It was a cold and rainy day in South Philadelphia. By the time we entered the stadium, Joe Roa had surrendered four runs to the lowly Pirates. We stared at the scoreboard in disbelief, wondering, "Will anything ever change with this team?"
Then longtime announcer Dan Baker said that name. The crowd erupted. Even the greatest cynics felt their bitter hearts warm. Jim Thome dug in for his first at bat.
Finally, a bona fide superstar that wanted to be here. After years of being told we weren't good enough (J.D Drew), watching one sub-par first baseman after another (Travis Lee) and being ridiculed by our own players (Scott Rolen), Philadelphia had someone who loved us as much as we loved him.
Thome ended up scorching a triple to left-center in that at bat, just missing a home run, but prior to his first swing he managed to change the culture of this franchise with one stroke of his pen.
Thome wanted to be here. He believed in the makeup of this young team. He knew of the passion that lived in this town. Many have taken the easy road, aligning themselves with a laundry list of Hall of Famers, but Thome wanted to forge his own legacy in a town that needed an identity.
The irony of it all is that Thome had to be traded in order for the Phils to win a World Series. Ryan Howard emerged as a premier young slugger, and Thome, due to injury and expense, was made expendable.
Now Thome returns, the elder statesman, looking to assist a team that appears so close every year. I believe this team will rally around Thome. With his plaque all but hung in Cooperstown, the Phils should give their all for the guy who started it all.
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