched The National League East title in South Philadelphia. The afternoon which resulted in probably one of the most famous post ever here on Nats320.
The treatment Sohna and I received from Philly's Fanatics that afternoon was uncalled for and out of control. So was the response by Security and Philadelphia Police. And we let The Philadelphia Phillies Baseball Club know--in no uncertain terms--how we felt about it in a letter to ownership.
As the 2008 World Series began last fall, The Phillies did contact us, saying they were horrified over the incident, would get back to us and find a proper resolution. Then an even more high profile saga occurred when Philadelphia's Fans were again involved in taunting and abusing Tampa Bay Rays family members during Game 3 of The World Series at Citizens Bank Park.
Major League Baseball stepped in and had serious discussions over security and safety issues at The Phillies' Ballpark. The fact that more visiting fans were upset and now feared coming to Philly needed a response. Eric Tobin, The Director of Event Operations at Citizens Bank Park later telling us that The Phillies did respond. And there were no more serious incidents in The World Series at Philadelphia. Major League Baseball has been, reportedly, happy with the improvements made in South Philadelphia.
A few months back, Mr. Tobin contacted me to gauge the interest in Sohna and I returning to Philadelphia for any series involving Our Washington Nationals in 2009. Our choice, pick the games, and The Phillies would not only make every effort to make the visit enjoyable, but they would go over with us many of the security issues the team has implemented at Citizens Bank Park--for EVERYBODY'S safety. Originally, The African Queen didn't want to go. It took some prodding and The Promise from The Phillies--we would be safe.
"Whether you are a Nationals Fan, A Yankees Fan, A Mets Fan or a Red Sox Fan--a fan of any team," stated Eric Tobin. "You have the right to come to our ballpark and feel safe while cheering for your team. No one should fear coming here."
So we agreed and drove to South Philadelphia Saturday morning. We arrived at Citizens Bank Park wearing the exact same outfits we wore that September 27th Day. Our Washington (Block Lettering) Gray Away Jerseys and "DC" Blue with Red Trim Caps. The beginning of a two-day event. A private tour was in the works, including a complete overview of security procedures at The Philadelphia Phillies Ballpark.
The entire experience was strange at first, because we were sort of living inside the fish bowl. Employees at The Ballpark knew why we were there. Case in point, during Sunday's game, I got up in the 3rd inning to get Sohna something to eat and immediately one of the ushers in our section came running over to make sure no one was bothering us. We actually appreciated that. Later, a Phillies Season Ticket Holder sitting just to our left mentioned how he was aware of our story from last fall. "There was a lot of talk about it on the local radio talk shows," he said. And how ashamed he was that we were physically abused.
"I am glad that you guys came back to give us a second chance," he remarked. "It's those terrible 1%, the drunken fools, who act like jerks that embarrasses every single one of us. We are all not bad, it's just a few, and they need to be stopped. Please come back again. It's says a lot about your character to return here."
Of course that didn't stop this one 10-Year Old kid from repeating over and over again as we got out of our car in the parking lot earlier from screaming: "Nationals Suck!! Nationals Suck!! AND YOU SUCK TOO!!" while his parents stood by laughing. We just ignored them. Some are just never going to change.
Nor with this one adult, walking with his two youngsters. Upon seeing us wearing "Washington" Gear immediately gets in our face and yells out "BOOOOOO!!" Sohna fires back: "That's a really fine example you are setting for your children." The man immediately shuts up.
We found out The Phillies provide their own private, in-house security. They don't contract out to another company, like CSC at Nationals Park. In most every aisle in every section of Citizens Bank Park there are two ushers positioned. Supervisors are all linked together via a communications system that can send security and police immediately to areas of the ballpark where there are problems. And if anyone breaks the law, those perpetrators will be cited with a court summons right there inside the ballpark.
"We are not going to kick someone out of the ballpark and just let them go, that won't deter anyone from coming back and doing the same thing again," stated Eric Tobin. "There are ballpark rules and there is public law. If anyone breaks the law they are going to leave here knowing they are in trouble."
But what about our incident which got totally out of control?
Eric Tobin emphasized their ushers are told NOT TO BE TIMID. Letters written to The Phillies about incidents at the ballpark are read to staff as a learning tool. If any usher hears fans cursing, swearing, being vulgar or starting a fight--each must step in immediately to quell the situation or call in security. Intensive training is conducted dealing with nasty fans. There is even a phone number announced on the CBP Video Board early in the game so fans who are uncomfortable with someone sitting around them can call. The number goes directly to security at the ballpark and help will be sent to that patron's section. Fans involved with unruly behavior that are season ticket holders can now have their ticket privileges revoked.
On Saturday night, two fans down the leftfield line got into fisticuffs while trying to each catch a foul ball. A huge legion of security and Philadelphia Police posted up almost immediately. And in our Section 130 that evening, two male fans were ejected for cursing at a female patron. It didn't take long for security to move in and haul the unruly guys away. There is a color coded alarm system carried remotely by supervisors at the ballpark. One button alerts medical, others security and police. The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team first starting using the paging service at their NFL Games. The Phillies followed suit. Our Washington Nationals have a similar system in place at Nationals Park.
"There is going to be bad behavior in every ballpark," believes Sean Hoff. "Citizens Bank Park is not the exception, so it bothers me when I hear how it's always Philadelphia's Fans. We've had some issues but every ballpark has problems as well." Mr. Hoff saying that during The World Series last year while The Phillies were playing at Tampa Bay, there was a battery throwing incident provoked by Rays' fans."
"It's our responsibility to be proactive and calm down these issues before they escalate," says Eric Tobin. The Phillies have some passionate fans, he believes, but some take that dedication too far and it turns to anger at times, which must be contained. "There is no reason why you two or anyone else can't come to Citizens Bank Park and enjoy a baseball game here," he concluded.
On Saturday night, Sohna and I sat in Section 130, directly behind The Nationals 3rd Base Dugout, 17 rows from the field--completely surrounded by Phillie Fans. On Sunday, in Section 125, Row 27 (which is actually the first row--above Citizens Bank Park's Diamond Club Entrance) right behind home plate. Just to our left were the Family & Friends of Our Washington Nationals--who turned out to be just about the ONLY other people seen rooting for Washington all weekend. One 12 year old child walked past Sohna and I this weekend and said to his dad: "Look!! They do have some fans--two of them!!" The boy went on to tell Sohna that he and his father did not see anyone else all day wearing Nationals Gear. On Saturday, we ran into five other Nats Fans total. Remarkable actually--how few Washington Fans were in attendance.
Funny moment--when Josh Willingham hit his first home run on Sunday--we start to cheer. This young lady to Sohna's right looks over and says: "I didn't know I was sitting next to The ENEMY!!" She was serious, but it was hilarious.
Hesitant at first, we were glad we decided to take The Phillies up on their offer to visit this weekend. Sohna and I had contact with Philly staff that can make things happen. They listened to our concerns and were open to suggestion. Its pleasing to know that Citizens Bank Park is still evolving in their quest to make attending a Phillies Game--for any visiting fan--a safe one. No, it's probably never going to be perfect and incidents are going to happen, but we do understand CBP Staff is trying.
Both Eric Tobin and Sean Hoff were good hosts this weekend. They were genuinely concerned about how we were treated the last time we visited their ballpark and each wanted to assure us it was safe to return as a visiting fan to Citizens Bank Park. Of course, the real test of The Philadelphia Resolution will come if we return unannounced wearing Our Washington Nationals Gear and the subsequent reaction we get from The Philadelphia Phillies Fans. At least we now know who to contact directly on the scene--if there are any further problems.
Thanks Guys For Leading Us Around This Weekend--it was very much appreciated. Too bad Our Washington Nationals couldn't win any of the games though.
Now About That Tour-It Was Good
Before each game this weekend The African Queen and I were given special tours around Citizens Bank Park. Sean Hoff taking us to The Executive Offices of The Phillies where we were given the pleasure of viewing the 1980 and 2008 World Series Championship Trophy's given to Philadelphia by The Commissioner Of Baseball for winning two championships. Inside these offices, a plethora of memorabilia was on display. Historic Uniforms from seasons' past, the covers of every single yearbook published by the team. Autographed bats, baseballs and cards from throughout the long history of The Philadelphia Phillies. And a private Executive Dining Room for Ownership and Executives from Visiting Teams.
In Citizens Bank Park's version of Club & Suite Level--a mini Hall Of Fame Museum displaying some absolutely terrific stuff. Vintage chair from Connie Mack Stadium, historical documents from both The Philadelphia Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies. A tribute to Major League Stars from the Philadelphia Area. And wonderful paintings of Philly's Finest from Dick Perez--the long time artist of The Baseball Hall Of Fame & Museum.
Club Level itself pretty spacious with wide walkways, plenty of food options and walls designed with Official Major League Baseballs--thousands of them. Like The PNC Diamond Club at Nationals Park, the bars adorned with official Louisville Slugger Baseball Bats.
The top premium service at Citizens Bank Park is Diamond Club, seating in the first 20 rows behind home plate. Similar to Presidents Club at Nationals Park with views down into the indoor batting cages, ticket holders in the first few rows in Philadelphia have access to a sit down upscale meal, regular ballpark food--all you can eat--and even FREE ALCOHOL & LIQUOR (not sure it there is a quantity limit on beverages). Other patrons seated in Diamond Club can pay extra for food and drink on an as you go basis. This place was nice, spacious and well thought out.
"It never fails to amuse me how popular Diamond Club is during a rain delay!" stated Eric Tobin. Sohna and I just laughed because we've seen a similar effect whenever its rains at Nationals Park in The Stars & Stripes Club and Presidents Club.
Of course while in The Press Box, we had to go over and visit The Boys Of Summer. Charlie & Dave were preparing for the game, but took time out to chat with us for about 10 minutes. We also ran into Pete McElroy from MASN, Chico Harlan from The Washington Post and Mark Zuckerman from The Washington Times.
The Lower Level Suites at Citizens Bank Park are accessed via a walkway/catwalk just above the main concourse. What's really nice about the concourse are these wonderful gigantic pictures of The Phillies Players hung from the rafters. They really stand out. We wouldn't mind seeing something similar at Nationals Park in the coming years. Great for photo taking.
After Sunday's Game ended, we took the opportunity to walk over to Ashburn Alley to take in the The Phillies Wall Of Fame and their historical Memory Lane located in Centerfield. With the sellout crowd thinning out, it gave us the opportunity to view the offerings.
Sohna and I really liked the Richie Asburn Statue. In fact, all of the monuments resurrected to remember Philadelphia's Finest Baseball Players--Mike Schmidt, Robin Roberts, Connie Mack, Steve Carlton--all larger than life and simply done--preserving the heritage without getting fancy or avant-garde.
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