In Thursday’s sea of red, white, and powder blue at Citizens Bank Park, Dave Shaw held up his red rally towel in one hand and a Union Jack in the other.
This week Shaw, 37, made his annual pilgrimage from Southampton to Philadelphia to witness his favorite ballclub win the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. He documented the whole trip on his account @UKPhillies, where he rallied his 18,000 followers around the team.
With an Instagram, YouTube, and podcast of the same name, Shaw is not just a Phillies fan, but an apostle, growing the popularity of the sport and the team in his native England.
During baseball season back home, Shaw can be found at London’s Passyunk Avenue bar with his fellow Fightins fans, or typing battle cries or words of consolation to his group chat of 125 U.K.-based Phillies devotees. If there’s a game, even with a first pitch at 2 or 3 a.m. his time, Shaw is watching.
Balancing updating social media with filming vlogs and taping podcasts is like a “part-time job” for Shaw, who is a customer advisor for Mercedes-Benz.
In Philadelphia, locals treat Shaw like one of their own. Upon arriving at the Bank on Wednesday, four hours before the first pitch, he was greeted by fellow tailgaters who recognized him and his British flag with “UK Phillies” printed in the center.
“Dave is his own breed of fan,” said Alex Carr, a writer for Sports Illustrated and FanNation’s “Inside The Phillies”, who co-hosts “Broad Street To Britain: A UK Phillies Podcast” with Shaw. “His energy is completely contagious, and I think that’s why he’s managed to build such an awesome following.”
Shaw sees himself differently.
“For me, I’m just a normal guy,” he said. “I’m just Dave from Southampton who supports the Phillies and promotes the sport.”
Southampton, like Philadelphia, is a working-class town that loves sports, according to Shaw. When he arrived in Philly for the first time on a backpacking trip in 2012, Shaw was struck by the similarities between the two cities.
A couple of guests at the hostel at which he was staying had extra tickets to a Phillies game, and on a whim, Shaw joined them. He knew nothing about baseball.
He happened to see Chase Utley’s first game back from a knee injury, where he hit a homer in his first at-bat of the season.
“The whole place goes crazy,” Shaw remembered. “And I’m like, “Wow. Wow, I’m hooked.”
The Phillies lost the game, but they had forged a new fan. Shaw attended a second game the following night. Back home, he spent his time reading up on the history of the Phillies and of Philadelphia, waiting to return. He’s been back to see the Phillies every year since.
In 2017, Shaw started @UKPhillies on social media, looking for other Phillies fans across the pond. The team was struggling, and Shaw needed to find people with whom to commiserate. To his surprise, he found a sizable constituency of expatriates and British Eagles fans who were quite willing to generalize their love of Philly sports to the city’s baseball team.
The next year, the Phillies took notice of Shaw’s social media presence and spotlighted @UKPhillies during a game against the Mets, which “catapulted” the accounts’ following. The Phillies’ recent consecutive trips to the postseason have only grown Shaw’s base.
Last year, Shaw got a taste of what Red October looked like in Philadelphia. He was in the stands during the NLDS against the Braves when Rhys Hoskins hit the three-run Game 3 dinger that helped secure the team’s spot in the NLCS.
This year, he witnessed the team’s nine homers against the Braves over the last two home games. Shaw will watch the rest of the Phillies’ postseason back across the Atlantic. Regardless of how this one ends, he’s looking forward to the MLB London Series 2024 in June, where the Phillies will take on the Mets in Shaw’s backyard.
“Baseball is such a magic sport,” Shaw said. “I find it quite difficult to explain to people back home the magic of it except to just get out there and experience it for yourself.”