In 2008 the sports landscape in Philadelphia changed for me. A new sense of pride and accomplishment.
People were excited to go to Phillies games again and the sale of Phillies tickets and merchandise were through the roof locally. One championship season is all that it took to have a place in Philadelphia’s hearts for ever.
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I was there through the pain. I watched Pat Combs being labeled as the next great pitcher for the team. I sat in center field as Rickey Otero tried to get base hits, and Steve Jeltz tried to make clean plays at shortstop. Free agent signings such as Gregg Jefferies and David Bell were big stories back then. The only year that gave me a little taste of victory was 1993 and in that year the Phils lost the World Series in the worst possible wa, with a Joe Carter walk off home run.
That was then. This is now. Five straight division titles and a chance to go back to the World Series for the third time in four years, could happen this year. Free agents like Cliff Lee want to come to Philadelphia. Jimmy Rollins has been playing Gold Glove shortstop for the entire run and Shane Victorino is not having much trouble getting on base.
Many things led to the Phillies becoming so successful. The 2008 team was built mostly from the farm system. Top prospects such as Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels became leaders on a team that many believed would never be considered elite. They grew on the field and off of the field and after progressing up the ladder, first to making the playoffs, then to winning a playoff series, and finally winning the World Series.
It is well documented that the Phillies have a history of losing, so the fact that they have turned themselves around should serve as a realistic example for many of the teams in baseball that are always ALMOST there. Teams such as the Nationals, Pirates, and Royals could make similar moves in the next few years if their prospects turn into what many people believe they are.
Now is the time for us to look and see what the future may hold. September call-ups give the entire baseball community a chance to judge, critique and yes, sometimes even badmouth prospects. Don’t look at the end of this year as a negative if your team isn’t in the division or wild-card races. You may be looking at some of the members of the next unexpected championship team and maybe five years from now you will be as proud and thankful as I am now.