The Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.

Haverford and The Phillies

The College has a storied connection with Major League Baseball, and when it comes to the Phillies’ World Series appearances, campus memories to match.

The Phillies’ appearance in this year’s World Series marks the fifth time since a 1980 Series run that currently-enrolled Haverfordians have had a chance to get on the bandwagon and support the local team. For some students, it’s been an opportunity to forge a new big-league allegiance; others have brought their fandom to campus along with their Toast-R-Ovens (1980 & ’83 Series), boomboxes (1993), iPods (2008 & ’09), and backup supply of face masks (2022). 

“It has been especially awesome to see how many people on campus have said something to me when they see me wearing my hat, even if they don’t follow baseball,” says Matthias Langer ’24. “I’ve been watching the games on campus so far, but I was able to go to Thursday’s!” Aidan York, who’s also a current junior, shares the same collective thrill. “It’s clear how much excitement there is around campus, with things like professors jokingly opening and closing class by talking about the games. It’s really awesome how much the Haverford community wants to get involved in this extraordinary opportunity!”

That through-line is apparent when alums reflect on their experience. Kris Nesbitt ’95 grew up in the Philly area, so the Phillies weren’t a new rooting interest for her. “But it was fun being on campus, especially in the interactions with campus staff who were by and large more excited than the students.” That team’s 1993 motley yet beloved crew included a notoriously unreliable pitcher named Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams. Kris channeled her anxiety about Williams into a fall-festival coping mechanism. “Since it was around Halloween there were some Phillies-themed pumpkins in the annual Dining Center pumpkin-carving contest. I remember winning third prize for my homage to Mitch Williams, ‘The Scariest October Fright.'”

Mark Naples ’84 saw the final game of the 1980 series, at now-demolished Veterans Stadium. “My brother and I were seated in the very top row of the yellow seats behind home plate, next to an 84-year-old woman wearing a gorilla costume (‘The warmest thing I own’). It was bedlam – we’d been to many games the previous six or seven years, but this was unreal. The subway ride to City Hall was packed with singing and fun, and the mob at ground level was well on its way to fever pitch when we arrived. Twenty minutes later, I was swinging from a traffic light at 15th and Market and my brother was waving goodbye to me as the mob swept him away.” 

Mark remembers enough of the train ride home to know he missed his stop and ended up stumbling back to campus as dawn broke. With no time to ditch his beer- and mustard-stained Phillies World Champions t-shirt, he took a seat right next to his professor, a Red Sox fan, in an early morning French class. “He immediately pointed a finger at me and scolded, “OUT!  Get OUT of my class!”  He wanted nothing to do with this staggering, giddy freshman, and he let me hear it as I left. See, the Red Sox had finished 5th in the AL East that season.”

More recently, the Phils weren’t in a Series when Josh Studnitzer ’14 was a student. But he is ideally positioned to enjoy one now: as a scout for the team, he has contributed to literally every game of every season since 2018 by digging into opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. “Before we play a team, we look at their players, trying to find out what we can pass along to players and coaches to help us win. A lot of it’s video. Trends of what they’re doing, what pitches they’re throwing, anything they’re doing to mess with a hitter’s timing. Going through it all and picking out the parts we can use to our advantage.”

Josh grew up in New York as a Mets fan, but developed an appreciation for the Phillies as a Haverford student. “I watched Roy Halladay’s playoff no-hitter in the Coop with friends.” Unlike many Fords who’ve made their way into the world of major league baseball – a career path that both The New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer have chronicled – Josh wasn’t a student athlete at Haverford. But his interest and dedication persuaded Coach Dave Beccaria to ask him to track stats, Moneyball-style. “(Josh) became an important part of our team and another trusted advisor, and ultimately he helped us win our second conference championship,” notes Coach Dave. “At the end of the year, I asked him to put together a brief summary of the data he collected, and he ended up writing a 26-page report. He parlayed his experience with us – and the 26-page report – into a job with the Baltimore Orioles organization.” (Fords in baseball is the subject of the next episode of Haverford President Wendy Raymond’s ‘Founders Porch’ webinar series, on November 9.)   

Kris Nesbitt points out that the shared trauma of watching pitcher Mitch Williams in 1993 has led to lifelong friendships. “Back in Comfort (Hall, one of the North Dorms), I was living in a single…and did not know my suitemates well. We had started hanging out a bit but I had a TV and was watching all the games and they would come in and watch, helping cement friendships that I am still connected with now.” John Holder ’85 feels the same about the team itself. “I’m still a Phillies fan. The day after Alumni Weekend last May, I attended the game that was their next-to-last loss before the turnaround.” 

As for Josh Studnitzer, the Phillies’ scout, his workday unfolds just like anyone else’s except for the bit about having future Hall of Famers like Bryce Harper as colleagues. He says that the excitement you see on Haverford’s campus is somewhat tempered at his ‘office’ which, on game days, is down in the team’s clubhouse, and where it’s pretty much all business. “It has to be a routine, staying consistent in process, keeping vibes good, and putting yourself in a position to win. We try to stay as level and consistent as possible.”  

But with a game’s final out, he finds that there’s no immunity to the spectacle of it all. “It’s surreal. I’ve been out in the fields after we’ve won, seeing crazed fans enjoying it, rallying around the team. Sometimes you lose sight of how big it really is, because day to day you’re doing your job – and my job is to watch baseball. It’s pretty cool!”

Photo credit: Philadelphia Phillies