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“There’s the Phanatic Daddy!”

It was Brandon’s first time in the stadium, but the smile on his face as he pointed to the furry green mascot driving his four-wheeler on the field was priceless. It reminded me that a 2-hour rain delay couldn’t dampen the excitement of the first time my 4-year-old stepped foot inside a stadium.

Brandon in the Souvenir storeIn recent months, Brandon and I spent numerous nights before bedtime watching games and learning about baseball. Noticing how we were enjoying watching together, my wife surprised me for Father’s Day with 2 tickets, so Brandon and I could experience the fun of baseball in person as a father and son.

For weeks leading up to the game, Brandon would run through his regular list of questions with me, including “Where will we sit?” and “Do they have bathrooms to go potty?” and the most important, “Will we see my friend the Phanatic?” Those questions continued on our drive to South Philly, and when Brandon asked, “How big is the stadium?” I was able to point from the bridge for his first glimpse. “Wow Daddy, that is ginormous!”

Then Brandon asked who took me to my first game. For the first time since my Dad passed away months ago, that question gave me the chance to really talk to Brandon, without being emotional, about his Poppy. I was able to tell him about how we went to games together and how my Dad taught me about sports growing up as a young boy, just like I was doing with him.

As we parked, Brandon’s attention shifted back to the stadium and I heard him say, “I want to head in now and check this place out.” Once inside, we had more time than I anticipated thanks to a 2-hour rain delay, so we walked around the concourse. Brandon’s eyes were wide, pointing out each detail he noticed, asking for an explanation of what he was seeing and reacting to the stimulus overload of the sights and sounds he was experiencing for the first time.

We continued walking and came upon the gift shop. Brandon’s eyes widened further at the sight of the hats, jerseys, shirts, stuffed animals and other toys that were all Phillies themed. It was a tough decision for a 4-year-old, whether to get a big Phanatic stuffed animal to add to his collection, or a furry green Phanatic hat. Instead of choosing one or the other, he looked up with the hat on his head, as well as a stuffed animal in his hands and said, “Daddy can I have both of them? And can we get something for Adam too?”

After loading up with gifts and souvenirs, we went over to get some ice cream in a mini helmet. I had told Brandon how I still have some of the helmets I got when I was younger, so to carry on the tradition probably means more for me, but doesn’t ice cream just taste better in a helmet? We got chocolate ice cream to share, but as I put my spoon in, Brandon said, “This is for me Daddy, what did you get for yourself?”

We walked from the concourse deck up to the 400 level, watching airplanes fly into the airport, trying the elevator and taking his first escalator trip along the way. We logged over 18,000 steps.

Finally making our way to the seats when the rain stopped, we watched the grounds crew pull the tarp off and line the field. “Daddy, can you make the lines straight like that in the driveway?” Brandon asked as the chalk went down to prepare the playing field. And then just before first pitch, with all of the pre-game festivities finished, he looked up at me and shouted, “Play ball!”

Leaving the game at the end of a long and fulfilling day, I asked Brandon what his favorite part of the game was (besides the Phanatic, recognizing everything else would take a back seat to the green guy). “Seeing the game with you, just like you did with your Daddy.” It was the perfect ending to an experience I’ve waited for my whole life.

August 2021
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