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10/18/08 9:37 PM ET

Phanatic kicks off cleanup day in Philly

Volunteers to paint schools, improve playgrounds, libraries

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillie Phanatic strode onto a stage at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday morning and hoisted a lawn rake into the air as hundreds of college-age students cheered.

"You're the cleanup hitter!" Phillies director of public affairs Scott Palmer said. "You're telling me it's time to clean up."

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The Phanatic, Phillies ball girls and other team officials were on hand for the Greater Philadelphia Cares Day Rally Kickoff.

The event is a day of service in which volunteers work to improve more than 100 schools in the Philadelphia School District by applying fresh coats of paint, landscaping of green spaces, restoring playground equipment and refurbishing libraries.

Before the volunteers set out on their day-long expeditions, they were given rally towels and received a Phillies-themed pep talk. Despite the early hour, excitement for the Phillies in the upcoming World Series was evident in the crowd.

"You all have a chance to make a difference in this city," Palmer told the crowd. "Just by being here today, you are making that difference."

It's been 15 years since Philadelphia Cares Day began. Fifteen years ago was also, as Palmer pointed out to the crowd, the last time the Phillies played in the World Series.

"You're back, and we're back," Palmer said. "Let's clean up Philadelphia."

Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.