Delaware County Daily Times
By TIMOTHY LOGUE
They can be found in Denver pubs, the cafes of Rome and in the sports bar at the Gen. Patton Barracks in Heidelberg, Germany.
And Brian Michael will tell you their numbers are growing.
“You can go to pretty much anywhere and you will find Phillies fans,” said Michael, the 28-year-old founder of PhilliesNation.com
Thanks to Michael and his 10,000-plus subscribers, those fans have had a place to share insights, frustrations and love of all things Phillies since the site went live a few months after Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004.
“I grew up in Philly and had moved away to Washington, D.C.,” Michael said. “I was finding it hard to get all my Phillies information, so I decided to put it all in one place.”
In addition to offering game stories, columns and podcasts, Phillies Nation subscribers also get together for road-trips to New York, Washington, D.C., and Clearwater, Fla., charity events and tailgates.
“I’d say 60 percent of our subscribers are from Philadelphia and the outlying counties,” Michael said. “But we also have guys on military bases in Germany, people who have moved to Texas and nuns from Philadelphia.”
The closest thing to a Phillies Nation mission statement can be found in the “About” section of the site, which says, in part:
“Although there are certainly other sites out there that deal with the Phillies, this one is written exclusively through a fan’s perspective. Stats and algorithms have their place in analyzing baseball, but if a player sucks, Phillies fans don’t require quantitative proof. We smell failure a mile away. We boo first, ask questions later.”
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Michael is one six writers on the site, which also features his sister Julie, a 2005 Villanova alum, and columnist Nick Staskin, who moonlights/daylights as a beer man down at Citizens Bank Park.
While the Red Sox Nation is a brand name known throughout the country (the team even sells certificates to prospective members), Michael said his operation is a little more parochial.
“It’s a little different than the Red Sox,” said Michael, whose girlfriend, Laura, is a huge Yankees fan. “A lot of people find it easy to be in Red Sox Nation, but to be part of Phillies Nation, I think you almost have to be born and raised with it.
“The Yankees and Red Sox have the international cache. Maybe if we win a couple more World Series, we’ll be there.”
Michael, who describes himself as “a hardcore Phillies fan from birth,” made his first trip to the Vet with his father in 1987.
“I remember Ozzie Virgil hit a home run,” he said. “That’s about it.”
Hardcore Phillies Nation members would know he was referring to the May 13, 1987, game where Virgil, then a member of the Braves, homered off reliever Wally Ritchie, or the May 14 game, where he smacked two solo shots off starter Kevin Gross.
With the exception of the 1993 pennant winners, there was little for Michael or any other Phillies fan to cheer about until the current nucleus of players started to contend.
“My parents always planned their vacations around where the Phillies were playing when I was growing up, and I’ve followed them ever since,” said Michael, whose site features an Ashburn Award, given to the most valuable player from the previous game, and asks fans to contribute their favorite memories of Harry Kalas.
Thursday morning, he was hosting a Phillies Nation tailgate outside Citizens Bank Park. A “game-watching” party is scheduled for Saturday night at McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon, the popular pub that’s attached to the ballpark. More than 150 people have already signed up for the event.
In addition to social and charity functions, Michael, who works for a political consulting firm in Arlington, Va., attends as many Phillies games as he can. “I have a six-pack plan from the Phillies and I probably made it to 20 games this year, home and away.”
For buying a block of tickets for Phillies games in Washington, D.C., the Nationals recognized him and other “group leaders” before a game at Nationals Park.
“They brought us all down to the field and I was wearing a Phillies hat,” Michael said. “They asked me to take it off, which was fine with me. … I didn’t want to embarrass them any more.”