If you were paying attention to the rest of baseball this weekend, you might have noticed something pretty cool.
The Pirates played a home game against the Cardinals at Bowman Field in Williamsport, about 200 miles from PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The “Little League Classic” was the brainchild of Major League Baseball, which matched up the major leaguers with the annual Little League World Series, currently being played across the Susquehanna River at the Little League World Series Complex in South Williamsport.
It was the first time there was a major league game in Williamsport to go along with the LLWS, and from all accounts – players, fans, Little Leaguers, media – it was a wild success. With that kind of success, you’d have to think baseball will try to duplicate it next year and in future years. Commissioner Rob Manfred said as much.
So let’s start the bandwagon now and get the Phillies in this game in 2018.
It makes complete sense logistically:
Philadelphia is closer to Williamsport than Pittsburgh (although not as close as Baltimore, by about 10 miles). Because it’s not a whole series, just one game, you have to have a team that is close to Williamsport since the teams will travel there after a normal Saturday game at the actual home park. West on the Turnpike, through Harrisburg to Route 15 North, and boom, 177 miles later, you’re in Williamsport from Philly.
Bowman Field is the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters, the short-season New York-Penn League affiliate of the Phils. The Phillies don’t own the team, but they have to be able to throw some muscle into the situation if needed, right? If the Phillies lobby for this game and get spurned, can’t they just coerce the Crosscutters to lock the gates?
Williamsport has been a long-standing – but unnoticed – Phillies outpost. The region is covered by the northeast Pennsylvania media market, and before the days of widespread cable, the region received over-the-air broadcasts of Phillies games from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre TV stations. As a member of the media, I once talked to Mike Mussina, who grew up in nearby Montoursville, about pitching his first game in Veterans Stadium when interleague play began in the late 1990s. He didn’t say he was a Phillies fan, but he did tell me he grew up watching the Phillies in the ’80s because it was all his family’s TV signal could receive. Williamsport also happens to be the furthest west that the Phillies Radio Network reaches, as Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen come to the Williamsport airwaves for every game (the Pirates also are on Williamsport radio). Nearby Bloomsburg and Sunbury also have radio stations that are Phillies affiliates. CSNPhilly also is available in Williamsport.
Who cares if they lose a home game? In terms of competitive balance, the Phillies probably won’t care the way some teams might about losing a game at Citizens Bank Park. It doesn’t look like 2018 will bring playoff excitement to South Philadelphia, so MLB shouldn’t have to worry about about that potential stumbling block.
Maybe we’re being selfish, and it’s been pretty obvious this version of the Phillies hasn’t earned the right to be spotlighted on national TV. But the Phillies can make a compelling logistical case for being the next team to host what looks like it could be an annual game in Williamsport. And if owner John Middleton is smart, he watched on Sunday and already has texted Rob Manfred “WE’RE IN FOR 2018 IN WILLIAMSPORT!!!” complete with smiley face, thumbs up and hands-clapping emojis.