The saga of the Kitemen

A group of U.S. Navy Leap Frogs parachuted into Citizens Bank Park before the home opener Monday, which continued the Phillies' first-game fascination with flying men that started 38 years ago when Kiteman - a part of the Phillies' lexicon brought to us by Bill Giles - attempted his first in a series of ill-fated flights from a center-field launching pad at Veterans Stadium.

According to author Rich Westcott's Veterans Stadium: Field of Memories, the first three Kitemen failed in their quest to deliver the first pitch by gliding from the upper deck to the pitcher's mound. The first Kiteman - a water-skier named Dick Johnson - crashed into the center-field seats. A year later, Johnson landed in the seats in left-center, costing him an opportunity at a third attempt.

T.J. Beatty replaced Johnson as Kiteman in 1980 and he, at least, made it out of the stands and into center field - but still well short of the desired destination on the mound.

Ten years later, Pete Bonifay became the first Kiteman to actually make it to the pitcher's mound, and he repeated the feat three more times, in 1995, 1999 and 2003. Bonifay was the Michael Jordan of Kitemen.

The Leap Frogs, for the record, all landed successfully Monday.

That's why you leave these things to the professionals.

Not worth booing

This could be the saddest part of the Nationals' season: They were booed louder during introductions at their own stadium than they were in Philadelphia.

On opening day at Nationals Park, Phillies fans came in droves and booed lustily when the Washington players and coaches were introduced. It became a big deal in Washington, where Nationals fans (yes, they exist) were appalled at the poor showing by their own faithful.

Monday at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies fans were, well, apathetic toward the Nats. The jeering was muted; just general disinterest. That might be the ultimate insult to a visiting team.

Perhaps the fact that the stadium was half full during introductions played a part. Here's guessing the lines for the port-o-johns in the parking lots were at least 30 deep.

Nothing like the home opener.

A touching moment

It was good to see first-base coach Davey Lopes back at the ballpark after taking a one-week leave of absence to be with his family after the death of his brother. Michael Lopes was killed in a Rhode Island house fire on the weekend before the Phillies' season opener in Washington.

When Lopes walked on the field for batting practice, Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco put his arm around the veteran first-base coach and offered his condolences.

Herb's pitch

It was nice to see Herb Magee on the mound, throwing out the first ball at the home opener.

In an era when the differences between cities and regions are evaporating, Magee remains the quintessential Philadelphian - a gym rat, a parish guy, a glad-handing, mostly good-natured, sports-loving, nasal-toned, rowhouse guy.

And despite being the winningest coach in NCAA men's basketball history and a legendary shooting guru, he's never abandoned his hometown - undoubtedly concerned that he wouldn't be able to get a good sandwich roll anywhere else.

The Philadelphia University coach's throw to backup catcher Brian Schneider was high and outside. Magee, a perfectionist, clearly was disappointed with his rare miss.