Paul Kowalick's family gathered outside Citizens Bank Park a few hours before Wednesday night's series finale between the Phillies and New York Yankees. His sons, Paul Jr. and Mike, stood alongside their brother-in-law as the three drank a few beers and watched their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews trickle into the parking lot.

And even though he died 12 years ago, Paul Sr. was there, too — his picture stood prominently on a table where the Kowalicks had laid out their pregame spread.

The clan of 30 would be part of the more than 44,000 to pack the ballpark Wednesday, a third straight sellout for a stadium that hadn't been filled to capacity since September 2013.

It was far from Eagles-Giants or Flyers-Rangers or even the old days of Sixers-Knicks, however. Wherever one went in the tailgate lots well before first pitch, there were pinstripes aplenty, both red and navy together.

"I came on a bus trip Monday," Mike Kowalick said. "From the time I left the bus [in the parking lot], in the urinals, in the stadium, inside the stadium, from the staff to the fans, I've never seen such a mixture of fans."

Kowalick's father, Paul Sr., was a Yankees die-hard. He raised Mike, who was decked from head-to-toe in navy, including a 2009 World Series champions shirt, to be the same. But Mike's sister married a Phillies fan, Joe Gudonis, and Kowalick conceded that he supports the Phils as well.

"I said to my wife a few months ago, 'Let's look and see if the Yankees are playing the Phillies,' and they were, so we bought 30 tickets and made up a tailgate," he said. "I love the Phillies. They're my No. 2 team, so this is perfect."

On the other side of the lot, a group of 20- and 30-somethings were deep in a game of cornhole. Going up against one another were Collette Mullen and John Meo of Washington Township, who are to be married  next weekend.

Mullen proudly donned her Phillies red. Meo wore his Yankees jersey.

A happy couple? Maybe not, even if just for the night.

John Meo (left) and fiancée Collette Mullen were among the many Yankees and Phillies fans mixed among one another in the parking lots before Wednesday’s game.
Mitchell Gladstone / STAFF
John Meo (left) and fiancée Collette Mullen were among the many Yankees and Phillies fans mixed among one another in the parking lots before Wednesday’s game.

Asked if she'd ever seen her team's stadium packed with the opponents' fans, Mullen said, "Never. It's because there are fake Yankees fans that aren't actually from New York and they're just front-runners, so they live around here and decide to come."

Meo was quick to respond.

"I would argue she's a fake Phillies fan because the Yankees are on in our house 24/7 and she knows more about the Yankees than the Phillies," he retorted. "I guarantee she can name more Yankees players than Phillies players, and that's a scientific fact."

With the smell of hot dogs on the grill and cars still rolling into the lots, Cinnaminson native Dane Hardy stood over his bright red grill. While his fiancée, Alyssa Nerola, sat across the way, the couple talked with a group of five Yankees fans, which included Hardy's former work colleague, Alyssa Brett, of Scotch Plains, N.J.

Hardy had been inside the stadium for Monday night's game when Yankees fans could be heard clearly cheering on the television broadcast; most said the crowd was just about split down the middle.

Dane Hardy (in red) said it was “frustrating” to watch Yankees fans invade his team’s stadium, something he’d never seen at a Phillies, Flyers or Eagles game before this week.
Mitchell Gladstone / STAFF
Dane Hardy (in red) said it was “frustrating” to watch Yankees fans invade his team’s stadium, something he’d never seen at a Phillies, Flyers or Eagles game before this week.

"That was a tough one," Hardy said "When you come to Philly sports games — we have Flyers season tickets, we go to our fair share of Eagles games and we try to go to as many Phillies games as we can — you never see that kind of ratio coming from outside of Philadelphia. Normally, we're the team that travels, and to see another team come into where we live is kind of frustrating."

But don't ask Hardy whether New Yorkers or Philadelphians are the better fans. He's loud and proud to embody the Philly fan.

"Philly fans are [more passionate.]" Hardy said with a smile. "New York fans are great and swell, but we annoy everyone."