I was reminded of the disappointment during a recent visit to Citizens Bank Park. While scouting locations for a photo shoot, I came across a lineup card hanging on the wall inside the press box. Each night, the team displays the starting players for both teams along with the umpires on a dry erase board for members of the media. On this particular blustery day in February, the board still carried the names featured in Game 5 of the National League Division Series from last October. The attendance was 46,530, the time of game was just under two-and-a-half hours, and the Phillies lost 1-0.
It seemed strange for this painful memory to be displayed, but I quickly learned that the team keeps the final game of the previous season on the board until Opening Day rolls around the following April. Rather than revisit the past, however, it helped jumpstart my countdown to the promise of a new season.
This year, as with most, it comes with some fresh faces. The biggest of the bunch would be Jonathan Papelbon, the rock star relief pitcher who signed a record contract with the Phillies during the offseason. We knew Papelbon’s arrival would mean big things for the team and that’s why we immediately set our sights on him to be our April cover feature.
In the midst of spring training in Clearwater, Papelbon posed for pictures and sat down to talk with us about everything from his excitement around joining the Phillies to the rush he gets from being thrust into pressure-packed situations. He is a fiery competitor who should do great things in red pinstripes, and our conversation made me hungry for baseball’s return.
If all goes according to plan, while sitting in the stands at the home opener, I’ll get my first look at Papelbon on the Citizens Bank Park mound when he is called upon late in the game to cement a Phillies victory. It won’t completely erase last year’s frustration, but it will be a start. A fresh start.
Peter J. Proko
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 1 (April, 2012).
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