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Bright House Field: Home to the Phillies, Threshers... and Cheesesteaks

A chance encounter with a Phillies executive some 12 years ago led to Cindi Bowers' cheesesteaks becoming a local legend and a wildly popular fixture at both Phillies and Threshers games.

Of course Bright House Field screams "Phillies."

The Philadelphia Phillies. It is, after all, the Phillies' spring training roost and the home to the Phillies Class A Florida State League affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers.

Throughout the park are reminders that the stadium is a Phillies place, even banners in right field boasting the 2008 World Series title over the Tampa Bay Rays.

But behind home plate is a magnet for both Phillies patrons and anyone with a hunger pang.

The cheesesteaks.

During spring training games, visiting media members often hurriedly run downstairs from the right field press box despite the fact they have access to a media-only dining room. "Got to get a cheesesteak," they often say.

The cheesesteaks are the handiwork of Cindi Bowers, owner of in Dunedin. The name comes from Bowers native Delaware County, Pa. - get it, Delco's?

Bowers moved to the area in 1998 and started a modest cheesesteak eatery which was an homage to Philadelphia in a corner of a nondescript strip mall on Dunedin's Main Street.

But a chance encounter from then-Clearwater Phillies director of sales Dan McDonough, who stopped in at Bowers' shop for lunch after getting a haircut, led to Bowers' cheesesteaks becoming a local legend.

"We got to talking and I asked him, 'How do I get in there?'" Bowers said, meaning how she could sell cheesesteaks at Phillies spring training games.

McDonough, smitten with the cheesesteaks and knowing the cheesesteaks at Phillies games could lead to something special, quickly worked out a deal for Bowers to set up shop at the old Jack Russell Stadium.

Bowers' stand was both inside and outside the stadium. She was inside the perimeter of the stadium's exterior fence but outside the stadium bowl. Fans would have to exit the stadium to get the cheesesteaks.

And they did, by the hundreds. Soon, eating a cheesesteak (or two?) at Phillies games was as much a prerequisite as having a cold beer, perhaps more so.

When Bright House Field opened, McDonough made a deal with Bowers: be part of the new stadium and we will build you a special home. No more kiosk for Bowers on the sidewalk outside the stadium bowl, her cheesesteak stand has a built-in vendor's window right behind home plate.

Bowers' cheesesteaks are as popular as the Phillies. Of course the bread is what makes a cheesesteak and Delco's uses the same Amoroso bakery rolls found at any South Street steak shop. She sells no less than 1,000 cheesesteaks each spring training game.

This year she set a record of serving more than 1,600 cheesesteaks in one game. Given the stadium's 8,500 seating capacity, it means one in every five fans bought one of Bower's cheesesteaks.

Going to a Threshers game, after marveling at the stadium and the tiki hut in left field, it's not unusual at all to hear a fan say out loud, "Got to get a cheesesteak."

**The Phillies beat the Rays in the 2008 World Series. The article is changed to reflect that.

Fish tales: The Threshers are in second place, two games behind first-place Daytona in the FSL's North Division. ... It doesn't appear RHP Julio Rodriguez will be with the Threshers much longer. Rodriguez has an ERA of 1.67, third in the FSL. He has yet to lose a game (5-0). ... RHP Jonathan Pettibone has a 1.69 ERA, fourth-best in the league.  ... RHP Trevor May has the second-most strikeouts of FSL pitchers with 43. ... 1B Joe Savery is second in the FSL with an average of .379.

On deck: The Threshers start a four-game homestand against the Charlotte Stone Crabs ( Tampa Bay Rays affiliate) starting at 7 p.m. today.

Lared Latch May 18, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Phillies world series win over Tampa Bay was in 2008, not 2009 as the article states

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