Members of the Union sign autographs for fans at the Meet the Players event. These were the 4 players that came down into the team store. (Photo by Joseph Samuel)
Last night, the Philadelphia Union held a rescheduled version of the Meet the Players event. The gathering at PPL Park offered fans the chance to get autographs from and take pictures with their favorite Union players.
The event has been referred to by many as a rousing success. But not all of the fans that made the trek to PPL were able to experience this event in its entirety.
It was billed as starting at 7 PM on Tuesday night. A message on the Union's website encouraged fans to arrive early as the Stadium Club can only fit so many people.
Unfortunately, the team did not make any suggestions on how early fans should try to arrive. Reports on Twitter were saying that lines were present outside of PPL Park as early as 4 PM. I happened to arrive at 6:40, which turned out to be not nearly early enough.
Many fans did make it into the Stadium Club, and were able to enjoy food and drinks as they mingled with their favorite members of the Union. The rest of us were left out to freeze in the cold, as the team closed off the Stadium Club. I would venture to say that around 100 people were left outside, unable to get into the main event.
Eventually, a member of the Union staff came outside and tried to console us. He told us that the team was sending 4 players down to the team store, where everyone in line would be able to at least get something out of the trip. So after another 20 minutes or so of waiting, I finally got into the team store and had the pleasure of meeting and getting autographs from Levi Houapeu, Michael Farfan, Juan Diego Gonzalez, and Brian Carroll.
The team officials told fans that 4 more players would come down and replace the original 4, so if any fans were willing to wait in line again, they could meet more of the Union. I wanted to make the most of the trip, so I waited for another 15 or 20 minutes and got 4 more autographs from Stefani Miglioranzi, Danny Califf, Zach Pfeffer, and Carlos Ruiz.
By the end of the event, I was actually just feeling thankful that the team had given all the fans an opportunity to at least meet a few players. One highlight of the evening involved 5 Guatemalans who were in front of me in line the second time around; they had the chance to meet their hero, El Pescadito Ruiz. They were brimming with joy as he signed their Guatemalan flag and took pictures with them.
In the end, though, the final result is a bit disappointing. Why couldn't the team have held the event out on the field, or in some larger setting? The Union brass probably didn't expect the turnout that they received. I would have liked the opportunity to meet new captain Faryd Mondragon, but maybe next time.
For some photos I took from the event, see this album on the Brotherly Game's Facebook page. For an idea of why I left feeling a bit disappointed by not getting into the Stadium Club, see this photo essay from the Philly Soccer Page.