Essay: My addiction, my world, my Phillies
For many addicts, the path to recovery begins with admitting there is a problem.
Is being an obsessed sports fan an addiction like alcoholism or drug abuse? An alcoholic needs to have a drink all the time. A drug user needs to get a quick fix.
I am obsessed with the Philadelphia Phillies. I love everything Phillies. I have to have all things Phillies. I must watch the games. I must attend the games. I think, eat, and sleep the Phillies.
I am an addict. However, is my addiction really that bad?
Being able to recognize when it started may help me find an answer. Addictions tend to run in families, and I believe mine started with my grandfather, back when I was about 4 years old. I was playing with my grandparents in their backyard.
They pulled out a massive 25-foot by 15-foot trunk. It was beautifully painted red and white and had the biggest letter "P" in the middle. I could not imagine what might be under the hood, but then very slowly, my grandfather sat beside me and told me a story that would forever change my life. It was the story of his 50-year love for all things related to the Phillies.
"The Phillies are a special team," he said. "There are going to be times when you want to give up on the Phillies. True fans are those that stick through the good and bad times. When the Phillies are in last place, stick with them, because it will get better."
He opened the trunk and shared his collection of memorabilia. There were autographs, photos, ticket stubs, and much more. I was in awe.
As I grew older, so did my love for the Phillies. Each year, the number of games my father and I attended was equal to my age. When I turned 12, I was so excited that I would be able to attend 12 games!
That meant 12 sizzling hot dogs with delicious yellow mustard covered with tiny chopped onions all lathered with hot, sweet sauerkraut. My dad always made it look so good, and I was bursting for my first one of the season. It meant 12 baskets of our favorite piping hot Chickie and Pete's crab fries. The line was always so long but I had to have them.
But that year, the real topper and grand finale was watching my favorite team win the regular season — then win the playoffs — and then, yes, the ultimate prize: the World Series. We made it! My team was everyone's favorite team.
Sitting at my home surrounded by my parents, grandparents, and cousins, we stared at the 42-inch television screen as Brad Lidge made the final pitch on that unforgettable, cold October night.
Harry Kalas's voice rings and replays in my head over and over to this day, "The 0-2 pitch, swing and a miss. Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 world champions of baseball! Brad Lidge is 48 for 48 in save opportunities."
I gave my grandfather a hug as tears or joy and excitement streamed down his face. He told me how lucky I was. It took 12 years for the Phillies to win the World Series in my lifetime. He had to wait until he was 45 years, and he never got to experience that kind of excitement as a child.
My father hopped in the car and drove to Modell's to buy the Phillies World Champions gear like the players wore. I wanted to wear it proudly to school the next day. It truly was the best day of my life.
Everyone would tell me it was just a phase, but my love kept growing. The year of the World Series coincided with my Bat Mitzvah.
Can you guess the theme of the party? Of course, it was all Phillies. My mother had Phillies banners, hats, balls, and napkins. I was in heaven.
I continued to watch and attend the games. How could I get closer? I had the perfect plan, which involved convincing my dad to take me to the park before the game started.
We would try to catch foul balls. I absolutely loved it. I have a collection of over 50 Phillies baseballs from the games I attended. Sometimes I would catch them, and other times as the ball soared through the air and grown men would dive between the bleachers, I would wait until the ball finally landed. I would snatch the ball into my little hands and place it in my special red-and-white backpack.
The backpack did not hold much, but my grandfather allowed me to place my special Phillies items along with his in his special Phillies trunk.
When I turned 16, my grandfather and I were once again sitting in his backyard having a catch, and he leaned over and gave me a kiss. I said, "What was that for?"
He said, "I have been working on something special the past few weeks that I want to show you."
I couldn't imagine what to expect. "Will I like it?"
He gave me a side grin and motioned for me to follow him. He took my hand, and we went to the basement. There he shared a collection that he had hidden for just the right time.
He has created a Phillies museum in his basement, displaying not only the items that were previously in the trunk, but photos, autographs, and so much more. He whispered that his collection, which we both love and value so much, would be left to me one day. I was speechless, and we both started to cry.
That moment made me realize that my fan obsession is not just about the Phillies. It is about the emotional connection that I share with my family. It is a bond that can't be broken. It is always being there for one another. It is laughing together during good times and crying during sad times. It is lifting each other up and just listening and being a friend.
The natural next step was to turn my obsession into a career. A year ago I contacted Major League Baseball, and the recruiter hired me on the spot. She felt my love and passion for all things related to the Phillies.
I experienced a year of working as the Philadelphia Phillies correspondent for Major League Baseball. I work behind the scenes to capture those special fan and player moments: the father and daughter eating their special foods together, the grandfather sitting next to his granddaughter rooting for their team, the grin on a little boy's face as his favorite player gives him a ball.
I am excited for the 2017 season to arrive and look forward to capturing more of those unforgettable moments. Fan obsession can live within all of us and, channeled properly, it can lead to great things.
Yes, I am an addict. I love my family and I love my Phillies. I always will. I continue to watch, cheer, and enjoy the Phillies games with my father and grandfather. While some addictions are dangerous, my addiction to the Phillies has changed my life forever in the best way.
Samantha Galing is the Phillies real time correspondent at Major League Baseball.