Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Month: January 2016

Fightins go crazy for education

In the 2010 census for Reading, PA the age bracket for people ages five to 17 years had the second highest percentage of the population for the city. This age bracket is the target age group for the Reading Fightin Phils and the education programs run by the organization.

The Fightins offer a variety of different education programs including Outstanding Students and Crazy About Reading. Details of these programs are listed below.

EducPrograms

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

The Crazy about Reading program is the larger and more involved of the two. Officially known as The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor’s Crazy About Reading program, the goal is to encourage students to read more and help them broaden their vocabulary. A group of the local elementary schools participate in the program in different ways.

“Roula Elliker at Muhlenberg Elementary Center has a great model, “ said Matthew Jackson, the performer behind the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor since 2004. “Each grade is challenged differently, but no matter what grade the students are in they learn a particular WOW (Word of the Week) word to broaden their vocabulary.”

The Words of the Week are shared throughout the school and are also represented in the community via the local radio station, WEEU, and on a local digital billboard. A sample of Words of the Week can be found in the image below.

WordsoftheWeek

Infographic by Amanda Cain. Created at www.easel.ly. Information courtesy of Matthew Jackson and Roula Elliker.

As a part of the program at Muhlenberg Elementary Center, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, Screwball, and other local celebrities join the students at an end of the year assembly during which they play games focused on the Words of the Week and prizes are given out for student essays.

“The best part of the program is literally seeing how the kids’ hard work pays off through the expanded vocabulary and comprehension,” Jackson said.

In a letter to parents regarding the Adequate Yearly Progress and school improvement plan for Muhlenberg Elementary, the administration discussed strategies to improve instruction for the students including strengthening the reading program. Programs such as the Crazy About Reading Program are ways to make this possible.

Each student who participates in the program is also given a free ticket to a Redner’s Kids Club game and are treated to a special read-aloud featuring the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor and one of the Fightins players.

“It’s great because it allows kids to see professional athletes, people they see as role models and look up to, in a different environment and encouraging them to be successful in education and not just athletics,” said Ariane Cain, a 10-year employee of the Reading Fightin Phils. “It gives them different voices encouraging them to read and follow through with their education, not just their parents and teachers.”

Jackson has seen proof that the program has an effect on the kids in the years that he has been with the organization.

“I’ve been part of the program for years and have seen kids come up to me throughout the summer thanking The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor for coming to their school,” he said. “If they’re that excited to learn and read than I’m sure they are retaining the things they’re learning.”

Raising fun and funds

While the Reading Fightin’ Phils work year round to continuously raise funds for Baseballtown Charities, they also offer community groups and teams the chance to complete their own fundraisers. There are two fundraising options for groups or teams and they include selling Fightin Phils ticket books or selling e-tickets.

“It’s not hard to participate at all,” said Andrew Nelson, the Fightins Executive Director of Fundraising. “We make it easy for organizations by not having them handle any money or tickets.”

The Fightin Phils ticket book fundraiser is fairly simple for organizations. One of the easiest aspects of the fundraisers is that individuals who are selling the books do not have to collect any money ahead of time. Sellers simply take names and addresses of interested participants and fill out an order form.

Once the order form is filled the group leaders return all forms to the Fightins and the group’s work is completed. The Fightins take care of mailing out the ticket books and collecting all payments.

Each ticket book contains six general admission tickets that are good for any home games throughout the summer. The cost of each ticket book is discounted from the original price of $42 per book to a special fundraiser price of $27 per book and the selling organization receives nine dollars from each book sale.

The individual sellers in the group also have the opportunity to earn extra rewards from the Fightins. Prizes include hats, bags, jerseys, and more depending on the number of ticket books sold.

As it is shown in the chart below, if an organization chooses to, the Fightins also offer the organization the opportunity to be in charge of collecting all the money and receive $10 for each book sold.

FightinsFundraisers

Infographic created by Amanda Cain. Graphic created at www.easel.ly. Information obtained at www.fightins.com.

For those organizations who do not feel up to reaching out to friends or family on an individual basis, but still wish to fundraise with the Fightins the E-Ticket Fundraising Program is the perfect opportunity.

As displayed in the above chart, with the e-ticket program a group or group leader simply picks a date and reserves a batch of tickets.

After the tickets have been reserved the Fightins send a link that can be emailed to friends and family or shared on Facebook or Twitter. Any interested participant can click on the link and see what tickets in the batch are available.

After choosing seats within the batch, the buyer will be required to sign into an existing TicketReturn.com account or will be asked to create one if they do not already have an account. Once an account has been accessed, the buyer will proceed to purchase the requested tickets.

Through the e-ticket program the cost for each ticket is nine dollars and the group earns two dollars from each ticket sold. The Fightins will send the group a check approximately one week after the chosen game has taken place.

Any type of organization or group may participate in the Fightins’ fundraisers.

“Organizations that usually fundraise with us are PTOs, Scout groups, Little Leagues, Churches, and Relay for Life groups.”

If there is one thing that everyone despises when running a fundraiser, it is making sure that all of the money is collected in a timely manner. With both of the fundraising programs offered by the Fightin Phils, this does not become a concern. The Fightins take care of the difficult task of collecting money.

“Most other fundraisers people have you do require you to not only collect all of the money, but to also be responsible for distributing the tickets or items to all buyers,” Nelson said. “With our fundraisers we take care of that for you!”

Participants simply sign up, sell ticket books or individual tickets while encouraging others to enjoy a summer of baseball, and then sit back, relax, and enjoy a night at the ballpark.

Honoring the unknown champions

During the 2015 baseball season, the Reading Fightin’ Phils were the Eastern League East Division Champions and fell just short of being crowned the Eastern League Champions. While the players on the team were recognized for their hard work all season, the Fightins also took the time to honor community members throughout the season with the Neighborhood Champions program.

Mike Robinson, the Executive Director of Community and Fan Development for the Fightins, is the man in charge of the program.

“The Neighborhood Champions program is a community based program to honor the achievements or accomplishments of an individual, group of people, or a team within the Berks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Lancaster, Lebanon, Chester, and Bucks counties,” Robinson said during a recent interview.

Robinson makes it a goal to have an honoree or group of honorees at each of the 71 home games during the summer. This can be anyone from a championship sports team to someone who wrote a book or saved another person’s life.

“Some of the different types of champions honored were the 2011 Conrad Weiser State Champion baseball team, a high school student who raised over $6,000 for cancer, and someone who wrote a book about their terrible childhood growing up in Brooklyn, New York and became a very successful education administrator in the borough of Brooklyn,” Robinson explained.

The process of finding a Neighborhood Champion is a relatively simple one and involves reading local papers or watching local news stations and contacting a school or newspaper to find someone who is connected with the story; a process laid out in the image below.

Infographic created by Amanda Cain. Image created at www.easel.ly

Infographic created by Amanda Cain. Image created at www.easel.ly

It is Robinson’s responsibility to reach out to any individual or team that has been chosen to be honored and invite them out to a game. “I look for a significant entity that would be newsworthy.”

The Neighborhood Champion is honored on the field during the pregame festivities and also receives complimentary reserved tickets courtesy of FirstEnergy Corporation. When it is a team being honored, all coaches, trainers, athletic staff, and school administrators also receive complimentary tickets.

Since it’s beginning in 2001, the program has been seen as a way to recognize a person or group of people beyond the recognition they may have received in their everyday lives and give them the chance to be honored on a bigger stage. An idea brought on by Fightins’ General Manager Scott Hunsicker, the thought was that it would recognize deserving members of the community while also enhancing the fan experience.

Robinson expressed his thoughts on the program when he said, “The program has been more than we expected especially from the adults. They love seeing their kids on the field.”

While the Neighborhood Champions program is not limited to strictly students or athletes, there are certain nights during the season that will be dedicated to one of the many local schools and any athletes or teams who were successful the previous year are honored on the field. Throughout the summer the team will recognize local schools such as Exeter High School, Wilson High School, Governor Mifflin High School, and Wyomissing High School among others.

As an integral part of the program Robinson has seen firsthand the impact that has been made on the community and has shared in the excitement of the moment with a multitude of fans.

“My favorite aspect about the program is the ability to reach out to people who deserve their moments of glory in front of thousands of fans. I also realize that I may not have met these outstanding people if it wasn’t for the program that we instituted.”

Looking back on past kings

With football season drawing to a close and spring training just around the corner, the Reading Fightin’ Phils are preparing to crown the newest King of Baseballtown at the annual winter banquet. The honoree for the 2016 season is Kutztown University baseball coach Chris Blum. As Blum prepares to accept his new title, the baseball history of past kings becomes a topic of conversation.

When looking at the previous kings of Baseballtown for the past 15 years, there are three major information points in each persons’ background that stand out. The infographic below takes these three points, Major League playing experience, coaching and managing experience, and playing experience in Reading, and compares the backgrounds of five previous kings.

KingsofBaseballtown

Infographic created by Amanda Cain. Image created at http://www.easel.ly/. Numerical information retrieved from http://www.baseballtown.org/

Major League playing experience would be considered by most to be a major component in choosing the face of an organization for a year. When looking at these past five kings, only three of the five played Major League Baseball.

Dick Gernert, the 2005 king, had the most experience with 11 years. Gernert played for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, and Houston Colt .45s. The 2003 king “Broadway” Charlie Wagner played for the Boston Red Sox and Carl Mathias played for the Cleveland Indians and Washington Senators on his way to becoming the 2010 King of Baseballtown.

While Charlie Flannery (2014) never played Major League Baseball, he does have the most experience out of the five playing in Reading with 12 years of recreational baseball.

Gernert spent 10 years playing both professional and recreational baseball in Reading before and after his major league career, while Wagner played recreational ball for 10 years before signing with the Red Sox. Mathias spent five years playing recreational baseball in Reading prior to his professional career.

The final category of the infographic looks at baseball from the coaching side and is the only category in which the 2015 king, Kevin Devera, makes an appearance. While Devera never played professionally, he has had a major impact on baseball in the Reading community as the director of the Olivet RBI Baseball Program, part of the Olivet Boys and Girls Clubs of Reading.

For the past 11 years, Devera has brought the sport of baseball to inner city kids and helped them to learn to love the game and pursue the sport throughout high school and college.

Wagner spent 44 years after his professional career working as both a pitching instructor and scout for the Boston Red Sox. Flannery spent 31 years coaching with Gregg Post American Legion. Gernert spent two years managing and coaching for various minor league organizations after his professional career ended.

There are a variety of different aspects that go into choosing a king or queen of Baseballtown, but baseball experience plays a large part. Each of the kings of the past have either played professionally or recreationally, or coached some aspect of the game. The above infographic provides a visual presentation of this information for a small portion of previous kings.

It will be interesting to look back 10 years down the road and make more comparisons to see how baseball experience continues to impact the crowning of kings in the future.

© 2017 Amanda M. Cain

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