On Education Days, FirstEnergy Stadium is filled with thousands of school students on end-of-the-year field trips, their teachers, and their chaperones. A nice escape from the building for the students, the Fightin’s make sure it is not an escape from education.
Todd Hunsicker, the Fightin’s Director of Educational Programs, emcees the pregame events for the students, all of which focus on the importance of education and having fun while learning.
The day begins with demonstrations from various groups around the community. Earlier education games this year featured a penguin visitor from the Lehigh Valley Zoo and a physics demonstration from the Reading Public Museum.
On Thursday the Reading Public Museum returned, but instead of a physics demonstration they brought a velociraptor named Collin. Part of the limited time dinosaur exhibit, Collin delighted the students by walking on the field, dancing, and even throwing a first pitch.
Collin’s performance was followed by a demonstration from the Penn State Berks Chemical Society. Representatives from the Chemical Society taught the students about the properties of liquid nitrogen. They then demonstrated nitrogen’s quick transformation into a gas by pouring warm water, a soda bottle filled with liquid nitrogen, and 500 ping pong balls into a large trashcan. The students were amazed when the nitrogen’s quick expansion exploded the bottle and launched the ping pong balls high into the air over the field.
The action-packed demonstrations were followed up by what was probably the highlight of the day for many of the students: a question and answer session with Fightin’s players. Thursday’s answer session featured first baseman Rhys Hoskins and outfielder Christian Marrero. A roving camera and microphone allowed the students to ask questions from the stands, which Hoskins and Marrero gladly answered. The questions covered every subject, from favorite foods, to what other sports the played, and what pets they owned as children. The players completed the session by giving the students advice, and telling them to follow their dreams and stay in school.
The pregame festivities concluded with a baseball themed trivia game. Schools were asked questions of varying difficulty based on the grade level, while representatives from each school ran the bases, advancing one base for each correct answer. Students had fun shouting the answers from the stands and cheering on their runners, though, in the spirit of fun, no score was kept.
Finally, after all of the excitement, the children were treated to a baseball game as the Fightin’s took the field against the Erie Seawolves. The concession stands had long lines throughout the game, as students worked to make the most of the money parents had provided. Vendors were swarmed as they ventured into the stands carrying treats such as cotton candy and soft pretzels.
The students and teachers got to see more than they bargained for on this field trip. Thanks to a rehab assignment, Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Cody Asche was in the Fightin’s lineup. Students got the opportunity to see a major league player in the small confines of the local ballpark, and Asche enjoyed getting the opportunity to play for the minor league fans once again.
The Vist Bank Plaza was a popular spot, as the Fightin’s set up a free water station and a misting station to combat the warm temperatures on the hottest day of the season so far.
The day was great all-around, as the Fightin’s used three home runs to beat the Seawolves, 7-4. The students loaded into their school buses and went home hot, happy and tired after an exciting, and educational, day at the ballpark.