1 Day: 15 years…and counting.

It’s crazy to think that April 12 will mark the beginning of my 15th season working for the Reading Fightin Phils.

15 summers of baseball.

There have definitely been great moments and a fair share of not so great moments. I have met a number of amazing people and had some very cool experiences. There was the night after a game when I watched the Philadelphia game with the Reading manager all while discussing base running tactics. And the trip to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs game with the other summer interns. Let’s not forget all of the crazy antics we got up to in the deck stand.

When I started working at the stadium in 2005, I never thought that I would be there for five years, let alone 10 or 15. At the time, it was a summer job that I thought would be fun since I already loved baseball.

It turned out to be so much more.

I’m not good at math so I can’t tell you how many hot dogs, pizza slices, or dishes of ice cream I have served in that time, but trust me when I tell you it is a very high number.

I don’t want this to turn into a super sappy post, that’s not my style, so I am going to end it here. The new season is right around the corner and I am so excited to see what sort of adventures or crazy antics I can get up to this summer.

Stay tuned for more crazy memories and new stories from Baseballtown!

Confessional: Have you ever been at a job for longer than you expected? What made you stay?

2 Days: Major League Visitors

When a player on a Major League baseball team goes down with an injury, it can be disappointing for the player, the team and also the fans. Sometimes though, the injured player will be given a rehab assignment with one of the club’s minor league teams and this provides many fans with a chance to watch them play in a slightly more intimate setting.

The Reading Fightin Phils have had their fair share of rehab appearances from the Philadelphia Phillies in the time that I have been working there. I have seen Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Brad Lidge, and Carlos Ruiz to name a few. It is always fun to watch these guys play in a much smaller setting because you can really get a closer look at how hard they play and also how much they enjoy the game. It is also fun to watch them interact with the younger members of the team and the fans.

I remember one of the times Utley visited and it was during the pregame warm-ups. He had taken the youngest son of the Fightins’ manager out into the outfield, and was playing catch with him. It was one of the cutest moments. I have also heard from fellow employees that when Utley was on rehab assignment, he would buy dinner for the team at least one of the nights he was there.

This was apparently something that every player who visited on rehab would do.

When Victorino came to Reading during his rehab, I was interning and actually had the chance to see first-hand how he interacted with the fans. I was manning the cattle herder, which is the name for the gate the players use to get on and off the field, when he came out to do his post game press conference. He was heading to the batting tunnel by way of the field and he stopped for a brief period to sign autographs for all the fans waiting at the gate. It was cool to see him taking the time to sign every ball that was shoved in his face and he made sure to at least say hi to every fan who was waiting.

He also almost smacked me in the face with a sharpie, but I would have been ok with that.

Carlos Ruiz played in Reading on his way to the majors and during his rehab stint, it was apparent that the fans were as in love with him at that point as they were when he was in the minors; maybe even more. More than once, cheers of “Chooooooooooooch!” rang throughout the stadium as the Reading fans loudly showed their support.

It’s moments like these that just add to the fun of working in a baseball stadium and continue to bolster my love for the game.

Confessional: Have you ever had the chance to interact with a favorite athlete or celebrity? Were they the kind of person you thought they would be?

3 Days: Hollywood Sighting

I have talked in previous posts about performing the National Anthem with my sister at numerous Fightins game (Check out Star-Spangled Emotion or Reading Phillies 2012: Top 10 Moments/Memories for my thoughts on performing the anthem) and what a neat experience it is. It has gotten to the point where we are called upon to sing whenever they have a singer cancel or they are unable to get someone to sign up.

Getting the chance to perform the anthem is always exciting. Each time is special and we love getting the chance to sing. There is one performance, though, that stands out from the rest.

It started like any other night. We found out shortly before the game was about to begin that they needed us to sing the anthem that night. After quickly running through the song once, we headed down to the field to sing. I think we sang pretty well and once we finished we started walking off the field.

This is where it got interesting.

We were walking off with one of the front office members when we heard someone yelling from behind the backstop. Looking over, we saw a gentleman still standing at his seat, clapping and yelling, “That was a wonderful performance! Fantastic!” We smiled and waved, thinking nothing of it until the person we were walking with turned and said, “Do you know who that is?” Shaking our heads, we looked at him in confusion.

“That’s Dennis Dugan, Kelly Dugan’s dad.”

Ok, so?

“He’s a film director and producer.”

Oh, ok cool.

I’m not going to lie, I had no idea who Dennis Dugan was. I knew who Kelly Dugan was because he had been playing in our outfield for a good part of the season. It was cool to think that we had just sung in front of a well-known director, but it didn’t really mean that much to us.

Then we got back to our stand and decided to visit Google and see what movies he had worked on.

It turns out that he directed some major films such as The Benchwarmers, Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, and Just Go With It, to name a few. While I have never seen the first three movies, or many of the other movies he has worked on, my sister and I have seen Just Go With It numerous times. After learning that he had directed that movie along with many, many others, we got a bit more excited about the fact that he enjoyed our singing.

After that, the game got underway and we got busy with customers and didn’t really think about it much more. Then he came to order ice cream and once he realized we were the ones who had sung, he could not stop telling us how much he enjoyed our singing and that we did such a fantastic job. It was a very cool experience and I will say he was an incredibly nice guy.

I’m sure he doesn’t remember our singing and it’s not as though anything came out the chance meeting, but it was a really cool moment that my sister and I still talk about.

After all, how many people can say they unintentionally performed in front of a Hollywood director?

Confessional: Have you ever had the opportunity to meet someone famous? Was it a nice moment?

4 Days: Celebrate!

When I talk to people about working at the ballpark and what it was like working in a stand like the deck, the one thing that is hard to explain is the friendship that we all shared. We were more like a family. Not only because some of us were actually related, but because we spent so much time together and we all got along really well.

One thing we did as a result of being so close is we would celebrate different things throughout the summer. Birthdays, graduations, you name it, we found a way to celebrate it.

And of course, there was always cake.

Don’t worry, in true deck stand fashion these celebrations never went smoothly.

Typically, when you have a cake to celebrate something such as a birthday you also have candles. We always had candles, however, with candles you also need a tool to light the candles. Without fail, we never had a decent way to light the candles. You would think after the first two or three times we realized we had candles and no way to light them, someone would bring in a lighter and just leave it in the stand. Not the case. I don’t think we remembered a lighter any of the times we had candles. Instead, we ended up borrowing a lighter from someone who smoked and lighting the candles that way.

This was still not the most memorable part of celebrating in the deck stand. There is one moment that still stands out as the greatest celebration in the deck stand.

It was a birthday celebration and the cake that was brought in was a log shaped ice cream cake. My sister and I had picked up some cool football candles and, after finding a way to light the candles of course, it was time to cut the cake.

I’m not sure why, but after we took out the candles we decided to move the cake to a different spot on the counter to cut slices. That’s when things went downhill.

We picked up the cake to move it and next thing we knew it was lying on the ground.

Top down.

After staring at the cake on the ground for about a minute someone finally thought to pick it up. This is the part that I can’t believe actually happened. We decided that if we simply scraped off the top layer of the cake it would be perfectly fine to eat. I’m not necessarily proud of the decision we made, but it was really good cake.

In the end, most of our celebrations went off without a hitch. We became closer than most coworkers would be and celebrated many big moments over the three or four summers we all worked together.

Confessional: Have you ever celebrated the birthday of a coworker? Was there a cake?

5 Days: Throwing Food

If you’ve been following along with the countdown, you’ve read about the kinds of antics we got up to in the deck stand. If this is your first visit to the site, you might want to check out some other posts – I suggest DIY Ceiling Fan or Ice Bucket Challenge – to truly get a sense of what the Longstrike deck stand was like.

To reiterate before getting into this story, I am honestly surprised we didn’t get in trouble every night.

One of the things we did that never got us in trouble was throwing food. I have no idea when this first started, but it really wasn’t as bad as you might think. It started out as a quick way to pass water bottles back and forth from the fridge to the register where they were ordered.

It was completely harmless.

The person responsible for getting the water would take it out of the fridge and toss it to the person working at the register. After that, we started an assembly line from the fridge to the window tossing each bottle of water down the line from person to person.

Once we perfected the water assembly line, we started passing other foods through the stand. Water, italian ice, and ice cream sandwiches all started flying across the stand each time they were ordered.

We were always careful when we tossed food to each other and we only tossed the prepackaged items.

It became more of a game when we decided to see how many people we could toss each item to before we handed it out to the customer. The count started from when the order was placed until the customer finished paying. We got more daring over time and started to toss things quicker and while not looking at each other. This went well, until one fateful incident.

It was later in a game and we had already closed the window on one side of the stand. A customer came up to the register and ordered a few things including an Italian ice. This is where things got interesting. The person serving the ice cream and Italian ice reached into the freezer, grabbed an ice, and tossed it over his shoulder. Unfortunately he tossed it a bit too high.

Remember that ceiling fan that we got them to install? Well, it decided to get in on the action and tried to catch the Italian ice.

I remember standing in the corner of the stand watching in shock as the ice hit one blade of the fan, then another, and then ricocheted towards the closed window. It all happened pretty quickly, but don’t worry, no one got hit. We did all start laughing, hardly able to believe what had happened. Someone eventually grabbed the ice off the counter to actually give it to the customer and surprisingly it was still completely intact; the wrapper wasn’t even torn. It made its way safely to the customer and the only people who knew what had happened were standing behind a closed window, attempting to control the hysterical laughter.

After that, we decided that maybe throwing food across the stand wasn’t the best idea. It was fun while it lasted though.

Confessional: Have you ever been involved in a food fight? Have you ever thrown food or a drink at someone?

6 Days: Snow

When you think of baseball you typically think of warm nights out at the ballpark enjoying a hot dog and soda while watching the game. This is generally the case at Fightins games in early June, sometimes mid-May.

Beautiful, warm evenings are not always a guarantee at the beginning of the season. Sometimes, you might even have snow on opening night.

That’s right, I said snow.

I can clearly remember one opening night game at the beginning of April when it was freezing cold. By the time the first pitch was thrown, it was snowing. I was wearing at least three shirts under my uniform shirt including a hooded sweatshirt and I had gloves on. Winter gloves, that is, not gloves for serving food. Most of my night was spent huddled by the fryers hoping they would give off enough heat to keep me warm. That may be the only night anyone actually wanted the job of making funnel cakes because that was the warmest spot in the stand.

I also don’t think I have ever consumed as much hot chocolate as I did that night.

Needless to say, we were not busy that night and did not stay open very long. I’m pretty sure that if we hadn’t been selling coffee and hot chocolate, we wouldn’t have had any business at all.

In the years that I have been working at the ballpark, that is the only night I can remember that had snow. Even the year they held a Christmas event it only snowed one evening during the month. Don’t get me wrong, we still have nights that are insanely cold and let me tell you, cold weather is always great for ice cream sales. On the super cold nights, employees and fans alike remind each other that they will be wishing for cooler weather come mid-July and August. That’s when we will be wishing we had cold weather just so the ice cream will stay frozen long enough to put it in the dishes.

With the 2019 home opener only six days away, I am crossing my fingers that we will have a nice evening. I’m not asking for sunny and 70 degrees, but it would be nice to not have to wear four layers of clothing. The weather forecast can change drastically in a week, so I guess we will just have to wait and see what Mother Nature has planned.

Confessional: Are you a fan of warm weather or cold weather? Would you enjoy watching a baseball game in the snow?

 

7 Days: Taylor Swift

Available right now on Netflix is a recording of one of Taylor Swift’s concerts from her Reputation Stadium Tour. Being a fan of her music, I will say that I have watched the entire performance. This is the closest I have gotten to attending one of her concerts.

I have, however, heard her perform live.

There were no fancy costumes, no dancers, no pyrotechnics, and she wasn’t singing any of her own music. She was just starting to become a successful singer and people were beginning to learn her name, but her fame had not yet reached the level it is at today.

It was April 5, 2007 and shortly after the release of her debut album, she returned to her hometown to perform the National Anthem before a Reading Phillies game.

At the time, I was not all that familiar with her music and the little I knew about her came from friends and the local paper. I had only heard one or two of her songs up to that point so I think I was more intrigued to hear her sing than I was excited.

The organization put a lot of work into promoting her appearance in the months leading up to that night. It was a big deal around the ballpark and the community and it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement.

The night started like any other night at the deck. We got the stand ready to go, counted everything, and then hung out watching batting practice. Once gates opened, we were busy with customers and not much thought was given to what was going on in the pregame. It was busy that night, but whether that was because of Taylor Swift or because it was a nice night, I honestly don’t know.

We were busy enough with customers that we almost didn’t realize when the National Anthem had begun. It took someone hearing singing and us noticing everyone on the deck had gotten quiet to make us realize the game was about to begin. I remember my job that night was nachos and ice cream so I was not busy at the time the anthem was sung. I stepped outside the stand to get a better listen and because of where the deck is positioned, I could also see her up on the video board.

She did a nice job and I remember enjoying the fact that she didn’t try to do anything fancy; she just played her guitar and sang the song. There was a huge cheer for her after she finished, she thanked the crowd, walked off the field, and the game proceeded as normal.

While it was a cool experience and one that everyone still talks about, I think if at the time we had known how popular she was about to become it would have made it that much more exciting.

And even though it was a simple performance that she may or may not remember, I can still honestly say that I have heard Taylor Swift perform live.

Confessional: Have you had the opportunity to hear a musician you like perform live? What did you think?