Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Baseballtown Charities provides “field of dreams” for Reading youth

Any true baseball fan knows the famous line “If you build it, they will come” from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner. Although it is surrounded by brick and stone instead of stalks of corn, Gordon Hoodak Stadium at Lauer’s Park has become a “field of dreams” for the young members of the Reading Olivet Boys’ and Grls’ Club.

Renovated in 2006, the stadium was the first major project for Baseballtown Charities, a non-profit organization established in 2000 by the Reading Fightin Phils.

Gordon Hoodak Stadium was renovated in 2006 as the first major community project for Baseballtown Charities. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Gordon Hoodak Stadium was renovated in 2006 as the first major community project for Baseballtown Charities. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Located on the grounds of Lauer’s Park Elementary School, the stadium is named after long-time school principal Gordon Hoodak.

The stadium is named after long-time Lauer’s Park Elementary School principal Gordon Hoodak. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Every summer, the stadium has been the home of the Reading Olivet Boys and Girls Clubs RBI League teams. Each year, the Reading Fightin Phils players visit the stadium to provide clinics for the young players and spend time sharing the sport that they love.

For Baseballtown Charities president Chuck Domino, the renovation of the stadium is one of his greatest accomplishments during his time in Reading.

“That was kind of my one-man effort,” Domino said. “I raised the money and I designed the stadium and I found the contractor.”

Located on the grounds of Lauer's Park Elementary School, the stadium serves as the host of the Olivet Boys and Girls Club RBI League. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Located on the grounds of Lauer’s Park Elementary School, the stadium serves as the host of the Olivet Boys and Girls Club RBI League. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Some of baseball’s most well-known names once played on the grounds where the stadium now sits. Players such as Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, who is a main character in the film Field of Dreams, made stops in Reading on their way to the majors.

The people who know Domino from working with him or for him will be the first to agree that the renovation of the stadium is one of his greatest moments.

“He approached major business leaders in the area and convinced them that building a state of the art little league stadium in one of the roughest areas in the city would benefit not only the urban kids who needed a safe place to play, but it would start a relationship with the Olivet Boys and Girls Clubs and suburban little league teams,” said Mike Robinson, Fightins Executive Director of Community and Fan Relations.

While everyone knows that the stadium is named after the elementary school principal, few know the story behind the name. An anonymous donation was made at the beginning of the renovations and came with one condition; the newly renovated stadium was to be named after Gordon Hoodak.

In 2006, an anonymous donation was made to the renovation under the condition that the stadium be named after Gordon Hoodak. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

In 2006, an anonymous donation was made to the renovation under the condition that the stadium be named after Gordon Hoodak. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

This August, Baseballtown Charities along with members of the community celebrated the 10th anniversary of Gordon Hoodak Stadium. In the past ten years, the newly renovated ballpark has helped hundreds of children from around the city learn how to play America’s Pastime, including a number of members from the 2014 Berks County High School Baseball Champion Red Knights from Reading High School.

Even though he stepped down as general manager of the Fightin Phils a few years ago, Domino remains the president of Baseballtown Charities. Although Gordon Hoodak stadium is not the only project to have been completed by the organization, it will remain at the top of Domino’s list of accomplishments for one simple reason.

“Knowing that’s there because I decided I wanted to put the effort in and make it happen,” Domino said.

PSA: Drive Responsibly over the Fourth of July Holiday

This is my short PSA on the dangers of drinking and driving especially during a busy holiday such as the Fourth of July.
Royalty Free Music: www.bensound.com

Share a Coke and its cleaning power

Over the last year or so, Coca Cola has encouraged consumers to Share a Coke with friends and family. Now you can Share a Coke and a Song or even create your own personalized message.

Aside from being a refreshing beverage, Coke has many household uses as well. It is used for science projects, removing grease from a garage floor, and removing gum from hair to name a few. Maybe the next campaign will be Share a Coke and a Helpful Hint.

I encourage you to open a nice cold Coca Cola while I share this simple tip: Coke can be used to clean off the terminals of your car battery.

With three simple steps you can have perfectly clean car battery terminals. Just open, pour and rinse.

Coke

Using Coke to clean car battery terminals involves three simple steps. Infographic by Amanda Cain. Created at easel.ly. Information courtesy of http://www.wikihow.com/Clean-Corroded-Car-Battery-Terminals.

It’s a use that does not immediately come to mind when looking at a bottle of soda, but it is both simple and money-saving. A bottle of cleaning solution can be purchased at the store for somewhere between three and five dollars.

You can pick up a single bottle of Coke at a gas station or grocery store at half the price.

Another benefit of using Coke to clean your battery terminals? Once you are finished you can enjoy the rest of the bottle while relishing in the satisfaction of a job well done.

Today’s youth find support system with Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Every young boy or girl dreams of one day growing up and going to school, graduating, and finding a decent job. This dream is easier to accomplish for some than it is for others. For some, they don’t have the amount of support at home that is necessary to keep a child successful in and out of school. This is where the Boys and Girls Clubs of America can help.

For over 150 years, BGCA has been offering after school and summer programs to children from lower-income communities and providing safe environments for the children to learn and grow. They offer a variety of programs including recreational programs, health programs, career programs, and more.

 

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Infographic by Amanda Cain. Created at www.easel.ly. Information retrieved from www.bgca.org.

With well over 2,000 clubs across the country, the organization is always looking for help in providing the services it has previously given to almost four million children each year.

For someone looking to help support the organization and its cause, there are multiple options available. Clubs across the country always welcome volunteers and by visiting the organization’s website, you can easily locate a club in your area that may be looking for help.

Donations are a major part of what allows BGCA to continue to provide the amount of support it has for years. Celebrities and athletes such as Timbaland and Shane Victorino have been known to publicly support their local clubs.

To be a part of this incredible foundation, find out how you can make a donation or invite friends to make donations to their local organizations. For more information on the various programs offered through BGCA or how you can become involved, visit www.bgca.org.

For the minor leagues, team names are all part of the game

When it comes to Minor League Baseball, fan entertainment is as much the goal of each organization as having a successful ball club. Part of that entertainment is giving the fans a team they can cheer for and a team name they can proudly wear on their hats and shirts.

Over the past decade, teams have moved locations, changed affiliations or ownership, or undergone a rebranding. As a result, team names have changed and Minor League Baseball is now home to some interesting ball clubs.

In 2012, the Reading Phillies and Baseballtown underwent a rebranding process which resulted in a new team name, new logos, and a new mascot. Now known as the Reading Fightin’ Phils, the organization wanted ultimately distinguish themselves from their parent club, the Philadelphia Phillies, while still acknowledging the affiliation. Affectionately known as the Fightins, the new name pays homage to a long-standing nickname of the Phillies organization.

Aiding in the rebranding of Baseballtown was Brandiose, a California-based company that specializes in helping teams re-imagine their looks including everything from logos to mascots.

Other beneficiaries of the Brandiose company are the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Formerly known as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, the IronPigs relocated to Allentown, PA, and the Lehigh Valley, after being re-affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006.

The Flying Squirrels left behind their home in Connecticut and the name Connecticut Defenders in 2010 when they relocated to Richmond, VA. The team even switched divisions in the Eastern League, moving from the Northern Division to the Western Division; the same division as the Reading Fightins.

There have been a number of teams in the past few years who have changed names. The Akron Aeros are now the Akron RubberDucks. New for the 2016 season are the Hartford Yard Goats, formerly known as the New Britain Rock Cats.

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Information gathered from fightins.com, ironpigsbaseball.com, suirrelsbaseball.com, yardgoatsbaseball.com, and akronrubberducks.com. Created by Amanda Cain. Created at easel.ly

Along with each club and the men from Brandiose, there is another familiar face connected with each rebranding. Domino Consulting, the consulting company of former Fightins general manager Chuck Domino, has played a part in the renaming of quite a few teams.

Domino was involved in the name selections for Akron, Hartford, Lehigh Valley, and Richmond.

While many of the names seem to be humorous or even a joke, there are more than a few that have true meanings behind them or connections to the cities where they reside.

The Akron Rubber Ducks are paying homage to the long-time nickname “the Rubber City,” which dates back to the days when Akron was a major producer of tires. For the Lehigh Valley, the name IronPigs is a tribute to Bethlehem Steel and the term “pig iron” which was the name for raw iron before it became steel.

In each of these situations, the decision-making process was the result of a fan vote, in which teams offered up a list of names for fans to vote on and in the end, the name with the most votes was chosen.

At the end of the day, the name of a ball club is a small factor in the entertainment of the fans and the success of the club. True fans will wear any name on their chest and if it happens to contain a masked duck face or a squirrel wearing a cape it makes it all the more interesting.

With Fightins on the road, Baseballtown hosts high school championships

On Monday, May 16 and Wednesday, May 18 FirstEnergy Stadium played host to the BCIAA baseball playoffs. With the Reading Fightin Phils on the road, the Baseballtown tradition continued with four high school baseball teams vying for a county title.

In the semifinals on Monday evening, the Saints of Berks Catholic High School faced off against the Eagles of Exeter High School in the first game on the card. Following the Eagles 8-2 victory, the Twin Valley Raiders and Governor Mifflin Mustangs took the field, with the Mustangs coming out on top 10-2.

Wednesday evening the stadium lights shone bright again as the Mustangs and the Eagles fought it out for the county title. The two teams split victories during the regular season, but the Mustangs came out strong and collected their second consecutive county title with a 9-0 victory.

For some players, it was a return appearance on the minor league field, for others it was a brand new experience.

“It’s priceless,” said Exeter High School athletic director Tom Legath. “Words don’t describe how awesome of an experience this is for everybody.”

Baseballtown and the Reading Fightin Phils have been hosting the county baseball championship game since 2004 and the final two rounds beginning in 2006, giving high school baseball teams in Berks County an opportunity that the majority of high school players never experience.

“I already told someone from Harrisburg this is the greatest thing, we’re playing at the Reading Fightin’ Phils FirstEnergy Stadium,” Legath said. “That’s where our county playoffs are and it was like, ‘wow, really?’ This is very special for us.”

The teams who make it to the semifinals and the finals are given the big league treatment. They prep for each game in one of the two clubhouses at the stadium. Pregame batting practice takes place in the Ryan Howard Batting Tunnel, located behind the right field stands.

During the game, pitchers and catchers warm up in the outfield bullpens while the teams get the chance to experience the view from a minor league dugout. As each player comes up to bat, his name is read over the public address system.

For those teams who are fortunate to make it to the championship game, the experience becomes just a bit sweeter.

During team introductions prior to the game’s start, each player’s picture is projected on the video board located in center field. As each player comes up to bat during the game, his picture is once again shown on the screen.

At the end of the night, while only one team can be named county champions, for all the players involved it is an experience that will remain with them for years to come.

“They will never, ever, ever forget this,” Legath said.

For Domino building relationships is all part of the business of baseball

For Chuck Domino, baseball has been and will always be more than just a sport; it is a business. A four-time Eastern League Executive of the Year during his time with the Reading Fightin Phils, Domino has made an impact on the world of minor league baseball while working with three different organizations.

During his time in baseball, he has built and maintained relationships with a large number of different people. When Scott Hunsicker became the assistant general manager for Reading in 1998, he had a front row seat as Domino created the successful Reading organization that exists today. Hunsicker began as an intern with the organization, spent nine seasons as the assistant general manager under Domino, and then was named General Manager of the team in 2006 when Domino stepped down to take a more active role in the Richmond Flying Squirrels organization, another Eastern League Double A club. In his time with the Fightins, Hunsicker has been named the Most Valuable Professional, has helped the team set multiple attendance records, and has accepted multiple awards on behalf of the organization. Most recently Hunsicker accepted an award for the organization from the Salvation Army of Reading.

Along with his time spent working with Domino in the Fightins organization, Hunsicker is also a member of the board of directors for Baseballtown Charities where he serves as the Vice-President.

Another member of the Baseballtown Charities board of directors is Mike Robinson, the secretary for the non-profit organization. While serving with Domino on the charity board, Robinson has also worked under him as a front office member with the Fightin Phils.

Now in his 14th season with the club, Robinson spent multiple seasons watching and taking part as Domino brought the Reading Fightin Phils to a point of high distinction within the minor league baseball world. Prior to being named the Executive Director of Community Relations and Fan Development, Robinson worked as the Director of Group Sales and Internship Coordinator.  His role now has him working out in the community and getting the Fightins and Baseballtown more involved with organizations within the city of Reading and its surrounding areas.

While both Hunsicker and Robinson have years of experience working with Domino, Reading is not the only place he has left his mark. In Allentown, PA the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have also seen what Domino is capable of.

The one person who has seen Domino in action since the beginning of the Lehigh organization is Kurt Landes, the President and General Manager of the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. As the only person to have held this position since the team’s creation, Landes has been there since the start and has seen how far Domino has brought the organization. In his time with the organization he has been named the International League Executive of the Year for two consecutive years, has helped the club become the Minor League Baseball average attendance leader for all eight years the team has been around, and has been an active member of the Lehigh Valley community.

All three of these gentlemen, Hunsicker, Robinson, and Landes, have found success within the sport of baseball and have worked to bring that success into the community. It is important to remember when looking at the successes of these men and the organizations they represent that there is one main force that ties them all together.

That common denominator has been, and always will be, Chuck Domino.

Baseballtown Charities works to bring the sport of baseball to Reading’s youth

As the Reading Phillies were preparing for the 2002 season of baseball a new group of youth in Reading were getting prepped for what would be a brand new season of a sport so many love and may not have the chance to play. A newly formed charitable organization would give every kid a chance to play baseball.

Baseballtown Charities began in March 2002 and has continued to raise money each year to benefit the youth of Reading and provide them with the opportunity to play America’s Pastime.

In the time since its inception, Baseballtown Charities has seen to the renovation of two city-owned baseball facilities. In 2006 the renovations were completed at Gordon Hoodak Stadium in Lauer’s Park and the baseball field at Baer Park was completed in 2014.

Before every game, the Baseballtown Charities 50/50 raffle is advertised on the main videoboard. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Before every game, the Baseballtown Charities 50/50 raffle is advertised on the main videoboard. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

Through the use of fundraisers and support from multiple local organizations, the organization has provided local children with the opportunity to learn the sport of baseball and participate in games throughout the summer.

Over the course of each year, Baseballtown Charities relies on multiple fundraising activities and support from local organizations to raise the funds needed for projects such as city field renovations. One such fundraiser is the Baseballtown 50/50 raffle that takes place at home games throughout the season.

A roving 50/50 ticket sales girl explains the raffle to an interested fan. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

A roving 50/50 ticket seller explains the raffle to an interested fan. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

During each game, fans can purchase tickets from roving 50/50 ticket sellers or at a booth in the main concourse and one lucky winner is announced during the final innings of the game. That lucky fan takes home half of the total amount raised and the other half is donated to Baseballtown Charities.

Another fundraiser and a surefire crowd pleaser is the ever popular professional wrestling night. During one home game, members of ChikaraPro put on a post-game wrestling show for fans and also make a donation to Baseballtown Charities.

Baseballtown’s largest offseason fundraiser is the Winter Banquet that features dinner and a chance to hear from some big names in the Phillies organization. The 2016 Banquet attendees included Philadelphia Phillies manager Pete Makanin, Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola, Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp, and Phillies President Andy MacPhail.

Fans purchase tickets for seating at the Banquet and proceeds from the ticket sales benefit Baseballtown Charities.

Within the first decade of it’s existence, Baseballtown Charities raised over 1.6 million dollars that was put into creating a safe and fun environment for the children of Reading to enjoy the sport of baseball. Since that time, it has become about more than just raising money. Local teams have donated used equipment and numerous Reading Fightin’ Phils teams and players have donated their time to help teach the kids the sport that they grew up playing.

Every season Baseballtown Charities continues to raise money to benefit Reading’s youth. As a result, each season more children are given the chance to participate in a sport that provides life lessons and entertainment at the same time.

As the seasons continue and more children are given this opportunity, Baseballtown Charities will continue to prove why baseball truly is America’s Pastime.

Exeter athlete understands the harsh reality of dealing with a concussion

When Exeter High School senior Riley Haller began her freshman year of soccer, she had no inclination that she would only be eligible to play for half the season. A serious concussion, one of two that she has dealt with, ended her season early.

In late October, she found herself sidelined and unable to finish the season, along with a myriad of other side effects.

“The more serious one was my freshman year and I had to miss out on a lot of social events,” Haller said. “I fell very behind in school because I was out for three months.”

For those three months at home she was unable to read, watch television, use any electronic devices such as her phone, and she missed out on social events due to a sensitivity to light and sound.

Haller’s story is one that has become all too familiar in today’s society. Concussions among high school athletes have drawn more attention over the past few years in part due to the attention being brought to professional athletes who suffer from concussions and the difficulties that follow them.

ConcussionStats2

Infographic by Amanda Cain. Created at easel.ly. Information courtesy of www.headcasecompany.com

In 2011, Pennsylvania passed the Safety in Youth Sports Act, effective July 2012, documenting the requirements for schools, student athletes, and the Departments of Health and Education when dealing with concussions in interscholastic athletics.

Therese Knabb, school nurse at Exeter High School, has noticed a change in the way the faculty and staff has handled students who have concussions. Caring for students with concussions has become somewhat easier in that the teachers know what to look for when a student is in class and they know how to handle the situation as a result of this law.

“I think we do a lot more than most schools do because we have Audrey who was part of the whole concussion training in Berks County,” Knabb said, referring to Exeter’s athletic trainer, Audrey Dickman. “The teachers are really well-versed on concussions in our school.”

Looking back at her freshman year of soccer, Haller noted that if she could go back the only thing she would do differently would be to duck.

“Playing soccer there’s always that risk, especially in that sport, just because there’s so much contact. There’s always the chance you could get hit in the face with the ball or you could fall,” Haller said.

Now a senior, Haller has not played soccer for Exeter since her sophomore season. Although she says another injury was the main cause of her not playing, the concussion from freshman year played a part in ending her time on the soccer field.

“With the concussion and another injury I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said.

After spending three months sitting in the nurse’s office at school all day and being forced to drop classes as a result of the concussion, she doesn’t seem to harbor any hard feelings about what she went through as a freshman.

Haller’s advice to fellow high school athletes is simple: “You just have to be aware that it can happen.”

Hart transitions from simple summer job to full time employment

 

For Travis Hart, working at FirstEnergy Stadium was simply a summer job. It was a way to make some money when he wasn’t playing baseball on his summer team. That was 12 seasons ago.

He is now almost two weeks into his first season as the Reading Fightin Phils Director of Food and Beverage. His job outlook has changed quite a bit from where it was a few years ago.

“I was 22, there weren’t crazy jobs batting down my door asking if I wanted to work, but it wasn’t like this was my only choice,” Travis Hart said. “This seemed like the greatest idea.”

TravisInfographic

Infographic by Amanda Cain. Created at http://www.easel.ly

After spending four years planning and studying to become a doctor of physical therapy, he found that he no longer had an interest in the occupation. An internship with the Fightins following graduation from West Chester University had him thinking that maybe working in baseball was more his style.

“I’ve played baseball since I was four,” Hart said. “Baseball was always a passion of mine, it just seemed like a natural fit.”

Those who have known him during his time with the Fightins have found that his new career path is one that he fits into seamlessly.

“He forms really good relationships with the people he works with and he works well with them,” Ariane Cain, a 10-year employee in the Fightins’ concessions department, said. “He cares about his employees and holds them to high expectations. He was one of us so he knows what the job is like.”

At the end of the day, Hart is content with the decision he made. Although it has its moments, there are more positives than negatives. When your job fits in with something you are passionate about, it is hard to imagine that things could get any better.

“I’ve seen him when he takes a break and he stops and watches the game,” Cain said. “I think he just likes baseball.”

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