Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Category: Baseballtown (page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

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.”

Employees return to FirstEnergy Stadium for 2016 season

 

FirstEnergy Stadium opened its gates on Saturday, March 19, as the Reading Fightin’ Phils welcomed both returning and new employees. Bundled against the cool temperatures, everyone arrived for the annual employee orientation in preparation for the 2016 season.

Every Season the Fightins see a multitude of returning employees and this season looks to continue that trend.

From ticket takers to ushers and security guards to concessions workers, employees continue to come back to Baseballtown every year. For some, it’s a second job while for others it’s an opportunity to get out of the house during retirement.

No matter what the reason is, employees return year after year after year. With so many returning employees, the Fightins created a way to honor those who stay with the organization for a minimum of 10 years.

The wall just inside the employee entrance is filled with rows of small, gold plaques honoring the members of the Fightins’ Employee Honor Roll. At the end of the 2016 season a new group of plaques will find their way to that wall.

Each employee who works at FirstEnergy Stadium has their own reasons for returning each year.

“This is my fun job. I just like to come out and see everyone,” said Amy Cengeri, a Fightins’ diamond girl who will be working her 13th season in 2016. “Everyone that works here is kind of like one big family.”

Everyone working at the ballpark, from the general manager to the newest member of the clean team, knows that every job counts in giving the fans the best experience they can. It is this mentality that creates a strong family atmosphere between employees and fans alike and is a large part of what keeps employees coming back each season.

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.

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.”

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.”

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