Opinion

2016 schedule released; circle these dates

wrigley-pnWhile the Phillies are smack in the middle of the race to last place – and the first pick in the 2016 first-year amateur draft – let’s take a moment to pause and look ahead to 2016.

Because it’s a future where the Phillies at least start without a losing record.

The Phillies released their 2016 schedule Tuesday, and while tickets aren’t yet available for anything, we can start circling the calendar for big series and fun road trips. Of course, when your team is teetering close to the 100-loss abyss, big series aren’t necessarily out there. But let’s give it a shot. Let’s pretend the Phillies are a halfway decent team in 2016 (which they could be, you never know). Here are some series to highlight on the schedule:

April 4-7: at Reds, Great American Ball Park

In simpler times, baseball officially opened in Cincinnati, because the Reds are the sport’s first professional franchise. These days, however, baseball opens whenever and wherever it feels like, and in 2016 it’s on Sunday night, April 3, at a venue yet to be announced.

But it’ll be fun to see the Phillies start the opening-day festivities; plus, since the Reds aren’t predicted to be too good in 2016, our guys could open the year with a few wins. Who knows! Crazier things have happened.

Also, Great American Ball Park is a cool little place with nice sightlines. I’d put it a step below Citizens Bank Park, but if you haven’t yet been it’s worth the trip. As is the Skyline Chili on a hot dog.

April 8-10: at Mets, Citi Field

The first weekend of the season brings us the first glimpse of your possible 2015 National League East champion Mets. (I know, I’m scrubbing my mouth.)

But look, Citi Field is a great ballpark with a fun atmosphere and great food-and-drink options, highlighted by Shake Shack, that king of perfectly constructed burgers and freezing, thick milkshakes. And no, I’m not trying to get free food from Shake Shack, I swear.

The Mets will likely be on a high that weekend, but they’ll have the last laugh, as we’ll likely get to face two of their lesser pitchers. Heck, they may not even have Matt Harvey by then. Oh Mets.

April 11-14: vs Padres, Citizens Bank Park

Yes, April is jam packed, friends. After the Phillies take two from the Reds and sweep the Mets, the first-place Fightins will head home to face the eternally mediocre Padres in the home opener, scheduled for that weird 3:05 start on a Monday. (More time to tailgate, I guess.)

Who knows what the Padres look like in 2016; in fact, the only certainty is they’ll wear those terrible beige-and-blue uniforms that lack any character whatsoever. Seriously guys, just permanently turn the clock back to 1981.

April 22-24: at Brewers, Miller Park

The first true road trip for the Phillies takes them to Milwaukee toward the end of April. I can vouch for Milwaukee as an underrated city. In late-April the city might be cooler and gray, but the Milwaukee area has plenty of beer and plenty of interesting places to visit, including the International Clown Museum and Hall of Fame. Then again, you may have your fill of amateur stunts on the field.

Speaking of fill, Milwaukee is home to tons of breweries. Miller Park is a humongous, cavernous place, but it houses a fun atmosphere for 20-somethings. Hell, there’s a T.G.I. Fridays out in left field. If that doesn’t scream fun …

May 27-29: at Cubs, Wrigley Field

This one should’ve already been circled. That’s a Phillies series at Wrigley Field over Memorial Day weekend. If you’re not going, I don’t want to know you.

Wrigley is outstanding. Plunk down the $25 or so for bleacher seats, sit out in the sun – though that weekend it could be 50 degrees for all we know – and grab a few beers. The Cubs are likely going to be pretty good in 2016, and hey, you never know what could happen when the Phillies visit.

Anyway, this is the best trip of the year. It’s Chicago. It’s Wrigley. It’s a holiday weekend. Get on it.

June 10-12: at Nationals, Nationals Park

Considering half of Nationals fans leave before the game ends anyway, you could probably score quite a few tickets for a road trip this weekend. Plus you’ll see at least one good team, as despite their current floundering the Nats should be decent in 2016.

While Nationals Park is more of an average ballpark, it offers plenty of sightlines and, worst comes to worst, Washington D.C. is a fun city.

June 21-23: at Twins, Target Field

Sadly the Phillies visit the Twins over a midweek series at around the end of the school year, so road trip possibilities are low for Target Field. Shame, because you only hear great things about the Twins’ new home.

June 24-26: at Giants, AT&T Park

Want to scream at Hunter Pence for nine innings? Have a hankering for garlic fries? Care to see a ballpark that is arguably finer than Citizens Bank Park (there are few)? You can’t go wrong with taking a trip to AT&T Park in San Francisco. Thankfully the Phillies get a weekend here, so if you’ve ever been hoping to head to Northern California, have I got a date for you!

Bonus: It’s late-June, so the Giants might not be good yet. (Remember, they only inexplicably get good in September and October.) We could win a few!

July 7-10: at Rockies, Coors Field

Baseball delivered the Phillies a cruel joke with this random four-game set in Denver just before the All-Star Game (in Miami). But hey, there are few cities in America finer than Denver, which boasts outdoor activities, awesome beer and food, and ridiculous getaway possibilities. This is also an ideal time to visit Denver, as July promises the possibility of warm temperatures – generally around 80 – with fewer opportunities for random 50-degree afternoons (they happen).

Also we could be seeing future Phillie Jason Heyward launch like five or six home runs during this set. Just saying.

July 22-24: at Pirates, PNC Park

Okay, so here’s a solid option: make the morning drive across the Keystone State and hit PNC Park by Friday night. Stay overnight and take in the Saturday game. You can’t go wrong; PNC Park is one of baseball’s best venues, offering ridiculous views and delicious food options.

Also I have a soft spot for Pittsburgh, maybe the most underrated city in the country. It has great museums, a fun social scene, cool sightseeing ideas and chances to pig out. I’d highly recommend this trip for the Phillie fan on more of a budget.

Aug. 16-18: vs. Dodgers, Citizens Bank Park

Who knows what happens between now and August 2016, but if Chase Utley stays on with the Dodgers, this is his first time back in Philly. I would venture that this comes slightly after alumni weekend, which could be Aug. 12-14 against the Rockies.

Sept. 30-Oct. 2: vs. Mets, Citizens Bank Park

Look, I’m not saying the Phillies inexplicably find themselves tied for first place with the Mets with three games to go. And I’m not suggesting that the Phillies are locked in a playoff race with the final three games against those very Mets at home. Also, I’m certainly not stating that September call-up J.P. Crawford wins the division with a walk-off triple on Oct. 2.

No, I’m not doing any of that.

I’m just thinking you may want to circle this series on your calendar.

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