Philadelphia, PA – From the moment Anastasia Zannis took the microphone and led us in the singing of the National Anthem. It was apparent from the start that this was going to be a big night for Greek-Americans. Zannis, a cross-over classical singer took the National Anthem in a direction all her own and evoked a sense of pride that captivated us both as Greeks and Americans.

The evening began with a series of demonstration folk dances performed by the Hellenic Heritage Dance Troupe of St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church. Just outside the right field gate, families and friends of the dance group gathered first for a photo opportunity, than to show off their stuff. The series of dances were from the Greek islands and the mainland. “We’re thrilled to be here and feel great. We have been practicing extra hard the last few weeks”, said one performer.

Greek-Americans were spread out all over the stadium on this humid night that featured the Colorado Rockies against our Phillies. Sections 132 to 134 had been purchased and reserved for the community, via the American Hellenic Institute. They have sponsored this event for the last five years now, making it a tradition for Greek-Americans that kicks off the unofficial start of summer. Chris Maragos of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles tossed out one of the first balls and got a hug from the Philly Phanatic before the game started. He stood with Nick Laragakis of AHI and several other Greek American representatives for a photo opportunity before the game started behind the home plate.

The Phillies were facing a tiring and long evening being beaten down by the Rockies 6-1 after four innings. The Hellenic Heritage Dance Troupe gave them a boost at the end of the 5th Inning when the appeared on the baseball field, along with third base. The annual tradition is given to a rotating series of dance troupes from the Philadelphia metropolitan area annually. The two minutes of fame under a stadium full of Philly fans was inspiring for the bunch. Running out onto the field their faces beamed in anticipation. After joining hands, the dancing began, and the group fell into the rhythm, synchronizing their steps.

The Philly Phanatic came out and joined them, dressed as a traditional Greek Evzone. His antics brought on cheers and laughter. And just as quickly as it began, it was over. The folk dance performance concluded with a group photo with the Phanatic in the concourse tunnel below the stadium.

Minutes later, the Phanatic dashed upstairs to the VIP box of the American Hellenic Institute where Greek-American had gathered for an exclusive photo opp. Downstairs in the concourse, Greek food was being served by vendors all night. Announcements were made to try a gyro, and on occasion, a Greek song could be heard coming in over the PA system. Greek-Americans clapped and joined in singing and even waved the Greek flag.