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The Phanatics Add to ...

Walking around a jam-packed Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia last week, I couldn't help but wonder: was this what Toronto's SkyDome was like back in the late 1980s and early 90s, when the Blue Jays ruled the baseball world? Was the joint always sold out, and full of rabid fans? I think it was; I hope it was. But to be honest, I don't remember. I turned 10-years-old a month before Mike Timlin tossed the ball to Joe Carter at first base in October 1992, a couple of strides before Atlanta Braves' outfielder Otis Nixon could get to the bag, to make baseball history. While I remember family outings to the ballpark, the atmosphere at the Dome and the game day experience escape me.

This I know: the Phillies faithful were the most passionate I've encountered so far on The Baseball Road Trip Of A Lifetime. Moreso than the Massholes in Boston, and the spoiled New York Yankees fans. (I heard a great line in New York about Yankees fans: "They don't cheer for the Yankees; they cheer for the World Series." Nails!1) Phillies fans were loud, well-behaved (at least they were on Friday night), and 85 per cent of them were decked out in Phillies red and white; everyone was wearing either a T-shirt jersey, or an actual jersey. It was fantastic. Even while their team was getting spanked, Phillies fans were busy enjoying themselves. And they almost kept me out of the ballpark.

The game was sold out. Online and, according to an announcement upon my arrival at Phillies Drive and Citizens Bank Way, at the box office. To my bewilderment, even ticket scalpers were looking to buy, and not sell. I was down to my last resort: a prayer to the baseball Gods. And they continued to heed my calls. After initially saying nothing was available, and then saying a $60 seat was available, the lovely Phillies employee I was speaking with informed me that she'd found one seat in the upper deck right field grandstand, at $23. Sold.

You take what you can get. And, after a conversation with my older brother in Chicago this past weekend (he joined me on one half of the Chicago leg of #TBRTOAL), he reminded me that the same old tune was sang in Toronto back in the day. He recalled how the only tickets we were able to get our hands on at times were in the last row of the 500 section. The last row! Where the air is thinner. Sometimes we even had obstructed view nosebleed seats. But it didn't matter. Because we were going to see Devon White and Dave Winfield. Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor. Jack Morris and Kelly Gruber. John Olerud and Joe Carter. Jimmy Key and Tom Henke. Well, parts of them, at least.

And you know what? Citizens Bank Park should be sold out every night. Because of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins. And Jason Werth, Shane Victorino, and Placido Polanco. And Raul Ibanez, and Jamie Moyer. Okay, fine, not Moyer, but Cole Hamels. And - sigh - Roy Halladay. World Series champions in 2008, and runners-up in 2009, there's something special going down in Philadelphia.

The Same Old Song

Citizens Bank Park delivers all that you expect of a brand new ballpark that opened in 2004; she can't possibly let you down. You'll find her in Philadelphia's South Side stadium complex, across the street from Lincoln Financial Field, where the Philadelphia Eagles break hearts, and both the Wachovia Center and Wachovia Spectrum. Take the Broad Street subway line all the way south to Pattison. It doesn't take long from downtown, or "Center City," as the locals call it; you can't miss her.

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