Sitting in his office surrounded by baseball memorabilia, Matt Jackson comes across as a down-to-earth kind of guy. You would never guess that he spends 62 nights each summer running around a baseball field screaming wildly and throwing hot dogs.
“He’s a very outgoing person who likes being with and talking to other people,” said Andrew Nelson, Jackson’s coworker and roommate. “This quality allows him to be very entertaining and engaging with fans on a daily basis.”
Born in Albuquerque, N.M. Jackson has spent the majority of his life in Reading, graduating from Reading High School and Slippery Rock University, which led to his first experience working in baseball.
“When I was a sophomore my neighbor, Ducky Turner, suggested I see if they needed any help at the stadium,” he said. “I ended up doing two more summers with the Reading Fightins including my official internship.”
His background in baseball includes playing third base for a number of years and this experience is evident in his role as the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, the ostrich riding, hot dog throwing mascot of the Reading Fightin’ Phils.
Frank Phurter and his trusty sidekick Rodrigo have been entertaining Baseballtown since 2003. Donning his signature striped vest, crazy hair, and black glasses the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor tosses hot dogs into the stands while riding Rodrigo.
Jackson did not initially sign up for the job of Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. After a performer never showed, he learned that he was the man for the job. Things didn’t go quite as planned in his first outing as Rodrigo was a late arrival and missed the first performance.
“I just ran around the field kicking and screaming while throwing hot dogs. The crowd was stunned, but after I got the ostrich they warmed up to it quickly,” Jackson explained.
In his official role as the Executive Director of Graphic Arts and Game Entertainment, Jackson is responsible for designing billboards, advertisements, logos, and web graphics among other things. Game entertainment entails between inning performances such as the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.
His passion for his work does not go unnoticed by fans and coworkers.
“As a graphic designer and on field promotional entertainer he needs to be passionate about what he does, detail oriented, and creative both with graphics as well as on field stunts,” Nelson said. “He always gives 100 percent and is never satisfied with his work. I think it keeps him motivated and able to constantly try and be better.”
When he is not performing during a game, Jackson participates in charity events at the ballpark and with Baseballtown Charities. As part of the Crazy About Reading program at Muhlenberg Elementary Center, he attends school assemblies as the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.
Over the past 12 seasons as the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, Jackson has watched kids come back year after year and has seen how the experiences they have at the ballpark make an impact on their lives. He describes the feeling of making people laugh and smile as one that makes the mascot experience worth it.
“It never gets old making people laugh and smile. That’s what coming out to America’s Classic Ballpark is all about.”