Frank Bowens has worked with the Philadelphia Phillies since 1988, but he had never been to Clearwater.
"Usually, during spring training, we are getting ready for the season," he said Thursday, as he took pictures of Bright House Networks Field. "It's beautiful. At home, it's windy and 40 degrees."
Bowens, 42, was wearing his ring from the Phillies' 1993 appearance in World Series. He, along with about 300 other employees and their guests, were flown on a team charter to the bay area for the first two games of the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
They were housed on Clearwater Beach and Thursday afternoon, the staff of the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies' minor league Class A affiliate, hosted a private dinner and hospitality event for the employees.
Conversely, the Threshers' staff will be flown to Philadelphia for the games there.
The Phillies have held spring training in Clearwater for more than 60 years.
"They work so hard all year, this a major perk for them to get away from what was a busy summer," said Bill Giles, a team owner and chairman, as he munched on a chicken breast. "These are the people who make it happen."
As local musicians Greg West and Jay Soldano performed (Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay, folks sat around Frenchy's Tiki Bar overlooking left field and ate shrimp drenched in butter, Old Bay and basil seasoning; miniature steak and cheese sandwiches; and stuffed mushrooms.
The main course included pulled pork, chicken breasts, hot dogs and potato salad. The final inning of the Phillies' victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers to earn their berth in this year's World Series was played on the stadium's Jumbotron.
Many of the employees and their guests had never been to Clearwater.
"It's unreal," said Nick Rizzo, 34, a middle school teacher from New Jersey, who was a guest. "No. 1, you have the World Series, but being here in Clearwater and on the beach. It's great."
Natasha Cek, whose husband works for the Phillies, called it a "once in a lifetime opportunity." She had never been to Clearwater.
"We had a choice on whether to come," Cek, 23, said. "Can you believe some people said no?"