PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillie Phanatic always draws a crowd, and Monday afternoon was no exception.
Even in the sweltering, 95-degree heat.
The Phillies held a news conference on the lawn of the Independence Visitor Center to announce the details of an online auction featuring 20 life-size Phanatic statues that will ultimately benefit local charities.
The Phillies and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) announced that the popular lineup of "Phanatic Around Town" statues -- including one autographed by the entire 2010 Phillies team -- will soon be available through an online auction at www.phillies.com/phanaticaroundtown.
The auction, which will open on Aug. 27, will give fans the chance to bid on a variety of Phanatic statues each week. The auction will conclude on Sept. 30, just prior to the end of the regular season.
Net proceeds from the sale of each statue will be directed to Phillies Charities Inc., which awards grants to local charitable organizations.
All of the statues were created by local artists as part of a public art project held in partnership with the Phillies and the GPTMC.
"I have three little kids, and we've gone around the city to try and find the Phanatic statues," said David Buck, the Phillies' senior vice president of marketing and advertising sales.
The project is fun for people of all ages, and it benefits the community in a major way.
"People can go hug the Phanatic, see the Phanatic," Buck said. "I think we're going to raise a fair amount of money. I think we're giving back to the community, and people will enjoy being part of it. I see a Phanatic statue at the ballpark every single game, [and] there are five, six, seven people taking their picture with it.
"It's a positive thing all the way around for the fans, community and the Phillies organization."
The Phillie Phanatic is the only Major League Baseball mascot molded into a public art project. Since the program launched in April, thousands of people have taken photos with the statues displayed at local attractions.
"This is so cool," said fan James Velope, 42, of New Jersey. "The Phanatic is awesome, and my kids love him. We've taken some pictures already with the statues."
Just as Velope finished speaking, the real Phanatic came walking in as a surprise guest.
"He must be hot," Velope joked.
The Phanatic hugged Ben Franklin, then high-fived a number of fans and posed for pictures.
"Daddy, our team is going to the playoffs, and we have the best mascot," said 10-year-old John Richland of South Philadelphia.
"I agree," his dad said as he snapped a picture.
Members of the GPTMC smiled as they watched the crowd.
This Phillies' partnership with the GPTMC is clearly a win-win.
"The GPTMC's partnership with the Philadelphia Phillies has been a home run, just as expected," said Angela Val, vice president of special projects for the GPTMC. "The Phanatic Around Town public art project continues to draw fans and visitors to the statues as they try to complete the quest of visiting all 20 statues. The feedback we have received through facebook.com/visitphilly and twitter.com/visitphilly has been wonderful."
The statues will remain throughout the Philadelphia area until Aug. 29. Then, beginning Sept. 3, they will be on display at a "Phanatic Walk" inside the third-base gate at Citizens Bank Park. They will remain there through the end of the season.
Fans are also invited to come to Citizens Bank Park to view the statues on Sept. 11 from 12 p.m. 4 p.m. ET Admission will be free.
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.