09/11/2002 7:24 pm ET
MLBeat: Phils reflect on Sept. 11
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Whether they watched television, listened to the radio, read newspapers or called loved ones, members of the Phillies didn't need to be reminded about the events of one year ago Wednesday.
"My girlfriend turned on the TV this morning, and there were no commercials," said Mike Lieberthal. "All you see is September 11 comments, and all the feelings were brought back. Today will probably be some sort of holiday in the future."
Lieberthal certainly doesn't mean holiday as in Christmas, but a day to reflect on the tragedies in New York City and Washington, D.C. The fact is, no words can express what this day means and will mean for the rest of our lives.
"The one thing that stands out in my mind is the overall perception of the country that we take a lot for granted," said manager Larry Bowa. "Freedom is a given here, you don't have to worry about terrorism. That's been completely taken away."
Venezuelan players like Bobby Abreu and Tomas Perez also feel like Americans during this time of healing for the country where they came to get a better life. They also play in Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell.
"We play baseball here for six months," said Perez, who hails from Barquisimeto. "People here are important to us. I feel proud to be here."
"Everybody stayed together," said Abreu. "That's the most important thing, showing support for the people. Personally, it means a lot because it's not about Americans. It's about the world and (Americans) show the whole world they're together no matter what. It's not surprising because I know how they are."
Abreu has dealt with similar experiences in Aragua, Venezuela, where his mother and siblings live in a wartime climate. To him, seeing armed military personnel at an airport is nothing new. He wouldn't say what happened was a wakeup call, but he thinks the U.S. has become more aware.
"People are more careful now and I think that's good," he said. "I think the whole world has to be secure because nobody knows what will happen."
No one knew how to react when baseball resumed on Sept. 17 last season, but many took pride to have played a small part in the return to normalcy.
"To be a part of the process of getting people some semblance of getting back to their lives became an honorable experience," said Doug Glanville. "It made everything feel like we were contributing. I know we were stunned."
"It was something special," said Bowa. "It wasn't baseball-oriented. It was unity, patriotism. It had nothing to do with baseball.
Especially moving to Bowa was the seventh-inning stretch and the singing of "God Bless America."
"When you play as long as guys like me or coach as long as guys like me, the seventh-inning stretch, you get up and you sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Before the game it's the National Anthem. You stand up out of routine. Since that day, you listen to the words of "God Bless America" and the National Anthem."
Six miles west: For Glanville, who grew up six miles west of New York City in Teaneck, N.J., the tragedy was immediately real, even as he helplessly watched from his Atlanta hotel room, where the Phillies were playing the Braves. On any given day of his youth, Glanville saw the towers by looking out his window or glancing up while walking around town.
"It's such a void. I drove up the N.J. Turnpike and you can see the skyline," Glanville said. "It seems like a whole different city. I have so many stories because I grew up in the area. My cousin is starting his own health club in Harlem. His partners ran the World Trade Center health club. They were on their way to work on the subway when the first plane hit. They lost everything. One of my teammates from college lost his mother-in-law. Everybody I know knew people who were working there. That's a given growing up in New Jersey."
Glanville remembers being overcome with emotion during the player's return.
"I remember a year ago to when we got back to playing, how incredible it was," he said. "The fans coming out, the flags waving, everybody going crazy. It was like playing in the Olympics."
Permanent reminder: Joe Roa's left bicep serves as his own personal reminder -- as it displays a tattoo of the American Flag.
Roa got the artwork done in about two weeks in a small shop outside of Detroit -- where he grew up -- less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks.
"It's my only tattoo," he said. "For years I wanted to get a tattoo but never knew what I wanted. If you're gonna mark up your body for life, to me it should be an important symbol. After that happened, I thought, 'I'm gonna get something patriotic.'"
The tattoo artist showed Roa many different possibilities -- a Liberty Bell, American Eagle, the Twin Towers -- but Roa quickly settled on the American Flag and plunked down $260 for the symbol, 40 percent of which was donated to the relief effort.
"What's more patriotic than a flag?" he said. "I remember all the way up until middle school, we said the Pledge of Allegience every morning and to me that was so important -- especially now. It's just another reminder of how important our country is and how living in the US is a blessing. Sometimes I think we forget that.
"You've got to pay respects to the United States. This day is close to everybody's heart and nobody's gonna forget it, whether you live in Detroit or whereever. It's devastated everybody."
Ken Mandel covers the Phillies for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.