Phillies host clubhouse sleepover for kids
Philadelphia-area hospital patients live like big leaguers
On Friday night, Citizens Bank Park turned into a wonderland for a special group of Philadelphia-area children, who were able to turn from hospital patients into Major Leaguers for the Sleepover in the Phillies Clubhouse.
The children, all being treated for serious illnesses, had the rigors of that routine wiped off their faces by wide smiles as they filed into the clubhouse in the early evening, accompanied by their parents and lugging sleeping bags and duffel bags of baseball equipment.
Participants ranged in age from 3-year-old Noah Sierra, a patient at Temple University Hospital, to 16-year-old Riley Hunter, undergoing treatment at Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. Others came from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
Each youngster was assigned a balloons-bedecked locker; one reedy teen broke into a grin as he entered the room and, with glee, immediately pointed to the nameplate "Marcus Quattlebaum" above a locker.
As the kids began to settle in, new Phillies general manager Matt Klentak welcomed them with a video message to inform them that they would each sign an official players contract to become Phillies for a day as "my first official signings."
Bending over the contracts placed in their lockers, the kids affixed their signatures, then made a beeline for the indoor batting cage, where they took turns taking cuts off tees with the help of a quartet of Phillies ballgirls.
After slicing line drives, the kids took slices of pizza, as well as french fries and chicken fingers, from a buffet in the middle of the clubhouse. The Phillie Phanatic crashed the feast, adding selfies to the menu. The meal was followed by movies with the usual accompaniments -- ice cream and popcorn.
A scavenger hunt, chaperoned by Phillies staff, ensured that by midnight the kids would be ready to drop into the sleeping bags laid out in the footprints of Ryan Howard, Freddy Galvis and company.
It wasn't easy, with the prospect of sleep interrupting this special experience. Usually, dreams only come in sleep, but these kids were dreaming with their eyes wide open.
Eventually, they drifted off, knowing that the treats would continue in the morning, with breakfast in the clubhouse followed by a photo session in the Phillies dugout.
The Phillies did not have a successful season in 2015, but it got a whole lot better on a night-into-morning when they gave a bunch of kids the gifts of mirth, and of hope for all of their tomorrows.