PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Zac Gallen took a seat at the podium on an NFL Sunday to discuss how one of the best pitchers in baseball this season planned to handle Philadelphia’s potent lineup.
But keep the Q&A short. Gallen had a game to catch, one where the hardest hitters wore green and white, rather than Phillies red and white.
The NFC champion Eagles were trying to stay undefeated.
"I’ll be tuning in as soon as I get off the podium here to see what’s going on," Gallen said.
Gallen can’t be blamed for trying to catch a score. The Arizona Diamondbacks ace grew up in South Jersey and has "Go Birds" on the bio of an Instagram feed dotted with reminders of where he was raised. There’s a photo of a cheesesteak from Pat’s Steaks (#heaven), of the shore, of water ice. All the familiar staples, except one — anything to do with the Phillies.
Gallen, a 17-game winner in 2023, actually grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan because he loved Mark McGwire. It was his mother, Stacey, who considered herself a Phillies diehard fan and took Gallen and his brother to games at Citizens Bank Park.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 15: Zac Gallen #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on during the NLCS Workout at Citizens Bank Park on October 15, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Now, mom and countless other friends and family — "I’m playing for free here with all the tickets," Gallen cracked — will be back in Philly on Monday to root for Gallen rather than the home team in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
"The kid in me wanted to pitch for the Cardinals in the playoffs," Gallen said. "But at the same time, I wanted to pitch for anybody in the playoffs and be on that stage."
Another kid with dreams of one day wearing the same jersey as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley now shares Gallen’s goal of knocking out the Phillies.
Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker, who had 33 homers and 103 RBIs this season, attended Catholic school in nearby Norristown, Pennsylvania, and counted himself a passionate fan of all four major Philly teams.
Especially the Phillies.
The 32-year-old Walker loved Utley, attended the 2008 World Series parade and once had reliever Brad Lidge’s last pitch in the ’08 Series as the wallpaper photo on his phone. Walker broke into a smile Sunday as he recalled "those huge homer years that Ryan Howard had."
Walker fondly recalls those glory seasons, when the Phillies made consecutive World Series trips in 2008 and 2009, and all the excitement, the earsplitting noise that made Citizens Bank Park the place to be.
If he needed a reminder of the decibel level, he’ll get one Monday.
"What I remember the most about that time is just the energy, the energy of the city," Walker said. "It’s what you see on TV when you watch these games. It’s one of the few stadiums and atmospheres you can feel the excitement through the TV."
Gallen and Walker will do their part this week to shut the Philly fans and keep the Diamondbacks — 5-0 in the postseason — rolling into their first World Series since 2001.
"This is about the NLCS," Gallen said. "That’s really where my emotions are."