PHILADELPHIA -- The Citizens Bank Park faithful lobbed more than their fair share of standing ovations upon worthy subjects in 2017, an odd thought as the Phillies occupied the lower reaches of the standings for the entirety of the season.There were ovations for past stars -- when Chase Utley and
PHILADELPHIA -- The Citizens Bank Park faithful lobbed more than their fair share of standing ovations upon worthy subjects in 2017, an odd thought as the Phillies occupied the lower reaches of the standings for the entirety of the season.
There were ovations for past stars -- when Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz returned to the grass on which they were crowned World Champions, and when their manager, Charlie Manuel, took the field during Alumni Weekend celebrations. There were ovations for future stars, after Rhys Hoskins' first hit and a number of his many majestic homers.
But the ovation before Sunday's 11-0 win over the Mets was not a heartfelt thank you of bygone players, nor one for the impending core of youngsters that has thus far shown immense promise. It celebrated the present, game No. 162, the last that Phillies manager Pete Mackanin would spend in a Phillies uniform.
"I almost started crying," Mackanin said. "My wife and son were in the stands in the second row and I couldn't look at them. I knew my wife would be crying. I didn't want to start crying myself."
Mackanin stepped onto the field to exchange lineup cards with the umpires and Mets manager Terry Collins, also in his last day as manager. They hugged. When the Phillies skipper turned to head back to the dugout, his team and coaches had assembled in front, applauding their manager.
Fans joined in, a small murmur growing into a heartfelt ovation.
Freddy Galvis slapped his manager on the chest, shook his hand, and gave him a hug. Mackanin acknowledged the crowd, doffing his cap to the masses before walking down the line to shake each of his players' hands, even if they were only "his" players for one more sun-soaked afternoon.
"It meant a lot to me," Mackanin said. "I don't know who set it up. I looked at [Larry] Bowa and I said, 'Is this for me?'"
The fans needed no prodding, nor did the players. The ovation was not planned. It happened organically, the result of a deserving man and his commendable character and the impact he had on his players, young and old.
"It just happened, I think he deserved it," Galvis said, after Mackanin obliged his early-season request to play in all 162 games. "He was a good manager. He was a good person. He is a good person. He treats everybody with respect."
"One of the best days of my career," Mackanin said.
Mackanin's exit as Phillies manager serves as an odd catch-22. The team looked to have turned a corner as newly called up prospects touched down in the bigs in full stride. The worst record in baseball's first half morphed into a highly respectable 37-38 record after the break.
That turnaround may have cost Mackanin his job, despite having himself played a role in the newfound success. His ability to foster a safe clubhouse environment, helping younger players thrive -- even while serving a team (and a city) so thirsty for their next taste of winning baseball -- is no small feat.
"I'd like to think I had a little bit to add to the little bit of success we had," he said. "One thing I'm real happy about is the players never quit, they played hard and played with energy. I'm real proud of them for that. I want to throw some praise at the coaches who really continued to work hard in a dismal situation early in the year. They deserve a lot of credit."
As does Mackanin.
"It was a very special feeling," Mackanin said of his first curtain call since Little League, a fitting bookend for a baseball lifer completing his 49th season in the professional game.
"I'll remember it forever."
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.