11 Best Things About Going to A Reading Fightin Phils Game
It was Irish night at the Reading Fightin Phils, and so a leprechaun was on the field before the game.
I don’t think he was an actual leprechaun, just an actor dressed as one. He — along with turtle, dog and baseball head creature mascots — patrolled the field pregame and hyped up the crowd. Multiple mascots would wander through the stadium throughout the game, entertaining children. I’d eventually pass the leprechaun in the concourse. “You say you want to be a mascot when you grow up?” he said to a kid.
With the Phillies having their most dismal season 15 years, I decided it was time to take a trip up to Reading to watch the Fightin Phils to see some Phillies prospects take the field. It was a good time! Here are my 11 favorite things about this Reading Fightin Phils game on Saturday.
1. Cheap tickets. We sat 13 rows back along the first base line, and paid $10 each. Plus, the PDF tickets actually scanned on our phone, so we didn’t even have to waste ink printing them out! (Actually, we forgot the print-outs. I think they’re still sitting on a coffee table.)
2. Free parking. It was a fireworks night, so the stadium was crowded. The R-Phils are currently averaging 5,582 fans a game this season, and there were a thousand or so more fans at FirstEnergy Stadium than usual that night. An usher opened up a gate for the lot for an energy company across the street for us to park in. We still didn’t have to pay! Do… do the Fightin Phils know they can charge for parking? I hope I’m not giving them any ideas.
3. A beautiful old stadium. FirstEnergy Stadium, completed in 1951 and renovated several times since, is one of the finest places I’ve ever been to watch a game. It’s small and feels even smaller — like you’re watching a pick-up game at the playground instead of in a minor league facility. The seating bowl, dugouts and exterior wall are all original. The renovations — video board, a pool I couldn’t figure out how to get to, outfield decks — have kept the place feeling modern.
4. Lots of Yuengling on tap. Most bars have Yuengling Lager on tap. The Reading Fightin Phils have a full collection of Yuengling drafts, including Light Lager, if you’re a biker, Black & Tan (it should not have been OK to sell this beer on Irish night) and Lord Chesterfield Ale (only a few bars have this on draft!).
5. The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.
I do not get this bit at all. The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor wears black-rimmed glasses and rides an ostrich (fake) on the field while tossing hot dogs to the fans. (He has quite the arm!) Is this a thing making fun of hipsters? I think it’s making fun of hipsters. What other group wears black-rimmed glasses and does nonsensical things like ride around on ostriches? Anyway, even though I don’t get it, this dude rules. He even has a creepy bobblehead!
Imagine buying all of these and hiding them around your friend’s house as a prank. If I were rich, I would do this.
6. Massive Wawa sponsorship. This is, admittedly, dumb. But when a member of the Reading Fightin Phils gets a walk, the board shows it as a “Wawa walk.” This is like the “PECO power play” at Flyers games, or the “Matt Blatt Auto Sales splat of the game” on Eagles radio broadcasts. Local Business Sponsors Sports Minutiae is not really something to get excited about. But I did get excited when the PA announced a Wawa walk. Perhaps I knew that, when we left, we’d be given a coupon for $1 off a Shorti at Wawa.
Warning: Reading, Pennsylvania, is essentially the Sheetz/Wawa border. You may go into a Sheetz if you wish, but please note you are in enemy territory. Proceed with caution.
7. A ridiculous vegetable race. The mid-inning mascot race around the R-Phils’ field is done by people in giant vegetable costumes. I was rooting for the carrot, but it didn’t win.
8. Prodigious use of movie clips. Whenever the opposing team makes a mistake — and the Richmond Flying Squirrels made four errors on Saturday — it’s punctuated with a clip from an old movie making fun of the team. I saw the clip from Groundhog Day where Bill Murray steps in the puddle at least twice. Lots of teams use movie clips — the Sixers have been using the rant from Network for as long as I can remember — but the R-Phils use them constantly. It’s a nice touch.
9. This incredible “Pie in the Face” promotion. At the game I attended, a child stood on the field next to three boxes. His father, in the crowd, had the option of taking four tickets to an upcoming game. Or he could trade it for one of three boxes on the field. If he picked the wrong box, his child would be pied in the face. He picked the right box — winning a lifetime of oil changes for his car — but his kid wanted to get pied anyway, and he did. A friend told me they occasionally do this promotion with husbands and wives. This is perhaps the best promotion I’ve seen ever, at any stadium.
10. Lots of great signs. For example:
Not only is that cheeseburger sign crazier than the hot dog vendor, look at that guy slipping. He’s going to break his neck! I have been convinced I should be careful when it rains at Reading Fightin Phils games.
11. The team is better. We saw prospect J.P. Crawford make his Reading Fightin Phils debut; he had been called up the day before. We also saw Aaron Nola, perhaps the next Phillie to make the jump to the majors, pitch that day. We also saw Roman Quinn, currently hitting .311 in AA. And we actually saw a win! The R-Phils are 28-23, second in their division. Going to Reading Fightin Phils games is something I could get used to.
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