Agony Ends: The Euphoric Closure of the Conclusion of the Phillies' Wait
Updated: Nov 18
There is something about endings that make us think about beginnings. When the Philadelphia Phillies ended their postseason drought on Monday, it conjured a lot of emotions. Maybe you thought back to the people who first got you into this crazy sport or this crazy team. Maybe you thought about where you were the last time this happened, or where you were on Oct. 7, 2011, the last time (for just a little bit longer) the Phillies played a postseason game.
The amount of closure the clinch generated for the Phillies and their fans was more than anyone could have imagined. It didn't have to be this way. After a decade of nothing but disappointment when the dust settled, anything different would have been special. But here were the Phillies, in the same building they clinched their last postseason berth on Sept. 14, 2011.
Kyle Schwarber, who homered to start the party back in April, blasted the first pitch out of Minute Maid Park. Aaron Nola, the team's longest-tenured player and long derided for coming up short when the Phillies needed him most, rose to the occasion. Zach Eflin, his good friend and the second-longest tenured Phillie, recorded his first Major League save in his first Major League save opportunity. Even the Brewers cooperated with a late rally so that the celebration the Phillies stretched deep into Tuesday morning officially started the moment they secured their spot, not during the eighth inning or so of a 3-0 win over the Astros.
We will all remember this forever. Anyone who lasted the entire wait will tell you that. They will also tell you a lot of... *other* things that happened between 10/7/11 and 10/7/22, the latter date the start of the Phillies' Wild Card series a rematch against the Cardinals eleven years in the making.
The destination is sweet, but the journey is valuable, too. Matt Gelb of The Athletic, my main inspiration for starting to write about the Phillies back in March 2021, covered a lot of what happened to the Phillies during the drought. Some of the most symbolic names, bringing up memories to laugh and cry about a lot. The Phillies caused a lot of hurt during their time away from Red October, but the end was so, so worth it. As Gelb brilliantly summarized, "This was for enjoying the ride. This was for everyone who suffered, who laughed and who believed in something better."
So, before the drought is officially dead, it's time for me to do the same.
This is for my mom, my dad, and my sister, the three constants of the drought. The ones who I shared it with more than anyone. Who helped calm me down during the bad times and lift me up during the good ones. I promised my mom with about a week to go if we made it, I'd FaceTime her during my celebration. She answered around 11:13 P.M. on Monday.
This is for Seth, Owen, and all of Owen's family (Andrew, Emma, and his parents), who were the last people I watched a postseason game. It does not matter that I have not seen them in person since I was in seventh grade, both having moved away. This is for all of the talks, swings, and stories we shared, so many of them about baseball. It is fitting that Seth's Mets snapped a drought of their own this season, too. My last memory of postseason happiness is sharing Ryan Howard's 3-run home run off Kyle Lohse in Game 1 of the 2011 NLDS with them.
This is for Owen's dad's laptop, which I slammed shut when Howard made the last out before we could tell something far worse had happened. This is for the Mets-Phillies game I went to with my dad, Seth, and his dad, where Seth threw up. For all of the innocence and youthful exuberance we shared.
This is for a different wait, the one to find friends again after they left. It was shorter than the Phillies' wait, but harder. This is for everyone I played baseball with in the interim and dreamed about doing far more ambitious things than just making it back to the postseason. This is for everyone in the Haddonfield School District, especially the Class of 2020, who put up with countless rants that would have been annoying even if the glory days had never stopped. This is for everyone who, even if likely annoyed, never told me to stop. This is for all of the great teachers I had then and have had in college. You learn a lot of things over the course of 11 years.
This is for the friendships that could have been, fun moments in dugouts or upstairs playing video games that could have been something more. This is for Eric and Sabi, who were and are so much more, the best of the friends that are. This is for Rachel, the first person to invite me unprompted to something -- anything -- in high school, and the first person to reach out unprompted to me after the drought ended. This is for Reilly Smith, who led the expansion 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights in playoff scoring and allowed me to experience a Stanley Cup Final run for a team I at least moderately cared for. This is for Riley Smith, who never stops smiling, an important trait to survive a wait like this.
This is for Ava and Grace, Bryson and Jean, and all of the great duos out there. The former's dry humor and wittiness would make them excellent Phillies writers, but more importantly, makes them great friends. This is for Ben, whose basement is one of the few places home to more joy for me than Citizens Bank Park. This is for Tommy, and trying something new, and getting to see a Philadelphia team play in a conference final. This is for the 2017 Eagles, who played in a conference final and won, then won what came next.
This is for Kyle, Artie, and Brooke and staying calm in the face of anything. This is for Tristan, Aiden, and Jason and getting animated about everything. This is for everyone who told me I'll be on ESPN one day or that they were happier than I got into Notre Dame than they were about getting into their college. This is for everyone whose name I've announced. This is for everything that would have happened between March 14, 2020, and the end of June, if not further if the world hadn't flipped on its head.
This is for everything that helped pass the time. This is for winning an Xbox 360 in a bet with my mom on a Ty Wigginton sac fly. For all of the times during the drought the Phillies did make the postseason, all of them virtual. This is for Nick Schultz making hockey a distraction and then something much, much more. This is for the Toronto bubble. For a while, there were two simple wishes: experience a Flyers playoff series win and remember what a Phillies postseason berth feels like. This is for the weight both took off my shoulders.
This is for everyone who is as young as I was, nine, the last time the Phillies made the postseason, and younger and slightly older, who have not been alive for a moment like this (hi, cousin Scarlett and the Kelly kids). This is for everyone who did not live to see the end. This is for my Mom-Mom Sue and Pop-Pop Bob, at whose house I watched Shane Victorino's grand slam off C.C. Sabathia in 2008. They watched another center fielder, Brandon Marsh, record the last out of the wait from a better place.
This is for everyone who saw it happen, and here at Notre Dame, those who heard it. This is for Will, for giving me his phone to make sure the worst part of the drought -- forgetting the joy of making it -- won't ever have to be repeated. This is for him and Sean and Michael for clearing the way and allowing me to just celebrate. This is for Tommy, Nick, Brendan (x2), Connor (x2), Dave, Zach, Christian, Patrick, Danny, Andrew, Colton, Ua, Trevor, and more, for understanding. This is for Charlie, Tyler, Andrew, and everyone else I wish would have been in Siegfried on Monday night.
This is for the 630-plus articles I have published between here, Vendetta Sports Media, and The Observer over the last four years and change. This one will likely be the last on Back of the Net.
This is for Matt, Steve, Charlie, and everyone who makes me want to work in sports. This is especially for Steve -- I hope your breakthrough comes as soon as possible. This is for Jake, J.J., John (x2), Michael, José, Maddie, Ryan, Bob, and everyone I've written, edited and broadcasted with. Mr. Banos, Nathan, Derek, Laurie, Doug, Sterling, Allie, Joanne, Hayden, Aidan, and Manni, who gave me the chance to work towards being a part of something like this someday. This is also for Manni for introducing me to Kilby Girl before Zach Eflin made it even more special. This is for Bryson Stott, for me repeating a line from A-O-K every time a negative thought popped into my head over the last few weeks. This is for the Flyers, Eagles, 76ers, and Notre Dame, for keeping sports in a special place until the Phillies could pick up where they left off in 2011.
This is for all of the good memories during the drought, especially the ones I witnessed in person. Aaron Nola's big league debut. Brock Stassi's first MLB home run. A walk-off single by Tommy Joseph. A Maikel Franco walk-off single that was actually a fielder's choice because Aaron Altherr never touched second base. Sharing a walk-off Franco home run against the Marlins with AJ in 2018. Being at the high water mark two days later. Looking at my dad in jubilant disbelief after Andrew McCutchen's lead-off home run on Opening Day in 2019. The 22-month COVID-induced wait between trips to CBP and for seeing the Phillies overtake the Mets for first in the East last August.
This is for this season. For just laughing when Schwarber matched McCutchen's Opening Day feat. This is for Ryan, for giving me the opportunity to work for the team that defined my childhood, and Charley for setting it up. This is for Billy, Jason, Steve, Noah, Frank, Brett, Simon, Justin, Mike, John, and everyone else I worked for/with at different places over the years. This is for everyone I umpired and caddied for. This is for still having that putter.
This is Val, Ify, Jack (x2), Bridgette, Landry, Ali, Abby, Mia, Caitlin, Trevor, Emma, Aliya, Kyra, Maya, James, Carl, Zach (Eddie), Anna (x2), Zach (not Eddie), Dillon, Freddy, Mer, Sydney, Colin, Eli, Mel, Shayne, Allison, Makayla, Keith, Terri, and everyone else, who are much more friends than co-workers, for making this summer so fun. This is for Andrew, Delvy, Jalen, Val, and everyone else for their help. You could trace basically every friendship I have back to the Phillies because of the prominence of sports in my entire life, which would not be as strong if they had not won the 2008 World Series on the day that they won it. But they are the most obvious examples.
This is for Garrett Stubbs's walk-off three-run blast and Rhys Hoskins's walk-off single. For meeting up with Will and Stella. For Bryson Stott's first Major League homer and all of the times that my new friends and I sang A-O-K together. For six perfect innings from Kyle Gibson and that diving play by Alec Bohm that preserved it, if only for one more batter. This is for enjoying the experience with my family. This is for Jake Owen post-game, my first concert. This is for fireworks with Meagan and Jake and sellouts. For bumping into Matt, Will, Kyle, Christian, Henry, John, and Ryan. For the three closest calls to catching a ball in my life. And for the magical ending to my final home game of the regular season, a magical rally off Sandy Alcántara that further reassuring that this team was new. Different. Better.
This is for anyone else I might be forgetting. This is for every last thing that has happened since Oct. 7, 2011. This is for, as Matt Gelb said, everyone who suffered, who laughed and believed in something better.
This is also for everyone who didn't. This is for 4,017 yesterdays, all of them their own special form of baseball agony. It is a brutal game. But it is also a beautiful one.
So, this is for today. Day 1 of something better.