WE DID IT! NLCS CHAMPS, GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES BACK TO BACK.
HERE'S MY COOL STORY ABOUT MEETING THIS VERY COOL GUY.
Game One, NLCS, 2009...
"Why is it there are so many nice guys interested in baseball? Not me, I was a real bastard when I played." Burleigh Grimes
Did you watch Game One of the National League Championship Series between the Phillies and the Dodgers? You didn't? Phillistine! It was one seriously exciting game.
Okay, you're off the hook if your team's not in the race for the World Series.
Mine is. You know my team, the PHILLIES, current World Series Champions. If you didn't watch the game, you surely heard me screaming for my Phillies. Occasionally at my Phillies. No matter where you live.
Really, they are my Phillies. A few of them anyway. My pals. Buddies. Kindred spirits. Here's one of my stories about one of them. And me.
You'll like this story. Especially if you live in Philly. If you love baseball. If you love your team. If you know --or have-- a kid who loves the home town team.
It was just another shopping trip to Target. But what started as a quest for ordinary household items ended with possession of a holy grail.
There I was at my local South Philly Target, moving along briskly, grabbing things on my list, trying to get in, get out.
Suddenly I remembered they sell team gear. Perfect! The Phillies had just won the National League East division championship. Again.
We were going to play the Rockies (yeah, yeah, that was then, this is now... heh). An exciting next few weeks. I wanted something for my son. And me.
I headed for the T-shirts. Strike one. (Lots of Eagles stuff, but nobody, including me, was buying. Not yet anyway).
Sporting Goods. Surely they'd have Phillies logo baseballs. Strike two.
I thought to myself, Automotive. Car flags, magnets, travel mugs, something. Strike three.
Automotive is across the aisle from Toys, don't ask me why. But, I thought a bit desperately, maybe I'd find a Phillies toy.
Success! Well, sort of. A basket of baseballs with the Phillies logo! I grabbed one. Hmm. It was soft, squishy. A kiddie ball. A toy.
Oh well, at least it looked real, had a real Phillies logo. I could give it to my son as a joke.
My Target's a friendly neighborhood place. Through the aisles I'd been asking other shoppers if they seen Phillies stuff. Nobody had.
As I headed away from Toys, two guys in baggy jeans, long white T-shirts, ballcaps pulled low and sideways approached. You've seen the look. Jeez, I thought. Let me outta here.
They stopped. I held my breath. The taller one smiled --a very nice smile-- and asked me politely (Ma'am even, wtf) in a soft voice if I knew where the Transformers were. I'd just passed some, so I showed him.
Okay, guilty. Not all assumptions on appearance are true. I asked if they'd seen any Phillies stuff. The big one kind of ducked his head and said no. The other guy grinned at me, a look that seemed to say Are you crazy?
I'd rue that grin. And yes, I was temporarily nuts.
As I reached the check-out area I noticed two Target managers and a store guard gathered around the security monitors. Uh oh. Trouble? Maybe those baggy jean guys? (Again with the assumptions!)
I was still on my home team quest, so I approached them anyway.
"Excuse me, I know you're busy, but can you just tell me, is there anything Phillies in the store?" I asked plaintively.
Wait for it...
Pointing to the security monitor, one man said, "Does Ryan Howard count?"
"He's in the store now. Shopping."
The money pitch...
"He's back in Toys."
Oh yeah. You got it. The Transformers guy. Not a thief, a hero. One of the team's --hell, the League's-- biggest heroes. And I'd asked him if he "saw any Phillies stuff." No wonder his friend gave me the "you're an idiot" grin.
Don't start. He wasn't wearing a Phillies uniform. He wasn't surrounded by an entourage or a crowd of fans. He was just quietly shopping for Transformers.
He looks bigger on TV. And c'mon, would you expect to see the home run leader, National League MVP roaming the aisles of your local "Tar-jay" just before the playoffs?
Reunited with Ryan, I only fudged a little. Told him, "I didn't want to bother you." (Yeah, right, like I was going to say, "I didn't recognize you in your gansta gear.")
He was gracious and sweet, "The Transformers lady! Thanks, I found the one I wanted."
Happy ending: my son is the proud owner of a Ryan Howard personally autographed --toy-- baseball.
Hey, it's only fitting. We met in Toys.
From that disappointing 2007 season, to the magic of 2008 and now in this year's race for another World Series, Ryan Howard's still my Boy Toy hero.
UPDATE: Think that ball's worth something more now that THE PHILLIES ARE GOING TO THE 2009 WORLD SERIES WITH RYAN HOWARD THE MVP? Too bad, it stays with my son.