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A phamily affair

Photo courtesy of Christopher Elston

Most people have a family tree.

The Viscontos have a family forest.

Thriving with more than 100 members, the Visconto clan is surely plentiful. And for the second consecutive year, they recently held their family reunion at Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phillies.

Siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins invaded the ballpark to see the Phightin’ Phils take on the Atlanta Braves on Friday night. It wasn’t the most pleasant of weather conditions — the 7:05 p.m. game was delayed almost two hours after downpours flooded the area — but it was well worth the wait.

Thanks to a walk-off homer courtesy of Raul Ibanez, the Phils downed Atlanta in 10 innings, 3–2. Far more important than the final score, though, was seizing an opportunity for the entire Visconto family to get together.

“I look forward to just being with my family,” said Jena Visconto, 26, who lives in the Far Northeast. “I’m very family-oriented. Life is too short. We have to get together and enjoy life together. We all really enjoy being around each other. It’s always a good time.”

Although gathering at the ballpark is a relatively new custom for the family, the ritual of getting together to root for the Phillies actually has been a family tradition for decades.

It all started with Jena’s grandparents, the late Margaret and Rocco Visconto. They married and moved into a home on Teesdale Street in Mayfair. They had eight children, and, over the years, 36 grandchildren. And the couple loved to watch the Phils on TV.

“When the Phillies were on, we’d always go there,” recalled Jena. “My grandmom was a huge Phillies fan. We’d all sit on the floor and each other’s laps and pile down there and watch the Phillies.

“The basement was extremely small and we were down there all the time — Thanksgiving, Christmas and every Phillies game,” she continued. “I remember it being so crowded that to get the kids to the other side of the room, they’d have to climb under the tables.”

The happy couple were married for more than 50 years, but sadly, in 1997, Margaret lost her battle with breast cancer. Two years later, Rocco died of emphysema.

“We didn’t get together as often after we lost our parents,” explained Lou Visconto, Jena’s father. “My mother was the Phillies’ number-one fan. She wouldn’t miss a game. If we could all be there, watching with her, that made it even more special. That’s what my parents would have wanted, for this tradition to continue.”

Mission accomplished.

Roxanne Visconto — Lou’s sister — was the brains of the operation. She explained that after years of getting together only for weddings and christenings, it seemed the perfect time for a family reunion.

“We always got together to watch the Phillies games, so it was a perfect combination — family and Phillies,” said Roxanne. “Everybody loved the idea. Mainly, it was my seven siblings. They asked their children and it went from there.”

Last Friday night, 103 Viscontos — most hailing from Northeast Philadelphia, but some traveling from Bucks County and New Jersey — hiked to their 300-level seats and cheered on their Phightin’ Phils.

The guest list included Margaret and Rocco’s eight children, 36 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren, as well as significant others. The youngest in attendance was Rocco Jr., 4 months, and the oldest family member was 67.

“Basically it’s just a reason to get together and support the Phillies, because that’s what we did when my grandparents lived in Mayfair,” said Jena. “I think it’s really cool to be standing there and see all these people and know it’s all happening because two people fell in love with each other.

“Cherishing the people that mean the most to you and spending time with them is really important,” she added. “Family is very special to me.” ••

Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at myerkov@bsmphilly.com

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