Juan Pierre didn’t just start in left field before last night’s exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
An hour before the contest, the veteran base stealer was hanging with young fans at the Phillies “Run The Bases” area in the Phillie’s Fun Zone just off of Bull’s BBQ at Citizens Bank Park.
Is this what Pierre had to do to make the club?
“I don’t think so, but who knows,” Rob Harrington of Fairless Hills said while chuckling. “I think what they’re doing is great for the fans.”
What the Phillies did as the gates opened was surprise fans with guest appearances by their favorites at various spots in the ballpark. Charlie Manuel managed a ticket booth at the first base gate. He immediately discovered that filling out a lineup card is easier than dealing with a ticket mishap.
Kelly Leyenaar, of Mays Landing, lost her tickets.
“I think they [the tickets] were thrown in the trash, which is something Charlie probably didn’t want to hear,” she said. “But he laughed about it. It was a shocker seeing him there [behind the glass]. It was a good way to start the season.”
Fans couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw Cliff Lee offering rides on a golf cart in the left-field parking lot. The beloved ace let fans dictate the destination.
“He was very nice,” said John Lumley, of Northeast Philadelphia. “He asked where we wanted to go. I would have gone anywhere he would take me to. It was just awesome. What a cool surprise. This team doesn’t have to do things like this. They sell out every game. I’m not complaining. It’s incredible for us to see someone like Cliff Lee in his full uniform out in the parking lot with us. No wonder he’s such a fan favorite.”
Former Phillies were hanging out as well. Ricky Bottalico and Tommy Greene were signing autographs. Fans had the chance to take photos with the 2008 World Series trophy. A number of local bands, such as Them Bones, Ramblin’ Ant, the Locust Street Band and Modern Bliss, were performing along the concourse.
“It’s like a party here,” said Erin Cosart, of Doylestown. “The team is a huge reason why people come out, but it’s also because it’s so fan friendly here. It’s fun here. Citizens Bank Park is the place to be.”
Even for an exhibition game.