Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Month: February 2016

Play like the Pros

From the first time he picks up a baseball, every young boy dreams of playing professional baseball. For some, the dream fades early as they discover other interests. Others carry this dream as far as high school and college.

In Berks County, PA a select group of high school players get a taste of the professional life every year when the Reading Fightin’ Phils host the BCIAA High School Baseball semi-finals and finals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Four teams from local high schools are given the chance to play on the same field as the pros when they advance to the semifinals of the county playoffs. The two remaining teams then battle it out for the County Championship on the same field where the Fightins have previously battled for an Eastern League Championship.

“It’s a great experience cause the kids get to go watch professional baseball there and to have the opportunity to play on the same field the pros are playing on for them is a great experience,” said Justin Freese, the head baseball coach at Exeter High School.

A lone baseball lies in wait on the Exeter High School baseball field for the upcoming baseball season. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

A lone baseball lies in wait on the Exeter High School baseball field for the upcoming baseball season. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

For a high school team such as Exeter’s, the differences between the high school field and FirstEnergy Stadium are numerous. The distance from home plate to the left field foul pole is 307 feet at the home of the Eagles. In FirstEnergy Stadium, the left field foul pole stands 330 feet from home.

Talking about how the kids handle the difference in field size Freese said, “The second time we went we played in the second game at the stadium so we got there extra early so they could walk on the field and take notice that it’s all about the same it’s just a much nicer atmosphere than playing on a high school field.”

The size of the field is only one noticeable difference between the two ball fields. FirstEnergy has a capacity of 9,000 people. Exeter, like many of the local schools, has suitable viewing locations for roughly 60-70 people.

The list of differences could continue on and on to include the number of advertisements and the size of the scoreboard. To the players, the biggest difference and the one with the most impact is the experience.

Winning a county title is the goal of every high school team. Earning that title while playing at the home of the pros makes it a little more exciting. Playing in front of a larger crowd than usual, sitting in the larger dugouts, and getting the chance to use the professional clubhouses is all part of that experience.

“Last year was the first time we got to the stadium. The kids who are coming back now their goal is to get back there and play in the county final. It is some motivation for the players.”

The musical stylings of Baseballtown

With the end of football season the attention of sports fans everywhere turns to thoughts of baseball as professional teams prepare to head to spring training. In Reading, PA the Reading Fightin Phils front office is gearing up for another summer of minor league baseball and putting in place a heavy schedule of entertainment aimed at fans of all ages.

For Todd Hunsicker, the Fightins Director of Educational Programs, Music, and Game Presentation, this means lining up the multitude of musical acts that will grace the stage of FirstEnergy Stadium as a part of the Community Music Showcase.

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Sports and Entertainment become entwined at FirstEnergy Stadium during the Reading Fightin Phils Community Music Showcase. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

In 2011 the Fightins teamed up with Ron Procopio, owner of The String Tree  in Sinking Spring, PA. Procopio expressed an interest in becoming involved with the organization and together they created the showcase. While The String Tree was not looking to benefit from their involvement, each musician or group that participates receives complimentary game tickets on behalf of the business.

“We basically invented the community music showcase,” Hunsicker said. “Which was an opportunity to invite groups that might not otherwise have an opportunity to play here.”

During a time when music and art programs are being cut from schools across the country, being able to bring the community’s attention to the importance of music in education is a positive impact that has resulted from the showcase. Hunsicker has had the pleasure of seeing firsthand the impact this program has had on the community over the years, including playing a small part in helping to save an elementary school band program.

“The Olivet Clubs have come out and performed over the years,” Hunsicker said, “and hopefully that’s making people care a little more about what they’re doing and that’s turning into donations and support.”

From accordions, to banjos, to Irish folk music the stage at FirstEnergy Stadium has seen it all. There is no skill level requirement for participants in the Community Music Showcase. Any music groups are encouraged to get in contact with the Fightins and sign up for a night to perform. For more information call the Ticket Office at  610-375-8469 or contact Todd Hunsicker directly via email at thunsicker@fightins.com.

Stadium commemorates those who have served

As spring slowly makes its way in and winter begins its yearly exit, the Reading Fightin Phils are preparing to open their 50th season of affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies. While this season marks a major anniversary for the team, its home, FirstEnergy Stadium, will be entering its 65th season.

FirstEnergy Stadium, located in Reading, PA, has been the home of the Reading Fightin' Phils minor league baseball team since 1967. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

FirstEnergy Stadium, located in Reading, PA, has been the home of the Reading Fightin’ Phils minor league baseball team since 1967. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

Built in 1951 by the Reading City Council the stadium was originally named Reading Municipal Memorial Stadium as a way to honor the men and women who gave their lives protecting our country. Municipal Memorial Stadium was home to minor league baseball in Reading up until 1999 when the stadium was renamed GPU Stadium. As a result of the name change, a statue was erected in front of the stadium to serve as a reminder of the original name of Memorial Stadium.

The home of the Fightins’ officially became known as FirstEnergy Stadium in 2002. The third renaming took place after GPU was acquired by FirstEnergy in 2000.

This memorial to those who have served our country stands outside the entrance to FirstEnergy Stadium as a reminder of those who served and to pay homage to the original name of the ballpark. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

This memorial to those who have served our country stands outside the entrance to FirstEnergy Stadium as a reminder of those who served and to pay homage to the original name of the ballpark. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

The large, silver dog tags have become an iconic image associated with the stadium and serve as a reminder and a permanent memorial to those for whom the stadium was originally named. Engraved with the words “dedicated to all the veterans of our community” the memorial stands as a symbol of what others have given in order for our country to enjoy our freedom to partake in events such as a baseball game.

Erected in front of the stadium, the oversized dog tags are a memorial to those who have served and continue to serve our country everyday and commemorates the original dedication of Reading Municipal Memorial Stadium. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

Erected in front of the stadium, the oversized dog tags are a memorial to those who have served and continue to serve our country every day and commemorates the original dedication of Reading Municipal Memorial Stadium. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

Situated behind the dog tags is the American Flag that flies outside of the stadium. Beginning with the 2014 season the Fightins have honored living and deceased veterans before each home game with the ceremonial flag. This flag is flown outside the stadium by the dog tags during the game and once the game is completed the flag is lowered and given to the family of the honoree. In 2016, active military members will also be eligible for the honor.

The ceremonial American flag flies in front of FirstEnergy Stadium in honor of a veteran or active military member at each home game. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

The ceremonial American flag flies in front of FirstEnergy Stadium in honor of a veteran or active military member at each home game. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

In addition to the ceremonial flag, the Fightins’ fly the flags of each branch of the military at the top of the main grandstand throughout the season.

As another subtle memorial to those who have served, a line of evergreen trees was planted along the brick wall that rings the outside of the stadium. Thousands of fans sit and watch those trees every time a Fightins player hits a home run, but few know what they stand for.

Evergreen trees lining the outer wall of the stadium were planted as a memorial to those who have served our country. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

Evergreen trees lining the outer wall of the stadium were planted as a memorial to those who have served our country. (Photo: Amanda Cain/Full Sail University)

When fans flock to FirstEnergy Stadium this season, the dog tags will greet each and every one as they enter the stadium. Many will sit on the low wall that runs behind the memorial as they wait for friends and family. Few will stop and take a moment to read the engraving and share a thanks for those who have served and continue to serve our country.

This memorial among others, is a small taste of what the Fightins organization does to honor the community is has called home for the last 50 years.

© 2017 Amanda M. Cain

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