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The Great American Ballpark Tour: Citizens Bank Park Review [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
May 26th, 2010 by Dan

Citizens Bank Park facade

Home of the (evil) Philadelphia Phillies

Believe it or not, I didn’t always hate the Phillies. One of my earliest baseball memories is watching Darren Daulton in the 1993 World Series, don’t ask me why that name sticks out, but it just does. I was even on a little league team that took the name Phillies (even though I desperately wanted to play on the Marlins). My childhood hatred was mostly directed toward the Atlanta Braves, the most dominant team in the NL East, and baseball in general, throughout the 90s. It wasn’t until I was in college that I began hating the team, mostly due to a co-worker’s insane degree of love for the Phils. Now that I live in Maryland, the proximity of the state of Pennsylvania doesn’t help things either, meaning I have to deal with fans of Philadelphia teams all year round. Couple in their bad fan reputation and their winning ways the past five years and you’ve got yourself genuine hatred for the division rivals.

Phillie Phanatic on the wall of Citizens Bank Park

The face of evil?

All that preamble just to say that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to going to Citizens Bank Park. I decided that I would wear my Marlins jersey to the park, but I was genuinely worried that I’d have to weather insults, jeers, thrown beer, or possibly worse. I mean, three days before I was set to visit the park, a fan was arrested for vomiting on an off-duty police officer and his children. I had no idea what I was in for, but after coming out of it alive, I’ll begrudgingly admit that Citizens Bank Park is one of the nicest parks I’ve ever been to.

Center Field at Citizens Bank Park

The batter's eye is really nice looking.

Like all ballparks designed after Camden Yards, CBP (as it will be abbreviated from here on out) was designed with that faux-retro aesthetic in mind. It means lots of brick, lots of open spaces in the concourses, and plenty of sight lines pointed toward the plate. When you’ve got a nice, historic organization like the Phillies, you can afford to go this route. I think that’s the chief reason why Nationals Park stands out among its peers. The team had no real history, so there was no reason to call back to the olden days of the Senators (although they probably should have). Philadelphia’s park features statues of Phillies greats scattered throughout the entire park, a restaurant dedicated to Harry Kalas, and whole regions, like Ashburn Alley, named for the organization’s greats.

Ashburn Alley

I always want to call it Crashburn Alley because of the Phillies blog with that name.

It’s an unspoken rule that all of the new ballparks need some kind of gimmick to make them stand out, architecturally, from their peers. Camden Yards has the warehouses, Citi Field has the Ebbets Field rotunda, Nationals Park has that weird, circular scoreboard, and CBP achieves this with a giant, replica Liberty Bell beyond center field. Whenever a home run is hit by the home team, the Liberty Bell actually rings, kind of like the Big Apple that rises out of the outfield after Mets home runs. It’s a neat little quirk that does give the park some flavor.

Liberty Bell at Citizens Bank Park

This one is cracked too?! What are the odds?!

Another little visual thing that I love are the flower planters along the left field wall. There’s not much more to say about them other than that they’re very pretty and add much needed color to the otherwise dominant red and green in the park.

Flowers in right field at Citizens Bank Park

I like flowers. So what.

Also like other new ballparks, a lot of CBP’s food options are actually local restaurants. There is a Chickie’s & Pete’s stand, one local cheesesteak restaurant is rotated into the park each year, and the ice cream comes from the local Turkey Hill Dairy. Unlike some other parks, CBP has a super liberal policy about food from outside the park. So long as there’s no glass, they’ll allow it in the ballpark. I saw a guy who was bringing in three boxes of pastries. The people sitting next to me pulled out sandwiches from a local deli, an entire bag of potato chips, and drinks to go with their meal. I’d like to see more blue collar policies like this with respect to out of park food. Sure, you lose a few sales at the concessions, but you earn so much goodwill I think it’s worth it. I wish I’d known how liberal their policy was, I had a whole cheesesteak hidden in my pockets.

Chickie's & Pete's at Citizens Bank Park

I didn't know I was supposed to try the Crab Fries here. Next time, I guess.

This year Nationals Park started having a starting nine group of children come out before the players to add some local flavor and help introduce the team. I saw the same thing in Japan a few times, but in Japan and at CBP, they intelligently have the players each come out holding a baseball. When they reach their tiny counterparts, they sign the ball, give it to the kid, and then the kids leave the field after the National Anthem plays. Everyone loves kids. This is always a success no matter where I see it done.

Kids at Citizens Bank Park

Like all other ballparks, they grab (cheap) local talent to do things like sing the National Anthem.

No article about CBP is complete without mentioning the most ostentatious feature of the ballpark, the Phillie Phanatic. The green monstrosity is one of the more controversial mascots in baseball. His antics have made a few enemies, most notably Tommy Lasorda, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they’re mostly harmless pranks that seem to go a few steps beyond what mascots in any ballpark would do. It’s the kind of thing that fits the city of Philadelphia and their team aesthetic well and it’s insanely funny 99% of the time. In the one game I witnessed, I watched him mock Marlins players throwing, attack the Marlins broadcaster, get shoved by Hanley Ramirez, steal fan caps, mess up countless people’s hair, and ride all around in his little car. He’s a pretty cool mascot, even if he is evil.

Phillie Phanatic speeding along

This is my absolute favorite picture that I got of this evil bastard.

Citizens Bank Park is a great place to see a game, what can I say? The fan base is passionate and devoted to the team, the park is nice and new, and they have great food policies. They’re also ridiculously close to Maryland, so if you’re a local reader, you really should just pop up there if you’re interested. I was there and back before midnight after the game.

Gaby Sanchez on the Citizens Bank Park scoreboard

Another reason I'm sure I loved this park: Check out the Marlins score right now. This gap did not appreciably close all night.


4 Responses  
  • Eric Mesa writes:
    May 28th, 201015:51at

    Perfect review. I like the liberty bell idea. You get 2-for-1 with me commenting on here and on flickr!

    • Dan writes:
      May 28th, 201016:09at

      I almost didn’t get to see it ring because of the anemic Phillies offense that day.

  • Lance Enchainte writes:
    January 28th, 201123:18at

    The Liberty Bell also rings after each victory. Obviously, since you didn’t see them win, you did not experience this.

    Also, they have a tendency to play “High Hopes” over the loud speakers after a game now, in honor of Harry Kalas. It wasn’t something that started in his years here, but something started after his death. It adds a real nice feeling to the end of the game. My friend, who is a Braves fan, after witnessing his team lose a close 1-0 game (Oswalt vs. Hanson) at CBP, while a bit down-trodden from an unspectacular offensive display by the Braves, was singing it on the way out.

    Don’t need to be a fan of the Phillies to enjoy a ballgame at this park (but it sure helps!)

    • Dan writes:
      February 3rd, 201116:38at

      I don’t know if I remember them playing “High Hopes”, but I think it would have been nice.

      I liked CBP. I’ll probably be back again when the Marlins head to Philadelphia in 2011.


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