A. C. Cain

Finding the major stories in the minor leagues

Tag: Baseball (page 1 of 2)

Fightin Phils to honor fans, employees

As the Reading Fightin Phils prepare to wrap up the regular season, all eyes are focused on the playoffs. Before the historic season comes to a close, however, there is one more celebration to be had.

On September 1, the final home game of the 2016 season, the Fightins will dedicate the night to honoring the to groups that have made the historic 50-year affiliation possible: the fans and employees.

Fan Appreciation Night begins during the pre-game and continues throughout the night. This year, the festivities will include $10,000 worth of prizes being given away. The younger fans get the celebration started with a pre-game on-field candy grab. All Kids’ Club members will also receive a free ticket to the game. The older fans partake in the celebration throughout the night, where contests and raffles will make prizes available for them. The night also features the annual clunker car giveaway. Three fans will leave the stadium with cars, but they won’t be in good condition.

The Fightins will use the final home game of the season to honor, thank, and celebrate the fans that fill the stadium each night.  Photo by Ariane Cain.

The Fightins will use the final home game of the season to honor, thank, and celebrate the fans that fill the stadium each night. Photo by Ariane Cain.

A night dedicated to the fans is a fitting conclusion to the season for an organization that thrives on the strength of the fan base. The Fightins currently lead the Eastern League in both total attendance for the season and average attendance. Before the final home stand, the total attendance sits at 371,031, and the average attendance is 6,082.

The faithful fans are not th

The Employee Honor Roll holds a plaque for every employee who has worked for the organization for 10 or more years. A ceremony is held each year to induct employees in their tenth season. Photo by Ariane Cain.

The Employee Honor Roll holds a plaque for every employee who has worked for the organization for 10 or more years. A ceremony is held each year to induct employees in their tenth season. Photo by Ariane Cain.

e only people celebrated on this night, the faithful employees are celebrated in the annual Employee Honor Role ceremony. The Employee Honor Roll consists of all employees who have worked for the team for ten seasons or more.

Employees concluding their tenth season, and their families, will be treated to a pool party in the Reading Eagle Pool Pavilion. The employees will also be inducted into the Employee Honor Roll during an on-field ceremony when each employee will be

Each employee inducted into the Employee Honor Roll receives a plaque commemorating their ten seasons with the team.  Photo by Ariane Cain.

Each employee inducted into the Employee Honor Roll receives a plaque commemorating their ten seasons with the team. Photo by Ariane Cain.

announced and recognized, and will receive a plaque commemorating their tenth season. The names will then be added to the Employee Honor Roll plaque that hangs inside the employee entrance.

This ceremony is also when the recipient of the Neale Bechtel Employee of the Year Award will be revealed. The award is given to a game-staff employee who embodies the spirit of the organization. The recipient is nominated by the other game-staff employees. The award, named in honor of the late Neale Bechtel who was lovingly known around the stadium as “The Singing Usher,” is typically given to an employee who has become a staple at the stadium; someone who is recognized by employees and fans alike for the effort, devotion, and care they have put into their work at the ballpark.

In the final ceremony of the night, the end-of-season player awards will be given to the appropriate members of the team. These awards, ranging from a community service award to a team MVP award, highlight players who have been successful in every aspect of the game and community.

The final home game of the season is a chance to celebrate and, hopefully, a chance to look forward to the post-season and a potential championship. For the Fightins it is also a chance to thank and honor all of the people, fans, players, and employees, who have made the past 50 years a success for the organization and hope to make the next 50 years a success as well.

For tickets to remaining Fightin Phils’ games, or information on future promotions, visit Fightins.com or call 610-370-BALL.

Fightin’ Phils give back to the community with Toss-A-Ball event

When summer sets in the Reading Fightin’ Phils celebrate the season with firework shows nearly every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday game. While fans flock to the ballpark to watch the impressive displays, the Fightin’s pre-firework activities are even more impressive. Together with Savage 61 Dodge, the Fightin’s host Toss-A-Ball before each fireworks show. Toss-A-Ball is fun for the fans, and also a great cause.

Tennis balls used by the Fightin's in their Toss-A-Ball event. Each number is recorded when fans purchase the balls, allowing the team to determine the winners for each prize. (photo by Ariane Cain)

Tennis balls used by the Fightin’s in their Toss-A-Ball event. Each number is recorded when fans purchase the balls, allowing the team to determine the winners for each prize. (photo by Ariane Cain)

The idea behind Toss-A-Ball is simple: purchase numbered tennis balls throughout the game, throw the tennis balls onto the field or into the bed of a truck circling the warning track after the game, and win prizes. What is more important is the money raised by purchasing the tennis balls, which the Fightin’s immediately give to a non-profit organization.  With hundreds of balls purchased each night, the organizations are the true winners.

Organizations supported by the program cover a wide range, from the United Way of Berks County and the Olivet Boys and Girls Club, to local school districts, and even local families that are struggling to cope with recent hardships or tragedy.

The Fightin’s have even used the event to provide support for members of their own family, as several times the proceeds have been given to employees or interns fighting cancer.

With the Fightin’s furnishing prizes, such as season tickets, pool parties, first pitch packages, and one person winning $100 each time, there is plenty of incentive for fans.

Charity is turned into fun as the program is a season-long competition, which concludes at Toss-A-Ball Finals Night, where the most accurate tossers, one chosen from each event throughout the season, get the opportunity to compete for $1,000.

While Reading is often lauded for the charity work they do under Baseballtown Charities, it is important to remember that the organization gives back in other ways and encourages the fans to help give back as well.

The next time you come to a Fightin’s game to catch the fireworks show, be sure to buy some tennis balls, have some fun, and participate in a great event making a huge impact on the community and local non-profit organizations.

For more information on Toss-A-Ball, or to find a toss-a-ball night to attend, visit Fightin’s.com. Tickets to any games can be purchased on-line, in person at the stadium, or by calling 610-370-BALL. If you have a group or organization that could benefit from Toss-A-Ball, contact Fightin’s Director of Community Relations, Mike Robinson.

Fightin’s bring baseball to the next generation of fans with Education Days

On Thursday, May 26, 2016, the Reading Fightin’ Phils opened their gates to a very different crowd than usual. The 11:35am game was the third and final “Education Day” of 2016.

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.

Collin the velociraptor from the Reading Public Museum entertained the students on the field during the pre-game on My 26, 2016. (Photo by Ariane Cain)

Collin the velociraptor from the Reading Public Museum entertained the students on the field during the pre-game on My 26, 2016. (Photo by Ariane Cain)

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.

A cotton candy serves students in the stands during Education Day. (Photo by Ariane Cain)

A cotton candy serves students in the stands during Education Day. (Photo by Ariane Cain)

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.

For Abby and Travis Rutt the Fightin’ Phils are a family affair

Former Fightin’ Phils employees Abby and Travis Rutt discuss the impact the organization has had on them and their growing family. Interview by Ariane Cain.

In their 50th season of affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies, the longest running affiliation in baseball, the Reading Fightin’ Phils have clearly found a secret to success that not every minor league team finds. The organization and their home mean so much to the local community that Reading, PA has been officially named Baseballtown, and FirstEnergy Stadium is known as America’s Classic Ballpark.

The organization is truly something special, creating a family out of baseball fans from every major league team. Generations of families have visited the ballpark, and many look forward to the time when they can bring their children and grandchildren to enjoy the same experience they had as children.

Abby and Travis Rutt, former Fightin’s employees, look forward to the memories their daughter will make at FirstEnergy Stadium, the place her parents first met.

“She’s already been to a game!” Abby says laughing, while imagining what the stadium will mean to their 4-month old daughter.

When Abby began working at the stadium in 2003, Travis had already been there for several years, beginning in 1997 or 1998.

“I would tell people it was like getting paid to hang out with your friends,” Abby said. “It was fun, it was really fun to work there. And you got to hang out with people, and you got to know, because the same people would come back every summer to work, so it was, you know, a chance to see all those people again. It was just fun.”

“I could really say the same thing,” Travis added. “It was fun. All my friends worked there; all my closest friends.”

What began for both as a simple summer job became much more. Both had been to the stadium numerous times throughout their childhoods, and had seen it evolve from a small, simple ballpark to the elaborate, innovative stadium it has become.

“Another thing that was really cool was getting to sing the National Anthem, actually numerous times,” Abby said. “It’s an opportunity I’m not sure I would have gotten if I didn’t work there.”

The organization invited her to sing the anthem at a game the Reading Phillies played at Citizens Bank Park. She also had the opportunity to sing before a game in which former Phillies second baseman Chase Utley played for the Reading Phillies on a rehab assignment. Singing for Utley easily makes the list of her favorite memories of the stadium.

What makes the stadium truly special, the two agree, is the tradition that surrounds it. As much as things change, there are pieces of the ballpark that always stay the same.

“They have season ticket holders that are senior citizens. And, you know, they had the singing usher who was there singing during the seventh-inning stretch until he got too sick to be able to get to the ballpark.”

The Singing Usher, Neal Bechtel, was such a staple at the ballpark that the Fightin’s introduced the Neal Bechtel Employee of the Year Award after his passing. A video of Bechtel singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is still played during the seventh-inning stretch several times each season as the organization’s way of honoring the tradition he became.

“I think people really hold on to that stuff,” Abby said, trying to sum up exactly what makes the small, familiar touches at the ballpark so special. “Because it’s such a tradition, it’s such a staple of this area.”

The tradition is one the Rutts are determined to keep alive by passing it down to their daughter, and hoping that the old ballpark becomes as special to her as it has to them.

Fightin’ Phils’ fan experience is constantly evolving

The Reading Fightin’ Phils have remained in the city for 50 years in large part because of the strong fan base that continues to support the team each season. With attendance figures that frequently lead the Eastern League, or at least finish in the top three, the franchise clearly knows how to draw in fans.

Stadium Journey has ranked FirstEnergy Stadium in its list of the “Top 100 Stadium Experiences of 2015” at number 69. With a ballpark built in 1952, far older than the majority of the newer stadiums that make the list, the Fightin’ Phils have to work a bit harder to make their “classic” ballpark welcoming and relevant for fans.

As a result, the fan experiences are numerous and varied at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Fightin’s are constantly changing and improving the experience for the fans, making any trip to the ballpark new and exciting.

The new Grove Dental Photo Booth at FirstEnergy Stadium. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The new Grove Dental Photo Booth at FirstEnergy Stadium. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

One of the new additions for the 2016 season is the Grove Dental Photo Booth. Fans and their families have the opportunity to have a picture taken in front of a backdrop featuring Fightin’ Phils’ players J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, and Roman Quinn. The photos are then emailed to the family, for free, and fans are encouraged to share them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the tag #GroveDental.

The photo booth expands on a previous fan experience, the BB&T Social Media Vault. Fans are encouraged to share photos on social media throughout the game with #fightins. In the seventh inning, the best photos of the nights are shown on the video board, and the best photo of the night wins a prize. The Grove Dental Photo Booth photos are also included in the Social Media Vault.

The Fightin’s have also added to the fan experience this season by being the first Minor League stadium to test a new “Craft Beer Me” feature. The feature allows fans to order from a list of 50 craft beers in the MiLB Inside the Park app, and the drink will be delivered to their seat within minutes. The feature allows fans to enjoy every moment of the game without having to worry about waiting in line and missing the action.

In addition to the 50 craft beers offered through the app, the ballpark is serving an unprecedented 87 different beers throughout the ballpark to help celebrate the historic 50th season.

The Savage 61 Dugout Suite is another new fan experience added this season. The Dugout Suite allows fans to sit in a dugout just like the players, located along the right field line. In addition to the regular ticket, which includes a pre-game party on the warning track during batting practice, fans can add waitress service, all-you-can-eat, and all-you-can-drink. The luxury suite is very unique, and gives fans a whole new view of the game.

The Plaza Dance Party helps to keep the younger fans entertained throughout the game. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The Plaza Dance Party helps to keep the younger fans entertained throughout the game. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

Along with these new experiences, the Fightin’s maintain some of the old activities that fans have always enjoyed. Each game features a dance party in the plaza, perfect for young kids that are getting antsy sitting and watching the game. Also for the younger fans, Phunland provides plenty of games, rides, and prizes.

Fans have the opportunity to view the game from nearly anywhere in the park, including the left-field deck. Fans on the deck win Unique pretzels whenever the left fielder, affectionately called the Deck Head, gets on base. Fans are also encouraged to root for the Red Robin RBI Man who can earn free Red Robin appetizers for the crowd with an RBI. The Moe’s home run inning gives fans an opportunity to win free queso if the Fightin’s hit a home run.

The Fightin’ Phils respect their history, the main concourse is essentially a museum dedicated to baseball in Reading, but in order to maintain the strong fan base the team knows it needs to continue to evolve each season. Thanks to this constant evolution, no two trips to the ballpark are ever exactly the same, and the fans keep coming back for more.

From athlete’s standpoint Title IX has a long way to go

Since its creation in 1972, Title IX has made a lot of progress for gender equality in high school athletics. Girls are receiving more opportunities to play sports, and funding for girls’ and boys’ programs has begun to balance out.

Perhaps the most notable change Title IX has created is making others, coaches, athletic directors and administration, aware of the need for equality.


Infographic created by Ariane Cain at easel.ly

Thomas Legath, Exeter Township School District’s athletic director, thinks that the secret to being successful as far as Title IX is concerned is to view all of the teams simply as sports teams, without focusing on the difference between boys’ and girls’ teams.

“I treat every coach how they should be treated, and they don’t feel that they’re not getting something someone else is,” Legath said.

While those in charge focus on the big changes and see how far they have come, the student athletes are looking at the little things, and see how far they still have to go.

Jessica Stout, a senior at Exeter Township Senior High School, played varsity softball for three years and is currently a member of the track team. Her participation in the two sports has given her a unique perspective on these equality issues, and she notices the things that seem minor, but mean a lot to the students.

“Some of the products that we have for softball weren’t quite the same as baseball. Not a huge issue, but I would say, it would be nice. Just a little bit more equal,” Stout said, looking at the differences between baseball and softball.

Legath tries to stay ahead of Title IX by balancing out as much as he can from his end.

“I try to make sure the things I can control, which are the spending of the money for the teams, are consistent for our girls’ and boys’ teams,” Legath said.

Legath also makes sure that every team has an equal number of home and away games, and an equal amount of opportunities to play on the shared playing surfaces, such as the stadium and basketball courts.

For the students, it isn’t really a game of numbers.

The scoreboard at Exeter's varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The scoreboard at Exeter’s varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

“The boys definitely have the scoreboard functioning pretty nice, the girls don’t,” Stout said, providing a clear example.

The empty scoreboard frame at Exeter's varsity softball field. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The empty scoreboard frame at Exeter’s varsity softball field. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The scoreboards in question are drastically different, with the baseball field boasting a fully functioning electronic scoreboard. The softball field hosts a wooden frame, which used to have a simple scoreboard that has since been removed.

As Stout pointed out, it’s the small things that matter.

The view from the pitcher's mound, looking towards the outfield wall at Exeter's varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The view from the pitcher’s mound, looking towards the outfield wall at Exeter’s varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The baseball field has a permanent outfield fence and wall, while the softball team has a temporary snow fence erected each season. A permanent fence on the softball field would prevent the outfields of the back-to-back

The temporary fence constructed for the softball team each season. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The temporary fence constructed for the softball team each season. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

softball fields from becoming a Jr. High football and field hockey field during the fall season.


The majority of high schools in Berks County have nicely constructed dugouts on their baseball fields, while the softball fields have only benches for the teams.

The home dugout at Exeter's varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

The home dugout at Exeter’s varsity baseball field. (Photo: Amanda Cain)

“It’s pretty equal with track,” Stout said, “because we’re all together. We use the same blocks, we use the same javelins and stuff like that. There’s not much that could be different.”

The field sports all use the same field, same stands, same benches and same scoreboard. Those sports that are forced to use different playing surfaces and equipment are the ones

The home bench at Exeter's varsity softball field. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The home bench at Exeter’s varsity softball field. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

that suffer, and because there are few sports in this situation, at Exeter baseball and softball are the only sports that cannot share a playing field, the differences tend to be overlooked.

Some differences can’t be helped, such as the fact that the school was built with the baseball field front and center while the softball fields are tucked away behind the Jr. high. Even Stout said that while it would be nice to be closer to the action, it’s not really an issue. While she admitted that the softball team loses some fans due to their lack of proximity to the high school, that isn’t really what matters the most to the team.

“I would like to see the equipment, stuff like that, especially along baseball, softball, more of stuff along those lines, balanced out a little,” Stout said.

Title IX has helped schools make a lot of progress in terms of gender equality, but, when the little things are considered, there is still a long way to go.




Reading Fightin’s begin celebration of 50 Phillies seasons in Reading

Fans root for a Fightin's victory on Opening Night, April 9, 2016. Photo by Ariane Cain.

Fans root for a Fightin’s victory on Opening Night, April 9, 2016. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

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.

The Reading Fighting' Phils and the Portland Sea Dogs line up for the National Anthem prior to the opening game on April 9, 2016. Photo by Ariane Cain

The Reading Fighting’ Phils and the Portland Sea Dogs line up for the National Anthem prior to the opening game on April 9, 2016. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

“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.

Former players from the All-American Girl's Baseball League pose for photos after Ruth Hartman's Reading Baseball Hall of Fame induction on April 10, 2016. Photo by Ariane Cain.

Former players from the All-American Girl’s Baseball League pose for photos after Ruth Hartman’s Reading Baseball Hall of Fame induction on April 10, 2016. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

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.

Reading's Crazy Hot Dog Vendor performs for the fans on Opening Weekend. Photo by Ariane Cain.

Reading’s Crazy Hot Dog Vendor performs for the fans on Opening Weekend. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

“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,

The 50th Phillies season in Reading is commemorated on employees' lanyards and hats. Photo by Ariane Cain.

The 50th Phillies season in Reading is commemorated on employees’ lanyards and hats. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

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.

Exeter baseball brings spring fun to community

As spring training begins, bringing hope for warmer weather, the Exeter Township Senior High School baseball team prepares to bring a little bit of spring to the community.

On February 20, 2016, the team hosted its annual Winter Carnival, an event started about ten years ago to raise money for the baseball parent’s club. Tired of the same fundraisers every other team was doing, the parents decided to host a carnival. The event has become the equivalent to May Days, an outdoor carnival hosted by the township every spring on the school grounds.

The Winter Carnival is an event that allows parents to get their kids out of the house after a long winter and let them have some fun. Activities range from typical carnival games, such as a moon bounce and ring toss, to a football toss, a session in the batting cage, and even an opportunity to pie a teacher in the face.

Head baseball coach Justin Freese says that the carnival is a great way for the players to interact with the community, and vice-versa.

The carnival is staffed by the baseball players, who are required to work from 10-5 and assist with set-up and cleanup, as well as staffing every game and activity. Players get the opportunity to interact with the community, especially the youngest members of the community, and create some new fans. They also earn community service hours, which help them to fulfill a graduation retirement.

“It makes me happy to see how they are, not only as students, but then also working with kids in the community,” Freese says.

Exeter residents play games at the annual Winter Carnival hosted by the baseball team. Photo: Ariane Cain

Exeter residents play games at the annual Winter Carnival hosted by the baseball team. Photo: Ariane Cain

Exeter High School transforms for the carnival, with the cafeteria, main gymnasium, and auxiliary gymnasium all used to hold the various games and activities. The gym lobby becomes a necessary pit stop, with the concessions stands selling all of the necessary ballpark foods throughout the day.

The raffle is one of the biggest moneymakers each year, with every prize being donated by local community businesses. The Reading Fightin’ Phils offer support by providing raffle prizes including ticket packs, bobble heads, T-shirts and much more. The raffle also has prizes sponsored by local stores such as Boscov’s Department Store and Coventry Corners.

The carnival is always a popular event, and one that is greatly appreciated by the members of the community.

“Just the opportunity to get the kids out in the winter,” Freese says when considering what the community enjoys the most about the carnival. “This year unfortunately it was a sixty degree day, so I don’t know if that helped or hurt us.”

The unseasonable weather did not seem to hurt too much, with the event raising about $2,000 for the team.

With the baseball players, ballpark food, and baseball theme the Winter Carnival serves as a symbol to Exeter residents that spring is on the way.

The soundtrack of the game

Fans attend minor league sporting events for the atmosphere as much as the entertainment. Being surrounded by other fans and eating typical concession food is an important part of the experience. Another crucial part of the experience, though often overlooked, is the music.

Minor league sports, just like major league sports, are fueled by a constant soundtrack used to keep the fans energized and engaged, and to keep the players’ blood pumping throughout the game.

Fans tend to overlook the importance of music because it is always there, but a closer look at the numerous roles music plays proves that it is a crucial part of every game and every fan experience.

Benjamin Smith can attest to the importance of music, he is the Music and Sound Coordinator for the Reading Fightin’ Phils and the Reading Royals. Smith began working for both teams in 2011, and knows music’s many roles better than most.

At a typical home game for the Reading Fightin’ Phils, double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, the music starts long before fans even enter the stadium. The music coordinator is in charge of providing music while both teams take batting practice, and the music being played on the field fills most of the stadium as the game-day staff prepares for the game.

Smith says he generally arrives at the stadium 3 hours before game time to make sure he is fully prepared, because the job comes with a lot of stress.

“There can be certain situations where your patience is tested,” Smith says, “We do a lot of pre- and post-game activities, which keeps you on your toes.”

Once the gates open, a band performing on the Weston Center Winning Smile Stage during Happy Hour may replace the batting practice music. This music is piped through the entire stadium, serenading fans as they search for their seats.

When the pre-game festivities get underway, the music changes to highlight any theme the day might be celebrating, be it Elvis, Disney, or even Jimmy Buffet. A crucial part of the pre-game is the theme songs for both the Fightin’ Phils and Baseballtown, which include a karaoke style video encouraging fans to sing along.

When the game begins the music switches to a blend of walk-up music, selected by the players as they begin their at-bat, warm-up music, chosen by both starting and relief pitchers, and stock music that plays whenever certain events happen on the field.

This music is managed effortlessly, constantly switching from one scenario to another and always starting and stopping at the proper time to provide seamless transitions.

Post-game festivities may also call for music; particularly fireworks shows, which are always complimented with music Smith mixes live. The stadium finally falls silent when nearly every fan has left.

The Reading Royals, the ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, offer a different look at the role of music.

Yes, some of the tasks are the same. The music keeps fans energetic and keeps the players’ pumped-up, but in other ways it is very unique.


Graphic designed by Ariane Cain. Graphic created using easel.ly. Info courtesy of Benjamin Smith

While baseball uses batting practice music, hockey relies on warm-up music to get both the players and the fans ready for the game.

Hockey is a much faster game than baseball, meaning the music has to change faster to react to scenarios. The goal of music in hockey focused much more on crowd participation and leading the fans in chants and songs to keep the players energized, and Smith says this fast-paced, high-energy atmosphere can make the job more challenging.

“You constantly have to have music ready to go during games because of how drastically a situation can change. Again, your patience can get tested.”

With less downtime, hockey doesn’t provide as much opportunity for music during play, but each period break is filled with entertainment for the fans, which must be appropriately accompanied.

Whenever you hear and feel a crowd getting louder and louder at a game, thank the music coordinator. Smith says that he knows he is successful when the crowd gets louder and responds positively to the music being played.

Despite all of the stress, Smith knows that the job comes with benefits, and the impact of the music on the crowd makes everything worth it.

“The fun and energy that I have experienced over the years on those sell-out games makes me absolutely speechless.”

50 seasons in Reading should not surprise fans

The Reading Fightin’ Phils are gearing up to celebrate 50 Phillies seasons in Reading beginning at the end of March. While the feat is impressive, they currently boast the longest active affiliation in professional baseball, fans should hardly be surprised. If any city deserves to host one of the longest successful minor league franchises, Reading, Pennsylvania is it.

Reading has a long baseball history. The close link between the sport and the city has earned Reading the name of Baseballtown.

The title is well deserved as Reading first hosted a professional baseball team in 1883, and has fielded a team for 109 baseball seasons. The Reading Actives were an independent team, which played in the Interstate Association. Reading hosted various teams over the next 20 years, rarely facing a baseball season without a team. Prominent teams include the Reading Coal Heavers, the Reading Aces, the Reading Pretzels, the Reading Coal Barons, and the Reading Marines.

Despite always having a team, the independent teams were constantly moving and shifting with no team remaining in Reading for more than four or five years at a time.

That changed in 1923 when the Reading Keystones, a double-A team playing in the International League, came to town. The Keystones stuck with the city for 10 years, before calling it quits after the 1932 season.


A history of baseball in Reading, Pennsylvania beginning in 1933, the year the city first acquired a major league affiliation. Infographic designed by Ariane Cain. Image created at easel.ly. Data gathered from Baseball-Reference.com. Logos gathered from sportslogos.net

Somewhere in these 10 seasons, the small baseball-loving city caught the eye of Major League Baseball, and in 1933 the Boston Red Sox brought their single-A team, the Reading Red Sox, to the city. The Reading Red Sox played in the New York-Pennsylvania League, which later became the Eastern League, the league the team still plays in today.

Boston was unable to create a successful franchise in the city, and the affiliation lasted only 2 seasons.

In 1935, after Boston left, the Brooklyn Dodgers decided to test their luck in Reading, and introduced the Reading Brooks.

After one season of poorly attended games, the Dodgers moved their franchise elsewhere and Reading was left without a baseball team for 4 years.

In 1940, desperate for baseball, the city once again hosted an independent team, this time the Reading Chicks took the field. The determination of the Reading fans caught the attention of the Dodgers, and, determined to create a successful franchise in the city, they returned with the Reading Brooks. Once again the team only lasted one season before abandoning the city.

Reading fans were left without baseball for 10 years, until the Cleveland Indians came to town and introduced the Reading Indians, another single-A club.

Cleveland fared better than its Major League predecessors, and the team remained in the city for 10 years, playing its final season in 1961.

In 1963 Boston attempted to be successful in the city once again, and returned with the Reading Red Sox. This time, however, the team was a double-A team, giving the fans a slightly higher level of baseball to watch.

The Red Sox lasted 2 seasons before leaving, and in 1965 fans welcomed the Reading Indians again, a double-A team this time, hoping that the teams previous success would be replicated.

Unfortunately, the Reading Indians only remained in the city for one season before Cleveland decided to move their team elsewhere.

This opened the door for the Philadelphia Phillies. Inspired by the geographical closeness of the two cities, the Phillies decided to give Reading a try, and in 1967 the Reading Phillies were born.

Fans were, by this time, used to the ever-changing series of teams and affiliations running through the city, so no one expected the affiliation to last.

The Phillies somehow managed to figure out something that the other clubs missed, however, and the affiliation is now preparing to enter its 50th season. For many of those seasons the Reading Phillies have led the Eastern League in attendance.

In 2013 the team was rebranded as the Reading Fightin’ Phils in an attempt to create an identity that differed from the parent club, but the affiliation has remained as close and successful as ever.

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