As cries of “ice-cold water ice” and a flurry of rally towels filled the crisp March air at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, fans ushered in the new era of Phillies baseball: Enter Bryce Harper.

In a buzzing sea of red and white, parents grabbed on to their kids’ hands, fighting through a cloud of palpable Harper-mania and fresh Chickie’s & Pete’s grease throughout the stadium for the Phillies’ season-opening win over the Atlanta Braves.

“This should be a national holiday, it really should,” said Debbie McClintock, waving a rally towel before the first pitch in the left-field concourse with her best friend and coworker, Lauri McCarty.

The pair — who work as emergency first responders in Atlantic City — called spending the day at the ballpark “therapy.”

“There’s nothing better than opening day,” said McCarty, who’s been coming to Phillies openers since the team played at the Vet.

“When you love baseball, it’s just such an awesome day, just the whole vibe ... and then with Bryce Harper, it’s like, ‘Oh my God!’ ” she said. The addition of the rightfielder, who signed a 13-year contract with the Phillies last month, has bolstered fans’ hopes of the team making an extended postseason run, perhaps even all the way to the World Series.

Even before Philly’s $330 million man walked onto the field, his name was on the backs and minds of fans at Citizens Bank Park. And when the slugger walked on the field with the rest of the starting lineup, a deafening roar erupted from the crowd.

Throughout the stadium, the consensus was clear: This year is just different.

Ron Davis, of Gloucester County, has been coming to opening-day games since 1993. But this season, he said, the team “has that ‘08 feel,” referencing the Phillies’ 2008 title.

And like the 2008 season, Harper’s arrival is already creating memories for fans. Tom Scalfaro, for one, didn’t expect he’d be catching a ball sitting up in Section 303 with his father and brother, let alone from Philly’s newest superstar.

Scalfaro, who has lived in Washington for five years and watched Harper in a Nationals uniform, picked the seats before Harper signed with the Phillies.

Their row, way up in the corner of the stadium hovering above right field, with a nearly perfect view of all 44,469 in attendance, started a “HAR-PER” chant. It caught the star’s attention, and he threw a ball — far.

“He launched it,” Scalfaro said. The ball landed a few feet away and Scalfaro scrambled to grab the souvenir.

And despite Harper’s tepid debut, fans remained optimistic.

When asked if the star was worth the hype, Tommy Gannon of King of Prussia, clad in a No. 3 jersey, shrugged.

“Today, I’m not so sure about it, but hey, we’re excited to have him, I bought his jersey, and one game doesn’t make or break him,” he said.

Nearby, another fan, Brian Mooney, weighed in: “He’s not as good as they say he is. He’s good, but no one’s worth the money they make in this game.”

For Philadelphia father and son Mark and Jesse Snyder, opening day is “a fun excuse to play hooky from work and school,” Mark Snyder said.

“This is our third one,” he said. “We love it.”

Fans also embraced new amenities at the ballpark, such as Pass & Stow, an outdoor restaurant and beer garden that was mobbed even ahead of the game’s start with diners, drinkers, and kids, who were soaking in the bright sunshine and 60-degree weather. Yards away, a DJ played classic 2000s hits as kids danced in front of a stage.

The first pitch wasn’t until 3:05 p.m., but fans had already been on site before 8 a.m., getting ready for their first-of-the-season tailgates.

By midmorning, with lots open but a couple of hours to go before fans could enter the gates, grills were smoking with burgers, hot dogs, and skewers as friends played cornhole and beer pong and awaited the moment they could enter the park.

Hundreds of cars — dotted by a handful of RVs and even a couple of school buses — filled the parking lot, and tailgaters didn’t seem to mind the wait for gates to open.

“It’s always a holiday," said Jared Smith, cofounder of Victus Sports, the King of Prussia company that makes Harper’s bats, at his Lot K tailgate.

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