Diamondbacks' Kelly praises Phillies fans after poking the bear in last year's NLCS

After making poorly received comments during the 2023 NLCS, Merrill Kelly recently changed his tune and has nothing but praise for Phillies fans.

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly praises Phillies fans and the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly praises Phillies fans and the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies weren't short on bulletin board material during the 2023 postseason. A couple of rival players notably ran their mouths and paid the price with embarrassing moments on the field that made them reconsider their words in short order.

Few Phillies fans will ever forget Bryce Harper's multiple stare-downs of Atlanta Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia after the infamous "Atta boy Harper" comments aged worse than an ice cream cone in a fireplace. The stare downs from Harper toward Arcia as he rounded second base now hangs on the wall as a motivational tool in the Phillies' spring training clubhouse.

Fast forward to the 2023 NLCS when the Phillies faced the Arizona Diamondbacks for a chance to advance to the World Series. Prior to his Game 2 start, Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly uttered some words he would come to regret when asked about the atmosphere he was walking into at Citizens Bank Park.

"I haven't obviously heard this place [CBP] on the field," Kelly told the media. "But I'd be very surprised if it trumped that Venezuela game down in Miami."

His first mistake was comparing a playoff game at The Bank to the USA vs Venezuela World Baseball Classic game. The second was allowing the crowd volume and taunts to affect him on the mound as the 35-year-old late bloomer was blasted for three home runs in 5 2/3 innings and was ceremoniously booed off the mound by the Phillies faithful.

Kelly praises Phillies fans and the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park

Kelly was a recent guest on the Chris Rose Rotation podcast, and the pitcher was asked about his infamous comments before Game 2. Kelly had nothing but admiration for Phillies fans and the environment at Citizens Bank Park during the postseason.

“I think that quote unfortunately got taken way out of context," said Kelly. "Definitely poked the big bear of The Bank. I don’t know if it was louder, to be honest with you — when Trea Turner hit that Grand Slam [in the WBC] I’d be hard pressed to find a situation that purely just volume-wise is louder than that."

"That’s kind of what I was getting at," continued Kelly. "It wasn’t ever a knock on the Phillies fans. It wasn’t ever like, ‘this place is quiet.’ I said it the whole series, I hand it to the Phillies fans. That place is different man, that place feels like you’re going to war, especially in a playoff setting like that. Some of those games honestly in Philly felt more like the World Series than some of the World Series games did.”

Phillies fans have created one of the most intimidating atmospheres in postseason baseball over the last two seasons. There's no doubt Citizens Bank Park will be ready once again if the Phillies can make it to their third straight Red October.