On Thursday, April 7, 2016, the Reading Fightin’ Phils Officially began the 50th Phillies Season in Reading.
The celebration of the 50th season of affiliation between the two clubs will last through the entire 2016 season, but the opening weekend festivities served as a great beginning for the fans and employees.
The weather seemed to be working to spoil the celebration, with a 54-degree game-time temperature on Thursday night being the warmest of the 4-game series against the Portland Sea Dogs, but the Reading fans brought hats, gloves and blankets. Vendors switched from cold drinks to hot chocolate, and the celebration began.
Ben Smith, the Fightin’s Music and Sound Coordinator, said the cold weather was unfortunate, but seeing the fans return to Baseballtown after a long winter was exciting.
“Even though we did have, not the greatest weather, it’s amazing to see the fans that do come out regardless of what the weather is around here,” Smith said.
Opening night featured a T-shirt giveaway for adults, with shirts representing the 50 greatest players in Reading’s long history with Philadelphia. The 50 players were chosen in a fan vote, and will be honored in various ways throughout the season.
The Fightin’s players wore special jerseys covered with photos of the 50 greatest players. Replicas of these jerseys will be given to fans at later games.
Friday night was dedicated to the memory of Ruth Hartman, a former Queen of Baseballtown and member of the Fightin’s family. Fans received a bobble head of Hartman in her All-American Girls’ Baseball League uniform.
Hartman was inducted into the Reading Baseball Hall of Fame in a ceremony that brought together some of her former softball players, current softball players from across Berks County, Hartman’s family and other members of the All-American Girls’ Baseball League.
On Friday, fans and players alike were forced to deal with snow before and during the game, but the festivities continued with a golden Jimmy Rollins Bobble head, the first of a series of golden bobble heads that will be given out throughout the season.
The golden bobble head series is contributing to an unprecedented number of bobble heads being given out this season. These, along with the other giveaways commemorating the 50-season affiliation, are certain to keep fans returning throughout the season.
Smith thinks the giveaways and promotions, which are very different from previous years, are helping to get people excited about the season.
“Being that it is the 50th season, we have a lot of cool giveaways, a lot of cool promotions going on,” Smith said.
The organization is proud of their historic affiliation, the third longest in Major League Baseball,
and the pride is evident throughout the ballpark. Employees sport 50th season crests on their hats and lanyards. Various video clips highlight and celebrate the affiliation before each game. The pitcher’s mound is covered in gold sand in honor of the golden anniversary.
Fans are invited to join the celebration at every opportunity with merchandise, giveaways, and special themed nights.
The 50th season my have had a cold start, but as the weather warms up the celebration will too, and the season is sure to be one to remember.