Rumor out of Philadelphia has it that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has made an offer to Philadelphia Phillies' team president David Montgomery to buy Citizens Bank Park. The offer reportedly was made after the Phillies suffered a 16-4 drubbing at the bats of the New York Mets, who hit a park-record seven home runs en route to their victory.
Banjo music blared during the contest, presumably to honor the suprising home run power of heretofore power-less hitters in Victor Diaz and Jose Reyes, both of whom hit two homers apiece, and 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, of whom one scout said would be at the bottom of the HR pack even if all players at the power position never had heard of steroids. David Wright of the Mets added a grand slam, and Mike Piazza hit a two-run shot.
Apparently the combination of the hitting background and currents at the ballpark was so favorable that the biggest twelve year-olds in the St. Timothy's Elementary School Boys' Choir, there to sing the national anthem, were hitting moon shots to the warning track before the major leaguers arrived for batting practice late yesterday afternoon.
Said NASA spokesperson Glenn Shephard, "We've always been looking for appropriate alternative launching sites to Cape Canaveral, and the aerodynamics are so good in this particular location that we would consider developing this site for launching the next-generation space craft, which are smaller and more maneuverable." Shephard added that the offer came after the heralded space organization searched for new sites for over four years.
Philadelphia Mayor John Street, eager to climb up from the dismal rating he got from a national publication that had evaluated America's mayors, had this to say: "We are flattered that NASA has expressed a big interest in the City of Philadelphia to be at the forefront of the next generation of space craft. In the 1800's, we built locomotives for the entire world. In the 1900's, we built ships, and we continue to do so today. From 2000 and beyond, we can make our mark in the space industry. There is plenty of alternative real estate for our beloved Phillies, but the potential to create thousands of jobs in this great city is very appealing."
Major League Baseball was quick to rally its forces. Reached late last night, Commissioner Bud Selig said, "We will investigate this situation in Philadelphia very thoroughly. The Philadelphia franchise is one of our oldest and most storied franchises, and we were thrilled to see the greeting the new ballpark received last year. We believe that Citizens Bank Park is an important addition to one of our seven largest markets, and we hope that it will remain in baseball for the foreseeable future."
Privately, a source within Major League Baseball indicated that Major League Baseball is absolutely thrilled with the true hitters' parks such as Camden Yards in Baltimore and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. There had been concerns that with the big crackdown on illegal steroids, power numbers would drop significantly, leaving a less appealing product for the fans. Major League Baseball hopes that with parks like these, the power numbers won't drop appreciably.
But therein could lie another problem. Apparently, according to another source, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the United States Department of Labor is investigating anonymous complaints about working conditions at Citizens Bank Park. According to reports, Phillies' players filed these complaints over the course of the past few weeks. It hasn't been determined whether pitchers filed the complaints out of a fear of getting hit by excessive line drives through the batters' box or whether outfielders filed the complaints because of a higher than acceptable incidence of neck strains.
The Major League Baseball Players Assocation couldn't be reached for comments. The players' union apparently would have a conflict on the issue, because while pitchers might lament the working conditions, position players would cheer it. And then there's that lingering steroids problem that everyone wants to have vanish, and that's something that parks like Citizens Bank Park could help cure.
So now the baseball world watches the drama that is unfolding. Commissioner Selig, for his part, while not fond of banjo hitters, is fond of bandboxes, and apparently wants the City of Philadelphia and the Phillies to hold out. Said Phillies' GM Ed Wade, "This is a tough situation for us and our fans. The fans didn't like the Vet at the end. It was crumbling and they were too far away from the action. Now they have a new park, where they get to see the games up close and personal, but they're not happy with the fireworks that take place on the field. Some have told me that they'd rather go back to the 70's, when Steve Carlton could hook up with Randy Jones in a 1-0 game that took one and a half hours to play. So it's hard to please everyone. And then there's the prospect of the new jobs, which would be great for the region, and those people could add to our fan base. I'm sure we'll look hard at every alternative."
At the turn of the 20th Century, Philadelphia was known as the Workshop for the World. Today, it has the chance to become the Launchpad for the World.
Which would be quite a feat, especially if that moniker could transcend local baseball scene.
Because if it cannot, allowing 7 HRs in your home park does not bode well for the future of the hometown nine.
Launchpad for the Baseball World, indeed.