The Reading Fightin’ Phils have maintained a strong presence and fan base through their 50 year history; thriving in a town where several other baseball organizations struggled to field a team that fans wanted to see. Despite not always being the best team in the league, the Fightin’s stadium is filled year after year. The team receives compliments on the great atmosphere and the wonderful experience every trip to the ballpark becomes.
The secret? Reading has a mostly homegrown front office staff with several fulltime positions filled by former interns and fans. The front office is a family that has grown from the larger family of Fightin’s fans and employees.
The Fightin’s have traditionally hired front office employees from within their successful internship program; former interns fill 19 of 23 front office positions. For some, however, the connection to the team goes back farther than just an internship.
Travis Hart, promoted to Director of Food and Beverage for the 2016 season, began working for the Fightin’s as a game staff employee in concessions in 2005. He remained a game staff employee until becoming a concessions intern in 2013, and joined the club full-time the following season. Through his 12 seasons with the club Hart has interacted closely with the fans, whether he is serving them food or providing them with new and improved food and drink options. He is, however, not the only front office member to have begun his tenure with the club as a game staff employee.
Mike Robinson, Executive Director of Fan Relations and Community Development, began working for the Fightin’s as an usher in 1993. He has watched the organization grow into the fan friendly organization it is today, and has even had a hand in collecting and implementing fan suggestions.
As the Director of Fan Relations, Robinson gets to interact with the Fightin’s fans in several unique ways. Robinson gets to coordinate groups coming to the ballpark each season, always being sure to bring something new for the fans. He makes several trips out into the community each season, allowing him to interact with both the fans and the team in unique and exciting ways. As the director of interns, Robinson also gets the opportunity to find and bring new faces into the organization, as well as promote the organization to potential future employees.
Matt Jackson, the Fightin’ Phils’ Executive Director of Graphic Arts and Game Entertainment, has one of the most unique and strongest relationships with the Fightin’s fans. In his 18th season with the club, Jackson began as a game staff employee before becoming an intern and then joining the front office. The role he is most known for around the ballpark, however, is that of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.
An ostrich riding, hot dog throwing character, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor rose to instant fame both within the organization and across baseball. His popularity with the fans sparked a major rebranding in 2012, when the Reading Phillies became the Reading Fightin’ Phils with a new logo featuring an ostrich. The team also housed two live ostriches at the stadium for a couple of seasons.
Jackson’s Crazy Hot Dog Vendor has become a fan favorite mascot, with everyone clamoring to catch a free hotdog at the end of the second inning when he takes the field. The annual game celebrating the Hot Dog Vendor’s birthday is always one of the most popular games for the younger fans, when they have the opportunity to take the field with the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.
While Jackson’s connection to the fans may be the most unique, nearly every front office member has a history with the organization and the fans. The understanding of the organization’s past, and the importance of the future, helps to keep Fightin Phils’ games a place where everyone feels like family, and every game is a great time, regardless of whether the team wins or looses.