“It’s nice to hear the fans in Philly boo the opposing players rather than their own guys.”

Today’s headline is a statement made by Maura as Brewers pitcher Victor Santos issued an intentional walk to Jim Thome, eliciting boos from the 40,000-strong Citizen Bank Ballpark crowd. Maura joined us midafternoon, meeting us at WPRB’s fancy new studios–complete with functional headphones–in a fancy new dorm on the campus of Princeton University. Maura graciously allowed us to take over her weekly radio show for a couple of hours, playing songs and clips from Jim’s baseball playlist and talking about some of the things we’ve seen on the trip. Three different callers who had never before heard Steve Goodman’s “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request” called to find out what it was.

Following the radio show, we met Jim’s aunt and uncle and followed them to the ballpark. Their presence–combined with Maura’s Phillyphilia and everyone’s hatred of Bud Selig–overrode my regional loyalties and caused us to choose to root for the Phillies. It was a good choice, too, because it allowed us to spiritually join the Padilla Flotilla that was out with their banner in deep right. Vicente Padilla did them proud, throwing 8 shutout innings. Victor Santos of the Brewers fared less well, starting strong but absolutely falling apart in a 6-run fifth inning that forced me, for the first time in two years of keeping score, to shift my inning over a column as the Phillies sent twelve men to the plate. Walks will haunt, indeed. The Padilla Flotilla was ecstatic.

Citizens Bank Ballpark was surprisingly pleasant, especially if contrasted with what I’ve heard about Veterans Stadium, recollections of which tend to not be suitable for a family publication like BRPA 2004. It’s a big, new ballpark kind of like all the others, but I like the angularity of its design: the upper decks all have sharp edges and clean breaks between angled sections; the outfield walls run at odd angles to each other rather than curves, and access to the upper decks is via squared-off staircases rather than ramps. Like seemingly all the new parks, the upper deck–where we sat, right behind home–is too far from the plate, but because each of the four decks is only about twenty-five rows high, you’re able to avoid Comiskey-style vertigo.

Citizens Bank Ballpark definitely the biggest footprint of any non-Skydome park we’ve been to, and unlike Skydome, it doesn’t have a hotel inside. Land in way-south Philly must not have been in great demand, because what the team has done (with much, much public money) is build a fairly normal-sized ballpark, then put a large shell around it of wide concourses, staircases, escalators, food stands, a walk of fame, games and such for the easily distracted younger set, and more food stands. Spoiled by Wrigley, I dislike any park where you have to walk a Harold-Washington-library’s-inside-length distance to get to the entrance, but this ballpark didn’t bother me that much, maybe because the concourses felt, perhaps unintentionally, almost separate from the grandstand and field.

There were two other great things in the ballpark that I’d never seen before. On the brick façade just inside the gate, they post the home team’s starting lineup in ten-foot high baseball card photos. And the out of town scoreboard along the low right-field wall was the best I’ve ever seen. It was an old-style (which is the new style) light-bulb scoreboard. The wonderful innovation the Phils feature is to display for each out-of-town game, the current on-base situation (represented by tiny lights on a diamond) and the number of outs in the current inning. For someone like me who spends half the game tracking, say, the Cardinals game, it’s a source of alternating joy and worry.

Following the game, we drove with Maura to a dinky motel off the interstate in Harrisburg to stay the night. Soon after we’d gone to bed, Marvin’s sister-in-law called, twice. First she called and asked for Marvin without identifying herself. Confident that we were Marvin-less, Jim told her she had the wrong number. Minutes later, she called back, at which point Jim politely convinced her that the number Marvin had given her two days ago was the number of a hotel room, and that we, not Marvin, were its rightful occupants. Sleep followed.

We’re 7-0 now and heading to Pittsburgh to see the Cardinals attempt to match last season’s victory total, with 32 games still to go.

Original comments…

Jon Solomon: I was only able to hijack the first 90 minutes of Maura’s show before RealPlayer lost the feed, but I can turn this file into an edited mp3 and upload it somewhere. If FTP codes can be provided, I can even put it on baseballrelated.com! Let me know. Go Cats.

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