Here’s a story about a guy who didn’t know what to think when he first came to Philadelphia.
Then he learned to love our blue-collar, hard-working, lunch pail type of town.
The author is Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola, and he sent his story to the Players’ Tribune via a handwritten letter, which is pretty cool, if we’re being honest. That’s a lost art, actually writing things on paper.
Ahead of today’s season opener, Nola describes how his mother used to ring him up from Louisiana and ask what he was up to:
I would usually just give her one of two answers.
“Not much, Ma.”
“Just watching some TV, probably going to order some food.”
She’d always have the same response: “You have to get out and explore! If I were there, I would have your ass walking with me.” When she came to visit, she would walk marathons. She knew the city better than me at the time, and she had only been twice.
I just wanted to play ball and rest up and avoid being in the middle of people traffic. And regular traffic. And when the Phillies traveled to other cities, I’d be the same way. I hated going to New York. That place was the worst of the worst city-wise. Triple everything in Philly and that’s what New York was.
But a few years in, without me really noticing it at the time, something started to change. After all the trips to New York, I would come back home to Philly and find myself thinking that this is nowhere near as crazy as that place. And it gradually got to a point where Philly began to feel like home. It didn’t feel quite so big anymore.
“I hated going to New York.”
Very good, Aaron. Very good:
Nola goes on to explain that he started to venture out a bit, started taking pictures, wrote down the names of restaurants and explored the “Italian part of the city.” That could mean basically 50% of Philadelphia, but I’m pretty sure he’s talking about the Italian market and South Philly in general.
The Phils’ ace drives a truck with a camper shell on it, and he’s about as thrilled with the traffic and parking situation as you and I, but he’s really grown to love the city over the years:
You always hear about this city being full of really tough, hard-nosed people. But what sometimes gets left out of the equation is that so many people here have a heart of gold. They’re loyal, friendly, and they’ll do anything to help you out if you need it. In a lot of ways it reminds me of what people are like back home. Most everyone I meet in Philadelphia is very kind, and they have treated everyone in my family well. Philly has opened its arms to us in a way that is truly special. It’s like a really big small town
When I step on that mound on Opening Day at the Bank, in the city I have grown to love, it will be a great honor.
With the grace of God, it turned out I landed in the right place.
Man I’m pumped. LET’S PLAY SOME BALL.
Go read Aaron’s story. It’s simply titled, “Philadelphia.”