Tag Archives: Reading Phillies

A Glimpse of Baseballtown: Reading, PA

It is interesting how a place and an experience can become so treasured. Visiting Reading, PA to watch baseball is high on my list of favorite things to do. The combination of nostalgia and entertainment is wonderful. Last night I visited Reading to watch Game 2 of the Eastern League Division Series. I went early, like I usually do. Here are some pictures of the sights around and in the ballpark, to give you a glimpse of why I love this place.

First Energy Stadium is one of the rare ballparks I have visited that has free parking. The only parking that has a cost is the small reserved parking right by the stadium. The majority of cars park in lots behind the ballpark or in commercial factory lots along North Front Street. I always turn onto Bern Street off of Centre Avenue, then turn onto Pear Street. Pear Street has no official outlet, but it connects to a commercial parking lot that is close to the stadium. The true value of this location, however, is upon exiting. You can avoid the traffic right at the ballpark, and there is a traffic light at Bern Street and Centre Avenue to make the left turn manageable.

No outlet, but good parking for baseball.

I parked shortly after 5pm yesterday, so factory workers headed home for the day were leaving the commercial lot as I was arriving. Beside the lot that I usually park in there is a curious structure that has fascinated me for years. It looks like a single row of horse stalls, but it houses cars. I enjoy making up stories to explain its presence.

The curious covered parking.

Another curious building beside the lot houses the Steeler Fellowship Club. It is a squat, brick building. Who are they? What do they do? And isn’t that a cool window on the side of the building?

The Steeler Fellowship Club in Reading, PA.

Walking to the ballpark involves crossing the railroad tracks. This is one of my favorite stretches of sidewalk on earth. You can hear the stadium public address system in the distance, brief glimpses of the park appear through the trees, and fans and ballpark employees mill around.

The walk to the ballpark.

And then suddenly the ballpark sits in front of you, a happy sight.

First Energy Stadium in Reading, PA.

A large dog tag sits in front of the stadium.

The big dog tag in front of the stadium.

First Energy Stadium used to be Reading Memorial Municipal Stadium when I first started going to games. Plaques on the left side of the front of the stadium honor some of the persons instrumental in building and maintaining the park.

Plaques on the front wall of the stadium.

The brick courtyard in front of the stadium has special bricks commemorating the honorary annual King or Queen of Baseballtown. These are individuals who have played a large role in baseball in Reading.

I don’t think the nickname Cooter is as popular as it used to be.

Additional bricks in the courtyard honor players inducted into the Reading Phillies Hall of Fame. On the right side of the courtyard is the main gate that goes into the stadium. In the picture below, the ticket-taker in light blue to the right of the guy in the red 24 shirt is Neale Bechtel. He has worked at the stadium since 1967! He is very friendly and a delight to talk to.

The main gate into the ballpark.

Upon entering the park you find yourself in the VIST Financial Plaza. Food and merchandise are available for purchase. As game time grows close this area will be full of fans.

The VIST Financial Plaza.

A stage sits in the center of the plaza. It frequently hosts pregame happy hour concerts. At some point during the game there are sometimes kids activities held at the stage. Concerts, including the mascot band, often take place postgame.

The Weston Center Winning Smiles Stage in the plaza, with a pregame concert in full swing.

The plaza hosts a kids zone with a miniature golfing course and various other games. On the far end of the plaza is the entrance to the Reading Eagle Pool Pavillion. Some great wall art lines the back of the right field bleachers on the side of the plaza. It contains large pictures of former players, newspaper articles, and programs form the past (the section dedicated to Mike Schmidt is excellent).

In the stadium concourse there are team photos on the wall.

Team photos from the past on the concourse.

The Reading baseball tradition is celebrated, dating back to the beginning as a Cleveland Indians affiliate in the 1950s.

Notes about the Reading baseball tradition.

I really like the old signs, bunting, and banners that decorate the concourse. Even the restroom signs are cool.

The signs on the concourse are throwbacks.

The concourse at First Energy Stadium.

Along the left field wall of the stadium there is a tribute to players from the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies team that played substantial time in Reading as they were developing. I saw all of them play here: Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Pat Burrell, Brett Myers, Chris Coste, and Ryan Madsen.

A tribute to members of the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies that played in Reading.

Along the left field side of the stadium there is the Fairground Square Mall Picnic Area and several food stands. Dingers Bar is located beyond the outfield wall, with the Coors Light Deck and boardwalk next door.

A view from Dingers Bar in left field.

There are many other features of the park I did not photograph. The pool pavilion in right field, the main scoreboard in left center field, the press box, a close up of the grandstand, the charming advertisements around on the outfield wall, and so much more. Just in case I did not make myself clear–I think this park is wonderful.

A few final photos before I close:

Last week I noticed that the ostrich the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor rides looked depressed. I decided to see how it looked last night.

How does the bird look?

A weary bird?

My photos were inconclusive, but I think the bird is ready for the off season. If the eyes are the window into the soul, than this bird needs a vacation and a few words of affirmation.

The candy villain is a regular at the ballpark. He wanders through the crowd the inning before the mascot vegetable race, yelling things like: “Eat more candy!” and “Candy is good!” and “Down with vegetables!” During the vegetable race Candy will tackle a vegetable and do his best to cause mayhem. It is entertaining. Behold Candy:

Candy revels in the jeers of the crowd.

Candy watches the vegetables race down the outfield line, preparing to tackle the leader, on this night it was Carrot.

After the race a closing line is delivered over the PA system: “Remember kids, vegetables are good! Candy is bad! Eat more vegetables!” You don’t see many vegetable vendors in the park. Candy might have lost this race, but he won the war.

The R-Phils lost a close game to Trenton last night. The winning run was scored with two outs in the 9th inning. All of the rest of the series will be played in Trenton (Trenton won earlier tonight, placing the R-Phils on the brink of elimination).

I love baseball.

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Postseason Baseball in Reading

I’ve been a baseball fan since my childhood, yet before tonight I had never attended a postseason baseball game. When the Reading Phillies secured a play-off berth this year I realized it was the perfect opportunity to remedy my glaring personal deficiency. Instead of buying a ticket to a single game I bought the full play-off package. As long as Reading is playing at First Energy Stadium this year I’ll be watching them from Yellow Box 1, Row C, Seat 1.

Tonight was Game 1 of the Eastern League Division Series. The R-Phils played the Trenton Thunder, an affiliate of the New York Yankees. Both starters cruised through the first three innings. In the top of the 4th the Thunder took a 2-0 lead. Brett Marshall started for Trenton, and he threw four innings of no-hit baseball. And then Jake Fox led off the 5th inning with a long home run to left. The Phils would add another run on a ground out, tying the game. Things broke open in the 7th, with back-to-back solo homers providing a 4-2 Phillies lead. Justin Friend threw a scoreless 9th to pick up the save (he had a 0.23 ERA in 40 IP during the regular season, with 24 saves!).

 

Play-off baseball under the lights.

I’ll be back for Game 2 tomorrow night, and I’ll take my camera. . .

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Afternoon Baseball in Reading

The Reading Phillies played the Richmond Flying Squirrels this afternoon. First pitch was at 12:05. I was returning to State College from Montgomery County today, a trip that takes me right past First Energy Field. It seemed like a good idea to fit in a stop at the ballpark.

I got to the park before the gates opened. At the box office I asked for the best available ticket, which turned out to be behind the plate. As soon as the gates opened I wandered into the park and sat in the empty park, watching the grounds crew rake the infield and mark the lines. I enjoy this. There is something soothing about seeing the crisp, fresh lines being placed on the freshly raked infield.

The lines are marked before the game.

It was a beautiful afternoon for baseball.

A wide angle shot from behind the plate.

I do not sit behind the plate frequently when I go to baseball games. It was fun to see the game from that vantage point today. The picture below shows the abundance of action that is visible in a narrow window. The shortstop moves laterally from second where he had been holding on the runner. The runner takes his walking lead. The pitcher delivers. The batter stands ready. The catcher prepares to receive the ball. The umpires watch closely.

So much competition, so much drama.

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor is a mainstay at Reading.

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.

In the 3rd inning the Reading Phillies took a lead thanks to a Brandon Tripp 2-run home run to right.

Brandon Tripp circles the bases after a home run.

To promote healthy eating the Reading Phillies have a vegetable race. Candy is a villain. Before the race he roams the stands telling kids to “EAT MORE CANDY!” and “CANDY IS AWESOME!” During the race he attempts to sabotage things; this afternoon he delivered a flying kick to Lettuce that resulted in an impressive wipe out. Moments after this picture was taken Broccoli would stumble, allowing Cauliflower to win the race.

Candy takes out Lettuce.

The starter for Richmond, Justin Fitzgerald, did not have a good day. He threw 4+ innings and gave up 6 runs (5 of them earned). After issuing a walk in the 5th to load the bases he made an angry gesture at the umpire. And immediately was ejected. This resulted in a pitching change, with the reliever given as much time as he needed to get ready. I had never witnessed a pitcher get ejected while on the mound before.

Austin Fleet warms up.

Neal the Singing Usher has been leading “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretches in Reading for as long as I have been going to games. I don’t think he is at every game anymore, so I was happy to see him today (even if he does sing ” . . . root for the Phillies . . .” instead of “. . . root for the home team. . ..”).

Neal the Singing Usher leads “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The R-Phils won the game 7-4. And I was back on the road en route to State College.

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A Field of Dreams in Altoona, PA

Today I had to visit one of my experiment sites to collect root and soil samples. Since the site is about halfway to Altoona I decided to attend the final Altoona Curve game of the season. They were playing the Reading Phillies, so I donned my R-Phils hat and sat on the left field side (the visitor’s side) of Blair County Ballpark. The last time I attended a Curve game I learned that a re-enactment of the Field of Dreams cornfield scene occurs at the final Curve game of the season. I wanted to see it.

The game was scheduled to begin at noon. I got there an hour and a quarter before game time. After buying a ticket behind the visiting dugout I settled into my seat to witness the pregame festivities. It was hard to miss the corn shocks assembled in center field.

At 11:10 the scene from Field of Dreams where James Earl Jones recites the baseball monologue appeared on the big video board. Then the players slowly began to filter through the “cornfield” in center field. As they walked toward the plate they laughed, talked, and admired the field.

The players emerge.

After lining up at home plate briefly the players wandered through the stands talking to fans, posing for pictures, and signing autographs.

Justin Wilson signs autographs in the stands.

As this was going on a work crew removed the corn from center field, leaving a single row lined up against the fence (I really wanted to see a ball hit into the corn, one ended missing it by just a few feet, but sadly it did not happen).

The center field "cornfield" disappears.

A few of the more sociable Reading players joined in and began signing autographs and talking to fans.

A visitor signs a baseball.

Drew Naylor started for the R-Phils and threw a complete game shutout. The Aussie looked sharp throughout the game and got into very few jams. I knew his ERA was near 5.00 in a considerable number of starts, so I did not expect to see him pitch so well.

Drew Naylor on the mound.

The R-Phils hit back-to-back solo home runs and tacked on an insurance run with a couple of hits. Tagg Bozied hit the first homer, Kevin Nelson the second. Bozied led the Eastern league in batting average this season. He played third base and first base for the R-Phils this year (he was at first today).

Tagg Bozied playing first base.

Freddy Galvis made some nice plays at shortstop. I’ve heard a few rumblings of him being a solid prospect. From the limited amount I’ve seen this year he looks promising.

Freddy Galvis playing shortstop in the final game of the year.

I got very lucky with my seat placement. I was sitting between two middle aged baseball fans. We talked about baseball for most of the game. I got to hear some great stories. A particularly good one involved a minor league game in which Joey Belle (before being known as Albert Belle) was playing for Akron and got thrown out trying to steal second with a 3-0 count on the hitter, the manager promptly removed him from the game. On the bench Belle ignored the manager and coaches when they tried to talk to him about it. Topics of conversation included the designated hitter, Cooperstown, the Louisville Slugger Museum, the current MLB standings, great ballparks, minor leaguers that dominate but fail at the next level, scoring games, Tommy John surgery, and many other baseball related things.

Gabriel Suarez played in the outfield for the R-Phils. He started last Thursday in the Reading home game I went too as well. I noticed that he did not have a nameplate on his home or road jersey; he was just listed as #5.

Gabriel Suarez (#5) with no nameplate on his road jersey today.

Gabriel Suarez in a dark home jersey with no nameplate last Thursday.

I’m not sure if he had a nameplate on his regular white and red pinstripe home jersey.

One final note on the baseball game. Today–and the game I attended last Thursday– the Star Spangled Banner was played by a brass band. I’ve decided that I prefer a brass band to a vocalist when it comes to the national anthem about 90% of the time.

When the game had concluded I drove to my experiment site and collected the samples I needed. Right now they are sitting in my lab, destined to be plated and/or baited tomorrow.

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The Last 2010 R-Phils Game in Reading

Tonight the Reading Phillies played their final home game of the 2010 season. I was there.

I arrived at the ballpark two and a half hours before the game started. Being at a ballpark hours before the game is just awesome. The first thing I did was walk to Mike’s Sandwich Shop at Bern Street and Centre Avenue. I usually park at the lot by Pear Street, so every time I drive in I pass Mike’s and wonder how good the sandwiches are.

Mike's Sandwich Shop.

I moseyed into Mike’s and ordered a cheesesteak. While it was not an authentic Philly version of sandwich, it had it’s own charm. The banana peppers were nice touch. After I ordered I noticed an item on the menu listed as “The Thing.” Naturally I was curious. So I asked about it. It turns out it is a cheesesteak with provolone and American cheese that is baked in the oven after being assembled. The next time I’m there I’ll be giving it a try.

While I was sitting at the bar eating my cheesesteak several people walked in. Each one of them was greeted by name by the staff. They know their regulars.

After the cheesesteak had been vanquished I headed to the ballpark. When I arrived the gates were closed; I stopped by the ticket window and purchased a general admission ticket. I took a picture of the front of First Energy Stadium (it will always be Reading Municipal Stadium in my heart) before the gates opened.

First Energy Stadium before the gates opened.

Since I had an hour to wait for the gates to open I sat in the shade and read Second Nature. About ten minutes after I started reading an elderly gentleman sat down next to me. He sat quietly for about two minutes, then asked a simple question: “That a good book?” Green light. I love talking to elderly people at ballparks, so that was all I needed to start the conversation. I quickly realized this was going to be a great conversation when I found out he had been coming to games since 1967 (the first year the Reading Phillies existed, baseball was played in Reading before that but the team was not known as the Reading Phillies). He saw Mike Schmidt’s first professional home run. He saw Ryne Sandberg play in the minors. He had stories about Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, a young Roger Clemens. He talked about games at Yankee Stadium, Jacobs Field, Camden Yards, Connie Mack Stadium, and Veterans Stadium. We talked for an hour, past the time when the gates opened. I never got his name, but I did get some great stories.

Gabriel Suarez warms up in center field.

The Reading Phils were wearing a blue jersey tonight. I like the white jersey with red pinstripes much more, but at least they kept the high red socks. Seeing the entire team with matching high socks is a beautiful thing.

Chris Cates discusses bunting with a coach.

The R-Phils played the New Britain Rock Cats. I saw the Rock Cats play Altoona earlier this year (I wrote a post about it here). Loek Van Mil is not with the team anymore, though he was listed in the program as #37 for the Rock Cats (I think he was promoted). The player wearing 37 was a full foot shorter than Van Mil. Infielder Chris Cates is still with the team, though he did not play on this night. Before the game he was discussing bunting technique with a coach. There should be laws against subjecting teammates and fans to such levels of  secondhand grittiness.

The starter for the R-Phils was Yohan Flande. I saw him pitch in June (see post here) and he did not pitch well on that occasion. On this night he was sharp, throwing seven solid innings. He managed to pick off a runner with a move that looked somewhat balk-like to me, the very next inning he was called for a balk on an identical move. The line between great move and balk is paper thin.

The new Reading Phillies bat boy.

A new bat boy has started working for the R-Phils. He’s a little person and wears number 1/2 on his jersey. Just thought I’d pass that along.

The R-Phils hit two home runs and cruised to a 4-1 victory. It only took 2 hours and 5 minutes to play the game (I need to check, but it might be the quickest game I’ve ever attended). I spent the first six innings sitting near the front down in the left field corner; I moved behind the plate for the final two and a half innings. In the 8th I shot this picture with my wide-angle lens:

Reading Phillies baseball.

Fireworks were planned after the game. I left before they started. No traffic. Sweet.

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