Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Category: Reading Fightins (page 1 of 2)

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.

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.”

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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.”

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.

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.

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.

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