In a COVID-19 stricken world, where baseball stadiums are filled with cardboard cutouts instead of actual, screaming fans, a collection of ardent Phillies fans known as the Phandemic Krew, has spent the baseball season cheering just outside the gates of Citizens Bank Park.
When Major League Baseball announced a shortened, 60-game season would be played in empty stadiums, Phillies fans started to watch practice games before the season began from the parking lot and sidewalk outside the ballpark. This initially small collection of fans became a regular and festive outdoor gathering open to all, calling itself the Phandemic Krew.
The name is a play-on words, combining Philly Phanatic and Pandemic. Krew is also the name of all-star Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper’s son.
The Krew has become increasingly popular on social media and caught the attention of Connor Hoagland, 22, from Mount Holly, New Jersey. Before the pandemic, Hoagland purchased tickets for a game in May and was disappointed to learn that with coronavirus restrictions, his tickets became null and void. Thanks to the Phandemic Krew, Hoagland’s baseball season was not an entire failure, though.
“I originally had tickets for the 29th of May, since that was the day the team was slated to retire Halladay’s number,” Hoagland said. “It was as close as I could get to seeing a game in person this year, so I decided I would go.”
As a young Phillies fan, Hoagland grew up a big fan of pitcher Roy Halladay.
“I wore a T-shirt with his name and number on it all the time,” Hoagland said.
Hoagland, who identifies as nonbinary, spent their birthday with the Krew on Sept. 2. Hoagland said they enjoyed the playful and COVID-19 safe atmosphere. The Krew provided masks, hand sanitizers, and social distancing while they were hanging out as the game played on the radio.
“They even had ladders set up so people could see the field,” Hoagland said.
The ability to enjoy a nice day out of the house and the delicious stadium food was what Hoagland missed about being in the ballpark.
“You’ll usually see something you haven’t seen before,” they said. “Like a double pitching change and a double pinch-hitting substitution.”
Hoagland wasn’t the only one drawn in by the Krew’s social media presence. Zack Hample is a 43-year- old baseball collector and YouTube video maker. Hample has collected 11,157 baseballs from major league stadiums in North America. He caught 15 of those balls in 2020, from outside of five different stadiums.
“Under normal circumstances, I would’ve added several hundred baseballs to my total, but that’s the least of my concerns,” Hample said. “Simply staying sane and healthy is the most important thing right now.”
On YouTube, Hample has 493,000 subscribers and said he couldn’t resist visiting the Phandemic Krew and making a video about the Krew and all they do.
“Two of my biggest passions are baseball, people, and hanging with the Phandemic Krew seemed like a great way to combine the two,” Hample said. “From afar, the Krew seemed like a great bunch of people, so I wanted to experience that in person and document it for my YouTube channel.”
Hample was amazed by how the Phandemic Krew brought a community of baseball fans in Philadelphia together.
“In a time when people are forced to stay apart because of a pandemic, the Phandemic Krew managed to bring people together in a safe, responsible way outdoors,” Hample said. “It seemed like people really bonded out there on the street and formed a powerful community.”
Another die-hard baseball fan, Ryan Feuerstein, 21, is originally from Queens, New York, and has rooted for the New York Mets his entire life. Since living in Philadelphia, Feuerstein has taken in several Phillies’ games but the closest he could get to enjoying any baseball this season was spending time with the Phandemic Krew.
Even though Feuerstein is not a Phillies fan, the Phandemic Krew still welcomed him with open arms.
“Many of them knew I was a Mets fan, and they were quite all right with it,” Feuerstein said. “Several people showed up in opposing team gear every time I was there, and many people even joined the Krew from out of state.”
Though he isn’t from Philadelphia originally, Feuerstein said hanging out with the Krew helped him appreciate the different aspects of Philadelphia and the passion citizens have for the game of baseball, and that’s why he kept going back.
“Philly really is its own niche, and one that is appreciated by many because of how unique it is,” Feuerstein said. “In terms of impact on baseball, the Phillies had a distinct advantage because of their
The economic hardship of the pandemic and the strict social distancing rules have taken a toll on everyone, Feuerstein said. Thankfully, for Feuerstein and many other baseball fans, the Phandemic Krew offered a place where people could go to find comfort, hope, and relief from coronavirus-related anxiety.
“At the end of the day, people wanted to have fun and a chance to see baseball, even with strict rules in place in Philadelphia,” Feuerstein said. “It was a fun experience, but I’m hoping that I never have to go through it again and fans are allowed back at games soon.”
The sense of community engendered by the Krew is something that other fans hope to remember long after the pandemic is over and baseball fans are allowed back in the stands.
“It was amazing being around people during the pandemic,” Hoagland said. “I’m really glad I decided to do it, and when people talk about the Krew in the future, I’ll be able to say I was there.”
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