It was eerily quiet at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday night.
A stadium that has seen 210 consecutive regular season sellouts for its usual tenant, the Philadelphia Phillies, was just a sea of empty blue chairs.
The small group of fans who came to support Penn and St. Joseph’s in the Liberty Bell Classic final were kept in the few sections behind home plate.
From the press box, a level above home plate, you couldn’t even see the crowd.
Yet, when I went down the media elevator onto the concourse during the fifth inning, the few sections where the crowd was contained were electric.
On a perfect spring evening, a strong group of students, friends and family came out to support the Quakers.
Some Penn students were casually chatting amongst themselves and others were glued to the game, but almost all were decked out in their Red and Blue.
Students, who would probably look utterly confused if you asked them where Meiklejohn Stadium was, had made the trek down the Broad Street Line to Citizens Bank Park to take in a Penn baseball game.
One of the best scenes I witnessed while sitting among the fans was when a Penn senior ran to get a foul ball — beating out two little kids to take home the souvenir.
Though the Quakers couldn’t secure their first-ever Liberty Bell Classic Championship, it was a great night to just appreciate the rich tradition of Philadelphia college sports.
Though college baseball obviously doesn’t have the same reputation here as basketball, there was something special about watching college players relish in the opportunity to play in a major league ballpark — and for us writers to have a chance to cover a game at the same venue.
The players got their names on the enormous video board, just as the major leaguers do.
Both the Penn and St. Joe’s pitchers were warming up together in the bullpen.
One of the most exciting moments came in the third inning, though at Penn’s expense — St. Joe’s Greg Kumpel hit a two-run homerun just over the left-field wall. Despite putting Penn in a 2-0 hole, watching a college player hit a homerun in a major league ballpark energized the crowd.
The Phillies may get the majority of Philadelphia’s baseball fans — most have probably never heard of the Liberty Bell Classic.
But Tuesday night, the Penn and St. Joe’s players reveled in a bit of the great atmosphere that Phillies players experience every night they play at Citizens Bank Park.
For guys like Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, playing there is just part of the daily routine.
But for these college athletes, their friends and families — and college journalists like me — this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
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