Amanda M. Cain

Taking you beyond the stadium walls and into the community.

Tag: Reading Fightins (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.

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.”

TravisInfographic

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.”

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.

DSC00042

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.”

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