My son attended his first Phillies game at 6 weeks old and each April since, we’ve celebrated his birthday at the ballpark.
Elliot and I love everything about those trips, from the taste of the hotdogs to the boundless optimism marking the start of a new season. It is his—and my— favorite tradition.
Elliot turns 10 this week and, despite the stress of homeschooling three kids, fretting over my grandmother’s health, and trying to keep a small business running, I am most anxious about disappointing my boy.
He’s been looking forward to our annual pilgrimage since Christmas. The week before his birthday he tells me, “Dad, I know we can’t go to a game this year. It’s okay.”
The look that follows is a punch to my gut. It is also the moment I decide, pandemic or not, we are going.
Elliot’s brother and sister are all in on my plan. In fairness, they are usually on “Team Dad” when it comes to ambitious half-baked ideas. My wife, more discerning, pushes for details. But, that’s okay; I’m used to plowing ahead with neither the details fully sorted nor her enthusiastic approval.
Game day arrives. My crew (ages 8 and 5) and I are busy prepping while Elliot waits, unaware of our plan, in his room. I holler for him to put on his Harper jersey and Phillies hat, adding to his confusion.
My perfectionist daughter has taken things to the next level, setting up a security check at the entrance to our living room and insisting I empty my pockets before examining our tickets.
We settle into our seats and it’s a sell-out crowd. The furry guy next to me wears a baseball glove but no pants. It’s Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, the game that Elliot once told me he wished he could attend more than any other.
1st Inning: My 5-year-old starts whining relentlessly for ice cream in a helmet. We’re only on the second batter of the game. I give in. This is even more like the real thing than I thought it would be.
2nd Inning: It’s Dollar Dog Night! I pass money down the row but when my hot dogs come back, one is missing a bite. I try to order a beer and the vendor, who looks underage, tells me she is going to need “more bucks.” I protest, but also, this seems fair.
3rd Inning: Here comes the Phanatic… in the middle of the inning?! He stops directly in front of the screen, prompting the older two kids to yell at the 5-year-old who is pushing the Batmobile doubling as the Phanatic’s four-wheeler.
5th Inning: I forgot how big Ryan Howard is and how raptly his every at-bat holds my attention. My wife looks up from her book to say wistfully, “Look at Cole Hamels. His hair flows in the wind.”
6th Inning: The Rays tie it and my son angrily throws his popcorn. I’m both annoyed at the mess and proud of his passion. I realize that time has not softened my view that Joe Buck (calling the game) is rooting against the Phils.
7th Inning: Chase Utley fires home for a clutch out! I love Harper, Hoskins and Nola… but Chase will always be “The Man.”
9th Inning: Brad Lidge throws strike three and we erupt with the glory of being World Champions of Baseball! It’s a pile on, both on the field and in my living room.
My kids crawl sleepily into bed and my wife smiles at our boy. I hug him tightly as he whispers, “I love you, Dad. That was the best game I’ve ever been to.”
Me too, son.
Mike Wang shares a South Philadelphia row home with his wife and three opinionated kids, all of whom are devout Phillies fans. He’s a firm believer that great fans have long memories, sometimes boo and always show up… and that roast pork is superior to cheesesteaks.