Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Category: Community (page 2 of 3)

Robinson connects Fightins with local community

Mike Robinson has held a full-time position within the Reading Fightin Phils front office for the last 14 seasons. Now entering his 15th season, his second as the Executive Director of Community and Fan Development, he continues to love what he does, even as his responsibilities grow year after year.

“My position now is Executive Director of Community and Fan Development and I’m also in charge of a good portion of the game staff,” Robinson said. “That includes ushers, diamond girls, security, and Phunland employees.”

After getting his start as a part-time usher in 1993, Robinson rose through the ranks and now goes out into the community as a sort of “face of the franchise” representing the organization at dinners and other events.

He is also responsible for escorting Fightins players to different events and handling mascot appearances. If an organization is looking for a donation, be it merchandise for an auction, tickets to a game, or the occasional monetary donation, Robinson is the one who makes the final decision as to whether or not the request will be fulfilled.

“If somebody asks for a donation request, I fulfill them,” Robinson said. “We try to fulfill everybody’s request.”

Working so closely with the community is part of what keeps him coming back each year. He loves the interaction with the different groups and the different challenges that arise each day.

Along with his full-time position with the organization, Robinson also serves as the secretary for Baseballtown Charities.

“I do a lot of different things here,” Robinson said. “But I love it. I have a great time in what I do.”

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.

Reading Royals honor scouts during Community Series game

On Saturday March 5 the Reading Royals welcomed boy scouts and girl scouts from the Reading area to enjoy a night at Santander Arena as the team took on the Wheeling Nailers as part of the Fifteenth Anniversary Community Series.

Throughout the season the Royals host a number of different theme nights to celebrate fifteen years of providing entertainment and support to the local community. These nights include Scout Night, Autism Awareness Night, and Shelter night to name a few.

In honor of Scout Night, the nation’s colors were presented during the national anthem by a local cub scout pack. The Reading Royals donned Scout themed jerseys that were auctioned off post game. All proceeds from the auction went to the Hawk Mountain Council-Boy Scouts of America.

The atmosphere inside Santander Arena was filled with a sense of community. The crowd cheered nonstop throughout the game and the Royals organization did not skimp on the entertainment.

There were small contests for fans taking place all around the arena including one where one lucky fan took home a $100 gift card for Vanity Fair Outlets because he was wearing Lee Jeans. Another young fan was thrilled to win a $25 gift card from Visions Credit Union and announced that she would be purchasing My Little Ponies.

Walking through the concourse of the arena the feeling of community was all around. Fans waiting in line for food would strike up conversations with each other. Waiting in line for the popular crab fries at Chickie’s and Pete’s, fans were given the chance to look at a collection of hats collected from various games in which Royals’ players scored hat tricks.

Coinciding with Scout Night was the celebration of Slapshot’s, the Royals’ mascot, birthday. As part of the celebration, the arena played host to mascots from various local organizations who roamed throughout the stands greeting fans.

Two lucky fans were given the opportunity to walk out onto the ice with the mascots and lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to honor the 15-year-old lion mascot.

Despite a 4-3 loss to the visiting Nailers, the evening was yet another successful part of the Community Series.

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.

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.”

Community bands together to light up mountainside

READING, PA- Every December the residents of the city of Reading turn their eyes to Mt. Penn and Hillside Playground, anxiously awaiting the annual Christmas light display. After the disbanding of the Hillside Playground Association this past summer, it seemed that Christmas on the Mountain had come to an end.

When local business owners heard the news that Christmas on the Mountain may not take place this year, they came together to carry on this longstanding tradition.

In a post on the event’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ReadingXmas, community members such as Tim Profit, general manager of Savage 61, and Richard Carpenter, President/CEO of Access Industries, are named as two out of the many locals who have worked tirelessly to help this tradition see its 25th season.

The Marine Corps JROTC from Reading High School offered their time and energy to help with the setup and operation of the display, which includes inflatable characters and over half a million lights.

Christmas on the Mountain has inspired a long list of local sponsors who wish to see this tradition live on. The Reading Fightin Phils and Baseballtown Charities have made that list and have once again reached out and done their part to help the city of Reading.

Walking through the display is eye-opening and jaw-dropping. For first time visitors, the site can be somewhat overwhelming. Everywhere you turn there are lights and inflatables filling every available square inch. From giant Santa Claus and snowmen to inflatable Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Christmas on the Mountain brings out the child in everyone.

For the younger visitors, Santa is on hand to hear holiday wishes and take photos that will create long-lasting memories for years to come.

The site opened for the season on Nov. 29 and is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The attraction runs through Jan. 1.

Hillside Playground is located on North 14th Street in Reading. Parking and entrance into the playground are free and a snack bar is open to all visitors.

If your family loves Christmas lights and is looking to start a new holiday tradition, take a drive up to Hillside Playground and enjoy Reading’s Christmas on the Mountain.

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