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03/20/2003  3:38 PM ET 
Final "Visit The Vet" tour on Friday

In 1982, the Phillies began the "Visit The Vet" program where area schools had the opportunity to get free tours of Veterans Stadium during the off-season.

On Friday at 10 a.m., the Phillies will conduct the final official "Visit The Vet" tour to kindergarten and first-grade students from the Holy Spirit School, which is located on Hartranft St. in South Philadelphia. The Phillies are scheduled to move into their New Ballpark in 2004.

Since the start of the Visit The Vet program in 1982, the Phillies have conducted close to 8,000 off-season tours. On these tours, students get the opportunity to visit several areas of Veterans Stadium, including the executive offices, press box, playing field, batting cages and clubhouse. Students also receive a Phillies yearbook or game program, snacks and juice, all of which are complimentary.

Marianne D'Alonzo from the Phillies Community Relations staff and Maje McDonnell serve as tour guides. McDonnell, a long-time Phillies staff member who was a coach on the 1950 "Whiz Kids" Phillies team, has worked the tours since their start in 1982.

"The tours have been great for the kids," McDonnell said. "It's also great for the parents and teachers who attend. They all enjoy themselves very much."

McDonnell said the highlight of the tour for most of the children is the field visit. "It's always a thrill for any kid when they first get to walk on a Major League field," he said. "We let them sit in the dugout and take pictures, and then we have two races on the field, one for the boys and one for the girls. The winners get prizes. They love it!"

Additionally, a lucky few students get to take a few swings in the batting cage. "We always pick a teacher as well to hit," McDonnell added. "The kids always get a kick out of that."

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