As the Phillies celebrate Fan Appreciation Day, this is written in appreciation of a fan who is no longer with us. It is also symbolic of all our friends and loved ones who are not with us as we reach the end of another season.
Dave Thomas was a lifelong Phillies fan who passed away recently after a long battle with brain cancer, the same disease that took the life of the Phillies' beloved closer, Tug McGraw.
Dave signed up for the very first Phillies Fans Road Trip, and never missed one after that. That's where I first met him. Our friendship started the way most do, because Dave was just so enjoyable to be around.
Greg Luzinski, who co-hosted the road trips felt the same way. So we started spending time with Dave in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, San Diego and Seattle.
Dave took an earlier flight than we did on that Seattle trip. And our plane wound up being delayed for hours. We arrived at the hotel after every other fan had turned in for the night, but not Dave. Seeing him was always like catching up with an old friend.
As Dave battled cancer he kept on living his life, including signing up for our Phillies Phantastic Voyage to the Caribbean. On the last day at sea, Charlie Manuel and the players signed autographs for the fans.
Dave was having a bad day, so I offered to get him his autographs. But there he was, standing in line, waiting patiently, not with anything to sign, only to thank Charlie and the players for going on the cruise and spending time with the fans.
Dave loved the Phillies so much that over the winter he sold his home in the Poconos and bought a condo near Clearwater so he could watch Spring Training. Before it started, he stopped by the Carpenter Complex to watch Phantasy Camp, a bunch of mostly overweight guys playing ball in Phillies uniforms.
One afternoon, sitting on the bleachers, I asked him who his favorite player was growing up. He said, "I was a left-handed first baseman, so of course it was Dick Allen." After telling him that Dick was rarely around except during alumni weekend, the baseball gods went into action. Five minutes later, Dick Allen drove up to see his friend, the Bull. We both just looked at each other. The only thing that would have surprised me more was Dick Allen walking out of a cornfield.
During Spring Training, Dave gave me a sealed envelope to pass on to Shane Victorino. To show how much he believed in Shane, it contained the offensive goals he thought the Flyin' Hawaiian was capable of. Shane stared at those numbers in disbelief saying, "This guy must be reading my mind".
On the day that Dave left us, the Phillies came from behind to win a game on a late home run by Ryan Howard. It's good to know that Dave heard Harry Kalas make the call.
Scott Palmer is the Phillies Director of Public Affairs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.