Notebook | Ben Goes to the Yard

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Benny at the Ballgame

Memorial Day weekend at the yard is as about as an American sporting pastime as there is, and on Saturday, a 21-year old Australian took part in the tradition.

Before the Phillies hosted the Toronto Blue Jays in a matinee at Citizens Bank Park, Ben Simmons - the 76ers’ first-year phenom who this past season arrived on the NBA scene in emphatic fashion - was given the honor of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch.

A multi-sport athlete in his youth, playing Aussie rules football and cricket in addition to basketball, Simmons did just fine, as the tape shows.

Decked out in a personalized red and white pinstripe Phillies jersey, Simmons stuck around to watch the Phils play the Jays. It seemed like a relaxing way to cap a noteworthy week, one during which the point man earned his latest superlative - unanimous All-Rookie First Team.

Simmons also last week received votes for All-NBA and All-Defensive Team consideration — acknowledgements befitting of his historic, transcendent debut campaign.

“It’s been amazing,” Simmons said, describing his first year with the Sixers in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia during Saturday’s game.

“Obviously, it wasn’t the end we wanted, but the fans stuck with us the whole time. We owe them every season to come back and perform. I love playing for Philly. It’s been a great year, and I can’t wait for next season.”

With a 2-1 win over Toronto, the young upstart Phils on Saturday temporarily jumped into first place in their division. The green group is trying to write a story similar to that of the Sixers.

After devoting several years to cultivating a promising nucleus loaded with elite, youthful talent, the Sixers broke through this past season for a substantial step forward. They brought the Delaware Valley with them on a memorable ride that reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

“They give so much energy,” Simmons said of Philadelphia sports fans. “It’s like having another player on the court for us, every time we play at home. The fans have been surreal and amazing all year.”

A few weeks ago, during his exit interview with the media, Simmons said he wasn’t sure how much of his spring and summer he’d split between here, and his native Australia.

A finalist for Rookie of the Year, the 21-year old is already looking ahead.

“Next season’s only going to be better, and fans getting more into it, so it’s going to be great.”


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