Dave Buck: Helping Phillies ballpark workers not just good business, it's 'family'

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The first game back at the ballpark in late March or early April is always kind of a reunion for fans and seasonal employees. But this year, that gathering is on hold because of the coronavirus crisis.

Who knows when, or if, it will come.

Today was supposed to be the Phillies' home opener.

For game-day employees, this could be a rather difficult scenario, especially if they rely on those spring and summer paychecks. That's why the Phillies, as well as every other team in Major League Baseball, are helping their ballpark employees.

A couple of weeks ago, the Phils established a $1 million fund for affected workers to assist their game-day employees, many of whom have held these summer jobs for decades.

"The impacted workers, we're all in this together," Phillies Executive Vice President Dave Buck said. "And they’re part of our extended family. A lot of them are the first ones you see when you come to the ballpark, and we just think it’s important to do whatever little bit we can."

Sheila Sacco, who works in the Diamond Club seating area, has been with the Phillies for over 30 years. Sacco said she wasn't surprised.

"To know that they're all worrying about us and thinking of us in this awful time, that was really terrific," Sacco said.

Director of Premium Services Harold Palmer is entering his 42nd year working Phillies games. To him, this family-like atmosphere has gone back decades.

"It started years ago when I started there," Palmer said. "You know, with (former owner) Ruly Carpenter and (Chairman Emeritus) Bill Giles and (late former President) David Montgomery, and it just continues now. It’s an amazing place to be."

"Just another part of the Phillies family being the Phillies family," said security guard Tom Neubauer, who emphasized how many of these high-ranking people over the years try to get to know their employees by their first name.

"Our ownership I think is spectacular," Buck said, "and they're the ones that put up the million dollars, and a lot of (the employees) are friends of mine ... I’ve seen them for 30 years. They're friends with the owners, because they've seen them for 30 years. Every year the same people keep coming back, and it's if you treat people right, they treat you right back."

Buck said the details of the fund are being worked out.

This fund benefits Phillies employees only, not people who work for other companies at the ballpark. 

Across the street at Wells Fargo Center, Comcast Spectacor is taking care of its game-day employees for Flyers, 76ers and Wings games scheduled through April 15.

The Sixers are helping their hourly game-night staff, as they consider them, "the heartbeat of the organization."

A lot of people who work at the ballpark say the financial help is very important to them.

"I do know that a lot of our employees depend on this money for everyday expenses," Nancy D'Egidio. "It's not just the love of the game. It's a paycheck."

D'Egidio works in the Phillies employee meeting room on game days and is entering her 47th year with the club. She said the postponement of Opening Day certainly leaves a void.

"A bit strange," D'Egidio said. "After 46 years it's part of my life. ... It just feels very weird to be starting April and not having baseball."

No one knows when it will be safe enough for professional sports to return, but when it does, workers say the assistance will help bring things back to normal.

"I do remember the feeling after coming back after 9/11, because we did miss a few games then," Sacco said. "And it was so special, because baseball is ... it's baseball. It's so much a part of our culture. And to not have it really hurts. So when we get it back it is going to be phenomenal."