My very first time at Veterans Stadium was a memorable one. It was a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1990, or maybe it was ‘91, anyway, the whole family made the trip to South Philly for the event. This wasn't your typical first time at the ballpark though, oh no. What made this trip even more exciting was the fact that, thanks to a friend of my Dad's, we were allowed to go out on the field before the game and check things out from the player's perspective. What more could a kid ask for on his first day at the park?
Once we arrived, the first thing we did was connect with this friend of my Father's so we could get on that famous Vet turf before the professionals took it over for the afternoon. I remember being really excited about the opportunity to not only walk around the field on the day of a game, but also maybe even rub elbows with some of the Phillies players, after all, to a little kid those guys are larger than life and seem like the human equivalent to a comic book super hero. So, when it came time to actually walk through the tunnel leading to the field, the whole experience became very surreal. Walking onto the diamond with my family, it almost felt like you were the center of attention with all those seats completely surrounding you. Even though many of those seats were empty, after all it, was well before the game so people weren't settled in yet, it still felt pretty cool.
The next thing I was aware of, as funny as it may sound, was how weird the Astro Turf felt under my shoes. I don't think I had ever felt fake grass before, so the experience of walking on it caught my attention. Even as a little kid I could tell that that stuff was horrible. Anyway, after I got over the terrible turf, I finally realized whom I was standing in the company of. Not to far away from where we were standing were a handful of Fightin' Phils getting their stretching in before they had to get down to business. The size of the players was something that really blew me away. Being on level ground with them and not just seeing them on TV, it was surprising how much bigger they were compared to my perception from watching at home. The most notable sighting for me was Mickey Morandini as walked around the dugout before disappearing back into the locker room. Closer to our position on the infield turf was Wes Chamberlain, who we would later nickname "Block Head" for reasons most Phillies fans know. I can't remember what he was doing there, maybe stretching, or coming up with a way to screw up in that day's game somehow, but he was standing there nonetheless. My Dad pointed him out and suggested I go say something to him or ask for an autograph, but I suddenly got cold feet and resisted. Looking back, not going up to Wes was probably a great move since I'm pretty sure his crappiness was contagious during his six-year career.
Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, Dad went over to say something to Chamberlain without me. What he said escapes me, but I doubt it was anything of earth shattering importance. Soon after his little meet and greet with Wes, we worked our way back to the tunnel so we could get in our seats in time for the first pitch. I guess the game itself wasn't all that great, because I can't remember anything about it. For me, the game ended on a sour and abrupt note in the sixth inning or so, because my little sister got bored with the game and made us leave. All in all, missing those last few innings didn't make much of a difference. The fact remains that it was still a very memorable and great experience. How many Phans can say that they saw the Vet from an on-field perspective, standing on that plastic grass, before they even sat down in one of the hard plastic seats surrounding it?