Phils proud to be part of Howard's goodbye

Phils proud to be part of Howard's goodbye

PHILADELPHIA -- How could Ryan Howard not feel overwhelmed?

Howard saw his entire career flash before his eyes during a video tribute before Sunday afternoon's 5-2 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, the final game of a storied Phillies career. He saw his son, Darian, place a commemorative plaque in front of the seat in left field where he hit his franchise-record 58th home run in 2006. He choked up as spoke to the fans, who stood, cheered and showered him with love each and every time he stepped to the plate. He tipped his cap to the crowd when Tommy Joseph took his place at first base in the top of the ninth inning. He gave his final curtain call a few moments later.

"It was a roller coaster, man," Howard said afterward. "I'm not going to lie. It was crazy. I really didn't know what to expect, what the organization was going to do, how I was going to feel. But getting out there, seeing the people, seeing the different videos, everything just all kind of came in and hit me all at once. It was great. It was great today. It's still ... I'm still trying to register it. You know, it was crazy. It was crazy."

It was a crazy, emotional day for his teammates, too.

"It's hard to see him leave," shortstop Freddy Galvis said. "Today when he was speaking, it was hard for me to hear him say those words and know that he isn't going to be here."

"I must admit, I had a little tear welling up in my eye," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Joseph found himself a key player in Howard's final moments as a Phillie. Mackanin had planned to remove Howard at some point during the game to give fans a final chance to salute the greatest first baseman in franchise history. Nobody knew when, but it turned out to be the ninth inning.

Joseph walked onto the field, shook Howard's hand and gave him a hug.

"Congratulations," he said. "Enjoy it."

Joseph then watched Howard do exactly that.

"To be a part of something like that for such an iconic person and player in the city of Philadelphia is awesome," Joseph said. "It's definitely up there. After making my Major League debut, it was definitely the highlight of my season, being a part of that moment. I didn't really do much, outside of the handshake. But just to be on the receiving end of that, that's a special thing."

Joseph said that he and Howard actually figured out their handshake before they went on the field.

"You can't mess things up like that," Joseph said. "It was great to see the crowd come out and support him like that. That's what we hoped and expected it would be like for him. The crowd erupted multiple times when he came to the plate and definitely really nailed it there. It was awesome. Salute to the fans for doing that, because that man deserved it. That man earned it."

Phillies fans salute Howard

Joseph helped bump Howard into a part-time role in May, but the two got along great throughout the season.

"He never made me feel like he was the man on top and I was still trying to hunt him," Joseph said. "That guy has done everything in this game, almost -- MVP, Rookie of the Year, World Series champion. That guy just made me feel like we were on a level playing field, when in reality, we're not. That guy is a special player and a special human."

Philadelphia let him know they knew it, too.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.