Cliff Lee Moonlights as a Cabbie?

Last night's Phillies promotions were straight-up fun for fans.

Yesterday, baseball made its triumphant return to South Philadelphia. Though the regular season doesn’t start until Thursday afternoon (and in Pittsburgh, unfortunately), fans flocked to Citizens Bank Park to get their first glimpse at the 2012 Phillies. As a part of the fanfare, the team organized some small pop-up events around the stadium that allowed Philly faithful to interact with their heroes.

These types of events typically feel very forced—kind of like when Rick Santorum goes bowling, except without the Pete Weber/Kingpin/Big Lebowski jokes. This one started out no differently. Fans gawk as reporters and camera operators shuffle around the concourse looking to snag the right footage to squeeze out a segment or use in a montage. The players are prepping for a new baseball season and, probably, have better things to do than glad-hand at the left field gate. Everything feels rushed and disorganized and it makes you wonder why a team that will sell out Citizens Bank Park for all 81 regular season games—and surely any postseason games it’ll host—would try to orchestrate such a complicated endeavor on one of the windiest days of the year and the first night the stadium is open.

Then Charlie Manuel sat down at the number 24 will call window at the first base gate. Phillies personnel began to tell fans that Cholly was over there and kids literally raced to the glass to have their tickets autographed. Some people actually needed to make pick-ups at the window, so the Phils skipper—with the help of some other team employees—happily helped fans retrieve their tickets.

One little girl sprinted South on the sidewalk along Pattison after meeting Manuel yelling, “AM I DREAMING?! AM I DREAMING?!” She could not have been more excited to relay the story to everyone within earshot.

On the other side of the stadium, Phils ace Cliff Lee was taxiing people from their cars to the left field gate with a golf cart.

One man said that Lee just rolled up beside them and asked if they wanted a ride. He said that at first, they refused the offer. Then, when they realized who it was, figured they should probably take him up on it. The pitcher made a few trips back and forth to the Citizens Bank Park lot and posed for pictures with fans before he needed to make his way back into the stadium.

A slew of other players took part in the event, like Juan Pierre who competed at the “Run the Bases” game on the concourse in right center field. On paper, the event seems complicated, and when you’re rushing around from gate to gate just to catch a shot of a Phillie for a minute or so, it feels like the entire concept requires a lot of effort and coordination, with little reward.

But for the fans who had a random run-in with their heroes on the way into an exhibition game against the lowly Buccos, it certainly seemed worth it.