Reading Baseball is Domino’s Business
When you see Chuck Domino for the first time, your first impression is that of a successful business man. He has a dressy yet casual style, often wearing dress pants with either a polo shirt or bowling shirt. With his dark hair and large smile, he gives the impression of a serious business man with a sociable personality.
This is a correct assumption in that he has been a successful business man for many years, but he does not work in a corner office in a downtown building. His office is located in a stadium and his business is baseball.
What started out as an internship right after college has become a lifestyle. Over the past 34 years, Domino has spent time as a staff member of six different Minor League Baseball clubs. Along the way, he helped create a new team, brought two teams back to the successful side of the business, and even founded his own business, Domino Consulting.
During his first five years in baseball, Domino spent time with three different teams in three different states. He worked for two Single A teams in 1983 and 1984 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and then in Eugene, Oregon. After the season in Oregon, he moved to Pocatello, Idaho for the 1985 season. At season’s end, he played a role in relocating the team to Idaho Falls where he stayed for two seasons.
After the 1987 season, Domino learned of a general manager position in Reading, Pennsylvania with the Reading Phillies, the Double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
In 2000, Domino and Craig Stein, owner of the Reading Phillies, began researching the idea of bringing a Triple-A team into the Lehigh Valley in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After being denied the opportunity by the Philadelphia team – they owned the territory and could prevent others from moving into the area – opportunity came knocking a few years later. The Phillies began to show an interest in moving their Triple-A team out of Scranton and into Lehigh Valley, and Stein managed to convince the Phillies that this would be a productive move. Construction of Coca Cola Park began in 2006 and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs opened their first official season in 2008.
It was here that Domino believed his involvement with the team would end. He loved being in Reading and had no intention of leaving the team that he had helped to bring back to life. Stein had other plans.
“My heart and soul was in Reading so much for 20 years. Even though I knew Lehigh Valley would be successful, I did not want to leave Reading,” Domino said about being approached by Stein to be the general manager for the new Triple-A team.
Eventually, Stein wore him down and Domino agreed to work as president of both Reading and Lehigh Valley.
“In my opinion, Chuck’s involvement with getting a new Triple-A team to the Lehigh Valley area was huge for the Philadelphia Phillies organization,” said Mike Robinson, Reading Fightin Phils Executive Director of Community and Fan Relations. “He was responsible for getting a brand new stadium built and hiring the general manager, Kurt Landes.”
Robinson has worked with the Reading organization for the last 14 seasons and spent one of his earliest seasons working as Domino’s intern in 1999.
A few years later, an opportunity arose in Richmond, Virginia when the Connecticut Defenders Double-A team moved into the area that had been without a team for a year and became the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Finding himself stretched between the three teams, Domino found himself facing a decision. Despite numerous articles stating that Domino was forced to leave his positions in Reading and Lehigh Valley, he made the personal decision to leave his position in Lehigh Valley and focus on Richmond. While he was no longer the general manager, leaving the team in Reading all together was never an option in his mind.
“I was never going to leave Reading,” Domino said. “I wanted to always have my finger in Reading because this was my baby.”
For some, the amount of work Domino has put into the Reading organization is seen as one of his greatest successes in minor league baseball.
Over the years he has created a strong, family oriented atmosphere that has given families in Reading a place to go and spend time together while also meeting new people. Through his unconditional support for the city and his creative ideas for promotions, Domino has made FirstEnergy Stadium into a top summer destination for both local fans and visiting fans.
“Since 1988 he’s used marketing, promotions, and renovations at FirstEnergy Stadium to build this team into one of the most successful and respected franchises in the country,” said Matt Jackson, the Reading Fightin Phils Executive Director of Graphic Arts and Game Entertainment. “90,000 fans used to be considered a great annual attendance. Now we shoot for 500,000 fans.”
Jackson has known Domino for the past 18 years, after meeting him in 1999 during his first internship with the organization. On his first day, he remembers Domino immediately putting him to work designing Reading Baseball Fan Crossing signs that were used for many years outside the main gates of the ballpark.
As of the 2016 season, Domino finds himself working as a consultant for four teams. His primary focus is on Reading and Richmond, but he is also working with the newly rebranded Hartford Yard Goats in Connecticut and a team in Charlotte.
“I would say because of Chuck’s great success with Reading and Lehigh Valley, it draws other organizations to him,” Robinson said when discussing Domino’s work as a consultant. “He is well-organized and really cares about the teams he leads along with the employees he works with.”
Domino Consulting, Domino’s consulting firm, had a hand in the rebranding of multiple teams, including the 2012 rebranding in Reading when the team went from being the Reading Phillies to the Reading Fightin Phils.
The rebranding came following a multi-million-dollar stadium renovation in 2011 that included a brand new main entrance and plaza food court, new clubhouses, and an expanded plaza outside the stadium among other things.
As with everything else, Domino played a large part in the planning and execution of the entire project.
“Chuck is ‘battle tested.’ He’s ‘been there and done that’ so to speak,” Jackson said. “Nothing is better than having field experience when it comes to advice. And when you’ve been in the game as long as Chuck with a track record for proven success, he’s a good guy to have in your corner when it comes to consulting or making baseball decisions.”
Domino has found success working with multiple teams at one time because he has learned over time that all of the teams have the same problems. He has discovered that ideas that are successful in one organization can be taken to another organization and after some slight modifications based on the location, the idea becomes successful in that organization as well.
Leading Reading to become a successful franchise has not been Domino’s only project in the city. In 2000, Domino and Scott Hunsicker, Domino’s successor as general manager of the Reading franchise, decided they wanted to officially christen Reading as Baseballtown.
After attending a sports symposium at which a member of the Detroit Red Wings staff explained the story behind Detroit being known as Hockeytown, Domino and Hunsicker began to discuss the possibility of Reading being known as Baseballtown.
“I said to Scott, ‘If they can be Hockeytown, why can’t we be Baseballtown?’,” Domino said. “Reading was one of the very first professional teams way back in the late 1880s. At another point in time, Reading had seven guys from Reading, PA in the major leagues.”
Following more in depth research into the history of baseball in Reading, Domino and Hunsicker successfully trademarked the name Baseballtown.
With the naming of Baseballtown in 2000, came the creation of Baseballtown Charities, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to bring the sport of baseball to the kids in the city who may not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in a sports program.
While Domino views the work he has done with the Reading organization as his biggest accomplishment in minor league baseball, the work he has done with Baseballtown Charities and building Gordon Hoodak Stadium at Lauer’s Park is right at the top of his list.
“That was kind of my one-man effort,” Domino said. “I raised the money, I designed the stadium, and I found the contractor. Just knowing that that’s there because I decided I wanted to put the effort in and make that happen.”
There are many others who would agree with him that Gordon Hoodak Stadium is at the top of the list when it comes to his accomplishments.
“The fact that he had a part in building a stadium where under-privileged kids get to play the great game of baseball is absolutely amazing,” said Fightin Phils Music and Sound Coordinator Ben Smith.
Long-time Fightin Phils employee Greg Pomian agreed saying, “This project took baseball into the community and expanded the Reading Fightin Phils brand outside of the confines of our stadium.”
For all the work he has done in Minor League Baseball over the past 34 years, Domino has gathered quite a collection of awards. He has been named the Eastern League Executive of the Year a total of five times, four with Reading and one with Richmond. He was also named the Pioneer League Executive of the Year in 1986 while with the Idaho Falls Braves.
With all the success that Domino has found throughout Minor League Baseball, it makes you stop and wonder; what makes him so successful? Is it his personality, his attention to detail, or is it the way he is able to communicate with people and get his ideas to go from sketches to actual projects?
Long-time Fightins concessions employee Carol Moyer put it simply. “He’s a good business man. That’s all it is,” she said. “He’s indeed a business man.”
“I would say Chuck’s attention to detail and communication and leadership skills set him apart from all the other leaders in minor league baseball,” Robinson said.
Jackson agreed and said, “Chuck is a workhorse. He stops at nothing until he gets to the finish line. He pays extreme attention to detail. He always takes the initiative to make things better.”
Domino is currently hard at work on the next project for Baseballtown Charities and is continuing to work as a consultant for teams throughout the league.
“I’m also a part owner of Relevant Sports Complex,” Domino said. “And Baseballtown Charities is going to build a field for handicapped kids. That’s my next project with Baseballtown Charities I’m working on. That’s the big one.”
Even after all of his success in minor league baseball, Domino shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.