For David Hoppman, Harry Kalas was much more than an iconic broadcaster of Phillies games.
He was a matchmaker.
He was a pair of eyes.
"I just wish I had the chance to thank Harry for being there all those years and for painting such beautiful pictures of the games," Hoppman said. "Harry helped me fall in love with baseball. Once you heard him, there was no way you couldn't be a fan for life."
Hoppman, who will turn 34 next month, has been blind since infancy. He began listening to Kalas call Phillies games on the radio in his family's home in Wernersville, Berks County, in the early 1980s.
"I was hooked the first time I heard him," he said.
Hoppman is one of those passionate, diehard Phillies fans who uses the pronoun we when talking about the club. He has computer technology that allows him to read newspaper articles about the team. He listens to every game, some on radio, some on television, some on the Internet. The only time he misses a game is when he's attending a Reading Phillies minor-league game with his parents, Carl and Joyce. The family has season tickets in Section 103 at Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium.
On Monday afternoon, Hoppman tuned in his local radio station, WEEU-AM (830), for the start of the Phillies-Washington Nationals game and heard the heartbreaking news.
Harry Kalas, the Hall of Fame voice of the Phillies for 39 seasons, was dead at 73.
"I couldn't believe it," Hoppman said. "It was so sad to hear. I like all the Phillies' broadcasters. But Harry was my first. He was my favorite.
"Every year, no matter if we had no chance in the world, Harry made you feel like we had a shot to get to the World Series."
Baseball, with its meandering rhythms played out over a six-month season, is the perfect sport for radio. That has always been Hoppman's favorite way of following the Phillies. The radio delivered the game to his home. Kalas and his longtime broadcast partner Richie Ashburn brought it all alive.
"Harry and Whitey for years were the only thing I knew," said Hoppman, whose blindness was the result of a premature birth. "They were part of the family from April to October.
"The way Harry described the games made it so easy to understand and allowed me to love the game the way I do now. Harry painted such good pictures for me and people like me that we are able to enjoy the game like anyone else.
"If you have to ask people what's going on in the game, the broadcaster isn't doing his job. With Harry, you never had to do that. He told you exactly what was happening on the field."
Hoppman never met Kalas but did hear that distinctive and captivating voice in person when Kalas spoke at a banquet in Reading this past winter.
"He talked about how important the fans were to the game and how much he appreciated them," Hoppman said. "I hope he knows we appreciated him."
For the last few days, Hoppman has listened to tributes to Kalas on various radio shows.
He heard Kalas' call of Mitch Williams' clinching save in the 1993 National League Championship Series; Kalas' narration of Mike Schmidt's 500th home run; and, of course, Kalas' grandest proclamation: The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 world champions of baseball.
"I got goosebumps and sadness all at the same time," Hoppman said. "I remember listening to every one of those. They're all great memories, and it's great hearing them again. But it's sad knowing I won't hear Harry again.
"Now the angels have the best play-by-play man ever."