Union manager John Hackworth is used to pacing the sidelines of the pitch, waiting for the right moment to make a tactical move for his team’s success.
Yet, during Wednesday’s cross-promotional night between the Phillies and Union at Citizens Bank Park, Hackworth dealt with a pitch he wasn’t used to before, one from the mound to the plate in front of 30,000-plus fans.
“We were joking around with him at practice today and gave him a water bottle to throw and it didn’t look too good,” said Union defender Sheanon Williams. “Hopefully, he’ll stay off the SportsCenter not-top 10 list.”
Hackworth did make it over the plate into the outstretched arms of the Phillie Phanatic. It symbolized the growth of the Union franchise into Philadelphia’s elite over the past three years.
“It’s great to have the teams mix with eachother,” said Williams. “We had some of their guys down at our stadium the other week. Any time you can promote your team and your sport in the city that you play in is a tremendous opportunity. We want more and more people to get into soccer and come to the games.”
The Union as a team have shown tremendous growth as well. They sit fourth in the Eastern Conference at 10-8-9 and just three points out of first place. The team looks solid from top to bottom.
“The growth is just astronomical,” said Allison MacNeill, a member of Major Molly’s Army, a group of young women who serve as ambassadors for the Union. “Seeing [Sebastien] Le Toux and [Jack] McInerney working together and the bench getting deeper and deeper each year is proof. Now players are fighting for their spots and that’s when you start to see the most growth on the field.”
Phillies fans were happy to sign autographs with Union players and pose for pictures. One even handed the team a baseball to sign. The club hopes to draw in a few of them for the team’s final three home games in the next two months (Remaining home dates include: vs. Houston, Sept. 14, vs. Toronto, Oct. 5, vs. Sporting KC, Oct. 26)
“The Union stands for passion,” said Amy Oristaglio, the events director for the Sons of Ben. “It’s on every single one of the lockers and the billboards, and it’s really a word that says everything about them. The excitement from one game is enough to convert you forever.”