Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Month: May 2016

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.

1464573231

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.

© 2017 Amanda M. Cain

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑