Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Tag: Baseballtown Charities

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.

Today’s youth find support system with Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Every young boy or girl dreams of one day growing up and going to school, graduating, and finding a decent job. This dream is easier to accomplish for some than it is for others. For some, they don’t have the amount of support at home that is necessary to keep a child successful in and out of school. This is where the Boys and Girls Clubs of America can help.

For over 150 years, BGCA has been offering after school and summer programs to children from lower-income communities and providing safe environments for the children to learn and grow. They offer a variety of programs including recreational programs, health programs, career programs, and more.

 

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Infographic by Amanda Cain. Created at www.easel.ly. Information retrieved from www.bgca.org.

With well over 2,000 clubs across the country, the organization is always looking for help in providing the services it has previously given to almost four million children each year.

For someone looking to help support the organization and its cause, there are multiple options available. Clubs across the country always welcome volunteers and by visiting the organization’s website, you can easily locate a club in your area that may be looking for help.

Donations are a major part of what allows BGCA to continue to provide the amount of support it has for years. Celebrities and athletes such as Timbaland and Shane Victorino have been known to publicly support their local clubs.

To be a part of this incredible foundation, find out how you can make a donation or invite friends to make donations to their local organizations. For more information on the various programs offered through BGCA or how you can become involved, visit www.bgca.org.

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.

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.”

How to Get Involved with Baseballtown Charities

Giving back to your community is always a positive and rewarding experience. Help the Reading Fightin’ Phils and Baseballtown Charities bring the love of America’s Pastime to the city of Reading and its youth while also helping to revitalize the local community. Getting involved is easy and a great way to share your passion for this wonderful sport.

Step 1: Learn about Baseballtown Charities and what they do.

In order to work with an organization, the first thing you must do is find out what the organization is about and what kinds of projects they generally focus on. There are a number of ways to learn about Baseballtown Charities.

  • Visit the official website for Baseballtown at baseballtown.org. Here you will find the background information about both Baseballtown and Baseballtown Charities. There is information about the goal of the charity and projects that have already been completed. You will also find contact information for the people involved with the organization.
  • Go to fightins.com, the official site of the Reading Fightin’ Phils, and research stories that the team has published about their involvement with the organization. Baseballtown Charities works in connection with the team and this site is a great source of information about the different events held throughout the year.
  • Learn more about the groups mentioned in the previously completed projects. By knowing more about the types of groups the organization works with, you will get a better understanding of what Baseballtown Charities is all about.

Step 2: Connect with members of Baseballtown Charities.

After learning about the organization, you need to make contact with the people involved. The best way to participate in the events is to have someone who knows you are interested in helping out and is able to contact you when the next event rolls around.

  • If you feel wary about contacting a member of the charity board, you can connect with a member of the Reading Fightins’. Information for the Fightins’ office staff can be found at fightins.com under front office directory. By talking to a member of the Fightins’ organization, you can learn more about Baseballtown Charities and stay up-to-date on different events taking place.

Step 3: Sign up for the Baseballtown Insider.

Having made contact with people involved with Baseballtown Charities, the next step is to find a way to insure that you always know what is going on with the organization. The Fightins’ and Baseballtown Charities have found a way to make this easy for you. All you have to do is sign up for the Baseballtown Insider email newsletter. This is easy enough to do. To sign up, visit http://baseballtown.org/baseballtown-insider.html and fill out the short subscription form. The newsletter is a regular update on what is happening in and around Baseballtown and is completely free for fans. Aside from being a staff member with the organization, this is the best, and easiest, way to stay informed about the events regarding the Fightins’ and Baseballtown Charities.

Step 4: Connect via social media.

Now that you have made contact with a member of the organization and signed up for the free Baseballtown Insider, it is time to make a few more connections. In this day and age, almost every organization is able to connect with fans and participants via social media. The Fightins’ are no exception. While there are no direct social media accounts for Baseballtown Charities, you can still connect with people directly involved with the organization.

  • The first account you should connect with is the Fightin’ Phils official Twitter account (@ReadingFightins). By following this account, you will stay up-to-date on events in the community involving the team and Baseballtown Charities. The Fightins’ are continuously posting information about events in the community that they are running or are involved with in other ways.
  • Along the same lines as following the official Fightins’ account, it will also be beneficial for you to follow the twitter account for the team’s public relations director, Eric Scarcella (@FightinsPRGuy). Scarcella posts information about the team and Baseballtown Charities as they organize and take part in community activities.
  • Be sure to go on Facebook and click the like button on the Reading Fightin’ Phils page. This will insure that you never miss out on any information regarding the team and Baseballtown Charities. By liking the page, you will be sure to see every announcement and article that is posted regarding both organizations.

Step 5: Attend a Fightins’ game and participate in a pre-game or post-game fundraiser.

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Fightins’ Ugly Sweater Christmas in July jersey. Photo: Amanda Cain

Several times throughout the season, the Reading Fightin’ Phils have theme nights such as Christmas in July, Irish Heritage Night, and Harley Night. During these games, the team wears specially designed jerseys that are autographed and auctioned off at the end of the night. The proceeds from the auctions go to Baseballtown Charities.

Player-autographed Ugly Christmas Sweater jersey. Photo: Amanda Cain

Player-autographed Ugly Sweater jersey.
Photo: Amanda Cain

Another fundraiser they hold all season is the 50/50 raffle. During each game up until the seventh inning, fans can purchase raffle tickets. At the end of the game, one ticket is drawn and the winner takes home half of the money that was collected. The other half of the money goes to Baseballtown Charities.

Toss-a-Ball is another great fundraiser held by the team. Fans purchase tennis balls with numbers written on them and at the end of the game throw them on the field at targets, trying to win money or tickets. On certain nights, the money that is raised through the sale of the tennis balls is donated to Baseballtown Charities. These are easy ways for you to get involved and help Baseballtown Charities.

Toss-a-Ball numbered tennis balls. Photo: Amanda Cain

Toss-a-Ball numbered tennis balls. Photo: Amanda Cain

 

 Bringing baseball to Reading’s youth is just the tip of the iceberg for Baseballtown Charities. By getting involved with this organization, you will find you are a part of a much larger project than sharing America’s Pastime. You are a part of a group that truly believes in a community and what it can become and will do what it takes to make this idea a reality.

 

Additional Tips

  • Learn about fundraisers available for groups or individuals.
  • Come up with an event you can run that the organization could be a part of or benefit from.
  • Get involved with groups that have benefited from the organization’s work.
  • Research upcoming events in the community.
  • Get to know the people involved with the organization.

© 2017 Amanda M. Cain

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