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Staying up "stupid hours," how a UK-based Phillies fan is helping grow baseball in England

Meet the UK-based Phillies fan who's helping grow baseball in England
Meet the UK-based Phillies fan who's helping grow baseball in England 21:40

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Dave Shaw's story of becoming a tortured Philadelphia Phillies fan began like so many others of a generation: a Chase Utley home run and a raucous Citizens Bank Park.

Except for one major difference. Shaw didn't grow up in the city of cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, and Shortis; he was born and bred 3,433 miles away in Harrogate, England.

Shaw was in Philadelphia in June 2012, the last stop of a backpacking trip across the United States. He was invited to a Phillies-Pirates game, which was Utley's first game back from chronic knee problems, and he "didn't have a clue" about baseball.

"The crowd goes crazy, I could see everyone rising," Shaw, who lives in Southampton, said. "Utley on the back of their shirts, their jerseys. I was like, 'This guy is a big deal, right?'" They were like, 'This guy is going to turn our season around.' Sure enough, he hit a home run in his first at-bat."

Utley's homer did not turn the Phillies' 2012 season around, but the hook was set. Shaw returned home to England enthralled with the Phils, the city of Philadelphia and baseball.

With the Phillies headed to England for the 2024 MLB London Series next month, Shaw joined CBS Philadelphia's Pat Gallen on "Gallen of Questions" to discuss the Fightins and how he's helping grow baseball overseas with "UK Phillies."

"Stuff you could never do here."

The Phillies lost, 11-7, to Pittsburgh in Utley's return, but the Bank and South Philly weren't like anything Shaw had ever experienced. The sports complex is unique to Philadelphia, where all four major professional sports teams play.

Shaw said he was blown away from the second he stepped off SEPTA's Broad Street Line at what's now NRG Station. He recalled seeing Lincoln Financial Field, Wells Fargo Center, Citizens Bank Park, Xfinity Live!, and the tailgating.

"We have nothing like this back in the U.K. whatsoever," Shaw said. "Tailgating, the smells of tailgating, playing tailgate games. Stuff you could never do here."

Philadelphia reminded Shaw of Harrogate. He said Philly is like a second home for him.

"Blue-collar city, hard-working fat people who are sport-crazy," Shaw said. "Philadelphia sports is the heart of the city. Everything just synched up beautifully."

How Shaw is helping grow baseball in England

Shaw has had his personal Twitter, now X, account since December 2011 but created "UK Phillies" in June 2017. The UK Phillies account has grown to over 20,000 followers on X.

The idea behind the account was to help baseball grow in England and build the Phillies' fan base in the U.K. and Europe. MLB announced its London Series in 2018, with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox playing the first two-game series in 2019.

Shaw said baseball is growing at a "great pace" in England, and it's not just him either.

"There are a lot of Philly fans based in the U.K. and Europe who are just as hearty as me," Shaw said.

The UK Phillies account helped change Shaw's life "quite a bit for the good."

"Being a Phils fan, you don't feel alone," Shaw said. "When the Phillies are bad, we're not suffering alone. And when the Phils are great, we're all celebrating together."

From the "barren years" to the current age

Shaw feels he's earned his stripes as a Phillies fan, and it's hard to blame him. He became a fan at "the start of some very barren years." 2012 marked the end of the Phillies' "Golden era." The Phils finished 81-81 and 54-60 after Shaw became a fan.

From 2012 until 2021, the Phillies lost 659 games. There was a lot of pain before Bryce Harper arrived in 2019 and the tides began changing. It wasn't until 2021 that the Phils finished above .500 but still missed the playoffs.

The Phillies' 11-year postseason drought ended in 2022, with a magical run that ended two games shy of winning the World Series. Last season, the Phils lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Championship Series.

Shaw has seen the bad and now the good. Since 2012, he returns to Philadelphia for Phillies games as much as he can. He came for the Phillies' 2022 and 2023 NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves.

"Throughout the playoff drought, everybody was saying to me when I was going to the games, 'Just come when the Phillies get back into the postseason because there's nothing like postseason baseball,'" Shaw said.

Being at the Bank for Rhys Hoskins' bat spike was something Shaw will never forget.

"Nothing, for me, will ever compare," Shaw said. "That moment and the euphoria and the pandemonium was unbelievable. Citizens Bank Park was shaking. I've never felt anywhere shake so much. There's nowhere like Philadelphia in postseason baseball.

"I've never experienced it. The whole city was on the high. I've lost so much sleep. My body clock's a mess following this team. The Phils are on a hot run. I can't miss it. I feel like I'm getting FOMO. I can't miss the Phils. I'm staying up stupid hours, but the roller coaster of the past two years has been unbelievable."

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