Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Tag: Community (page 1 of 2)

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.

 

BoysandGirlsClub

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.

With Fightins on the road, Baseballtown hosts high school championships

On Monday, May 16 and Wednesday, May 18 FirstEnergy Stadium played host to the BCIAA baseball playoffs. With the Reading Fightin Phils on the road, the Baseballtown tradition continued with four high school baseball teams vying for a county title.

In the semifinals on Monday evening, the Saints of Berks Catholic High School faced off against the Eagles of Exeter High School in the first game on the card. Following the Eagles 8-2 victory, the Twin Valley Raiders and Governor Mifflin Mustangs took the field, with the Mustangs coming out on top 10-2.

Wednesday evening the stadium lights shone bright again as the Mustangs and the Eagles fought it out for the county title. The two teams split victories during the regular season, but the Mustangs came out strong and collected their second consecutive county title with a 9-0 victory.

For some players, it was a return appearance on the minor league field, for others it was a brand new experience.

“It’s priceless,” said Exeter High School athletic director Tom Legath. “Words don’t describe how awesome of an experience this is for everybody.”

Baseballtown and the Reading Fightin Phils have been hosting the county baseball championship game since 2004 and the final two rounds beginning in 2006, giving high school baseball teams in Berks County an opportunity that the majority of high school players never experience.

“I already told someone from Harrisburg this is the greatest thing, we’re playing at the Reading Fightin’ Phils FirstEnergy Stadium,” Legath said. “That’s where our county playoffs are and it was like, ‘wow, really?’ This is very special for us.”

The teams who make it to the semifinals and the finals are given the big league treatment. They prep for each game in one of the two clubhouses at the stadium. Pregame batting practice takes place in the Ryan Howard Batting Tunnel, located behind the right field stands.

During the game, pitchers and catchers warm up in the outfield bullpens while the teams get the chance to experience the view from a minor league dugout. As each player comes up to bat, his name is read over the public address system.

For those teams who are fortunate to make it to the championship game, the experience becomes just a bit sweeter.

During team introductions prior to the game’s start, each player’s picture is projected on the video board located in center field. As each player comes up to bat during the game, his picture is once again shown on the screen.

At the end of the night, while only one team can be named county champions, for all the players involved it is an experience that will remain with them for years to come.

“They will never, ever, ever forget this,” Legath said.

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.”

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.

Spring sports officially begin at Exeter High School

On Monday, March 7, spring sports began at Exeter High School with the first day of official practice. Over the past few months, teams have been holding voluntary open gym workouts to begin preparing for the upcoming season.

As the season officially opened, many coaches wasted no time getting their teams out on to the playing field.

Practices began for multiple teams immediately following dismissal. Taking advantage of unseasonably high temperatures and clear skies the baseball, boys tennis, and track and field teams were able to hold practice outside.

With a turf field and all-weather track at Don Thomas Stadium, Exeter has the ability to have multiple teams practicing in the same place at the same time. While long-distance runners worked out on the track, sprinters conditioned on the turf and pole vaulters got in some early season practice vaults.

The boys’ tennis team headed over to an adjoining park to take to the courts and begin working towards a county title.

As spring seasons begin to take shape, two of Exeter’s nine teams are looking to continue the success they had during the 2015 season.

The baseball team is coming off of an exciting BCIAA semi-final appearance and looks to go one step further and make it to the finals. Girls’ lacrosse hopes to carry the success of their 2015 BCIAA Championship run into the 2016 season.

Coming off a successful fall season with long runs by the football team, field hockey team, and girls’ tennis team and two state medalists in the winter wrestling season, the Eagles hope to see continued success for the athletic program with their spring sports teams.

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.

Exeter High School students plot revenge with “Let’s Murder Marsha”

Show logo created by Allison Cain

Show logo created by Allison Cain

READING, Pa.- The scene is set, the costumes are fitted, and the students at Exeter Township Senior High School are ready to take the stage in the annual fall theatre production. Come enjoy their production of Monk Ferris’ “Let’s Murder Marsha” on Thursday, November 12 and Saturday, November 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Exeter High School auditorium.

Set in the Manhattan apartment of the Gilmores, audiences will join mystery novel-loving Marsha as she schemes to prevent her husband Tobias from murdering her. Caught up in her plans are the bumbling neighbor Virgil Baxter, Marsha’s mother Lynette, unsuspecting Persis, confused Officer Ben, and hard-headed maid Bianca. Hilarity ensues as conversations are misunderstood, information is passed along incorrectly, and a mystery novel comes to life. “It’s very fun and unexpected. There are a lot of turns and twists,” Kassie Scheese, a senior in the production, explains. “From the title you might expect someone’s going to be murdered, but you never really know until you see it. It’s very family friendly and it’s good for all ages.”

“Let’s Murder Marsha” is the 18th fall theatre production for directors Bill and Marian Cain and from the very beginning of rehearsals, the students have been putting in hours learning their lines and developing their characters to provide the best performance possible. Jon Bingaman, another senior with the production, encourages audience members to come out on Thursday and Saturday nights and “experience the wild ride that the show is and just have a great time like we’ve been having.”

Tickets for the show cost $10 and can be purchased in advance from any cast member. There will also be tickets available at the door each night beginning at 7:00 p.m. For more information, interested parties can contact the Exeter High School main office at 610-779-0700.

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