Site Update

Hello!

You may have noticed that the site looks a bit different from the last time you may have visited. I have recently given the site a bit of an upgrade and gave it a bit of a more professional look. Never fear though – the site will still feature the same content that you’ve enjoyed for the past few years. Take a look around and let me know what you think about the changes, I would love to hear your thoughts. As part of the upgrade, I have decided that during the baseball offseason, I will be keeping a regular schedule of posting a minimum of once a month. There is no exact timeline as of yet, but I will be trying to keep the posts near the beginning of each month. I hope you keep visiting the site and I look forward to providing you with more concessions worker confessions!

Yours in baseball,  Amanda

Best Seats in the House

At least two or three times during the summer a fan will walk up to the window, turn around and look out at the field, and say, “wow, you’ve got the best seats in the house.”  I have to agree with them 100%.

After working for the Fightin’ Phils for 10 1/2 seasons, I have covered almost every inch of FirstEnergy Stadium.  I’ve logged thousands of steps walking the horseshoe from the deck in left field to the pool in right and back again during my internships.  In concessions, I’ve worked everywhere from the deck in left field to the pizza stand in the main concourse to the grill in the right field plaza.  This year and the past two years I have worked at the top of the main grandstand.  Out of all the locations I have been within the stadium, I have to say my current one has been the best.

The upstairs ice cream stand is located at the top of the main grandstand behind section three.  It is as close to being directly behind home plate as it can be without being situated inside the press box.  The stand is above the last row of seats so there is no concern about people blocking the view – unless it’s raining and everyone crowds under the roof of the grandstand.  The view is perfect for the first few innings of each game.  That’s a slow time for ice cream sales, which means Ariane and I can relax and cheer on the team.  It gets a bit tougher to watch the game starting around the fifth inning because that’s when fans begin to want dessert.

From a working standpoint, being able to see the game has its ups and downs.  It is a major advantage when it comes to keeping track of the time.  Not only can we see the clock in the outfield, but it’s easier to gage the speed of the game and how long we may or may not be selling food.  One downfall to being able to keep track of the time is when the game is moving slowly.  A slow game can make the night seem extremely long; especially if it is a slow night for sales.  The upstairs ice cream stand also supplies a great viewing spot for all the entertainment that takes place before, during, and after each game.  In a minor league park the in-game entertainment is a large part of what draws families to the games and the Fightins do not disappoint.

Our viewpoint also provides the opportunity to get to know a little bit about the team.  When you get to watch the game every night, you eventually learn who all the players are, where they play, and how they are playing throughout the season.  You may never talk to them in person, but you get the sense that you do know them in a way.

All in all, we’ve got a pretty great spot to work and watch the game.  I’m sure that there are some who would say they can find a better seat; they might say that being up behind the seats isn’t as nice as sitting right next to the field or behind the dugout.  In the end, I have watched baseball from every corner of the stadium and I must say, we definitely have the best seats in the house.

Fear of Change

Change (verb)- to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone; to transform or convert

Change is a topic that most people don’t like to talk about.  It’s also something that is constantly taking place.  Every fall and every spring we change the clocks.  The season changes four times a year.  People change jobs; they may even change where they live because of a new job.  The weather is constantly changing.  No matter how we feel about change, we can’t do anything to prevent it from taking place.

Over the past few months the Reading Fightin’ Phils have made some changes.  The front office has said goodbye to some long-time employees, hired some new staff members, and welcomed back some familiar faces.  There have also been changes made to job positions within the organization.  The biggest change, however, has occurred outside the office.  The red general admission seats in the main grandstand are now green reserved seats.

Now to a lot of people this won’t seem like a big deal, it’s just a different color seat.  To the long-time fans and employees, however, it will take some time to adjust to this change.  There are the fans who race to the grandstand as soon as the seats open to grab what they believe are the best seats in the house.  They will find that they have to run a farther distance now if they want to sit on the third base line, but the first base line will be easily accessible.  There’s the gentleman we dubbed “vanilla cup man” because he would order the same thing every game;  to the point where all he had to do was come to the window and put down his money.  Will another ice cream stand memorize his order this summer?  The running man may find that he has a shorter distance and fewer stairs to cover as he chases after foul balls.  While my sister has gotten to know these fans over the last 7 1/2 years and I have only known them for two, it feels as if we have been friends for some time and in a way we have become a strange, little baseball family.  Who knew that something as simple as the color of a seat could have such a big impact on a group of people.

I’m sure it will take some time to get used to looking out the window of the ice cream stand and seeing green seats; for the last ten years I have looked at the grandstand and have seen blue, yellow, and red seats.  By the end of the summer, however, I know that the green seats will not seem so out-of-place.  Change may not be something that we enjoy, but it’s inevitable and we might as well embrace it.

Star-Spangled Emotion

“I guess no matter how many times you hear that song played in a Major League stadium, on a warm afternoon, it’s still emotionally evocative.” – Danny Hemmerling,  Angels in the Outfield

Angels in the Outfield has always been one of my favorite baseball movies, and this particular quote has come to mind many nights when I’m at work.  After ten summers of working in a baseball stadium, I have heard the national anthem countless times.  I have also heard numerous interpretations of the song.  The words are the same – almost every time – but that is where the similarities end.

There have been fast versions, slow versions, loud versions, and soft versions.  Every season has off-key versions, pop versions, and the occasional version that is sung by young children who give it their all, but somehow it always seems to be missing something.  Each season also brings with it the singers who just blow you away.  No matter how the anthem is performed, there is still something about hearing it in a baseball stadium that makes it special.

I can’t tell you exactly what that feeling is, or what makes that moment so special.  Maybe it’s the fact that for those 2-4 minutes, everyone is standing together and it doesn’t matter which team you’re rooting for or where you might be from.  Maybe it’s the calm that comes over the stadium as everything comes to a standstill just before the game begins.  There is a feeling of anticipation and excitement as the home team takes the field and the players and coaches line up in front of the dugouts right before the game.  It’s almost as if the stadium is holding its breath just waiting for the moment when the umpire, or in the Fightin’ Phils case the chosen fan, yells “Play Ball!”.

Having had the opportunity on a few occasions to perform the national anthem before a Fightin’ Phils game, I can assure you the moment is just as special on the other side of the mic.  It’s a great feeling to look up and see hundreds of fans standing together and know that for the next two hours or so, all those people will be sitting together just enjoying a ballgame and sharing a common interest.

The national anthem is performed at all major sporting events and at college and high school events, but to me it will always have a special feel at a baseball game. After all, baseball is considered to be “America’s Pastime.”

The Singing Usher

This post has taken some time for me to write and has been the hardest one for me to finish. I had the pleasure of getting to know Neale Bechtel during my two summers as a seasonal associate for the Reading Fightin’ Phils.

Known around Baseballtown as the “singing usher”, Neale was the kind of person who was liked by everyone. As a ticket taker he was one of the first people to greet fans at every game and made an instant connection with each and every one of them. Even after years of working as a beer vendor, an usher, and a ticket taker, Neale showed up each day ready to share his love and excitement for baseball with the hundreds of fans who visited Baseballtown every season. Over the years I had always heard Neale perform “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning strecth, but I never got the chance to meet him. As a seasonal associate, it was part of my job to make sure that Neale was ready for his shining moment on the field.

Every game I would walk down to the batting tunnel where the ticket takers were carefully counting each and every ticket stub and tell Neale that it was almost time for him to sing. I would bring around the golf cart and take him to the back of the stadium where we would meet up with the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor who would drive Neale around the field on his special three-wheeled bicycle. After dropping Neale off, I drove the golf cart to the third base side of the ballpark to pick him up after he was finished singing and I would drive him back to the parking lot. On most nights, Neale’s lovely wife would be waiting for us at their car and she would help him out of the golf cart and into the car.

For two full summers I would chauffer Neale to the back of the stadium and then back to his car and I must say it was one of the best parts of my job. It almost felt as if I was driving a celebrity around. Everywhere Neale went in that ballpark there was someone waiting to say hi or shake his hand. There was a group of fans who would stand at the top of the stadium each night and shout “Hi Neale!” down to him as we drove back around to his car and Neale would shout hi back. Neale was always happy and whenever I would show up to tell him it was time to sing, he would say hi and sing my name in a way that is hard to describe, but fit his personality perfectly. He would always ask how I was doing and he shared stories from his many years working in baseball.

This past summer when I learned that Neale has passed away, I felt that I had lost a friend. I did not know Neale well for an extended period of time, but the time that I did know him will always have a place in my heart. Neale was a constant presence at Reading Phillies and Fightin’ Phils games and has made an impact on thousands of fans over the years. He will be remembered every time the seventh inning stretch rolls around and will always hold a special place in the hearts of Baseballtown fans.

Here’s to you Neale,
Amanda

A Decade of Baseball

When I began working at FirstEnergy Stadium in 2005, I never imagined that I would still be there 10 years later.  Over ten seasons, I have worked in six different concessions stands, spent two seasons as a seasonal associate, and sold everything from hot dogs and fries to ice cream and funnel cake.  I have learned what it takes to keep a sports organization running during both the regular season and the off-season.

The first nine seasons have introduced me to a large group of great people and season ten has been no different.  I have seen a lot of the same fans and workers who return every summer and have met new people along the way.  This season has already had its share of exciting moments and promises to have more.  There have been more adventures in the Upstairs Ice Cream Stand and more special guests to the ballpark including sheep-herding, dog-riding monkeys. With a little over half the season left, I am excited to see what the rest of season ten has to offer.  Stay tuned for more confessions from this concessions worker!

Who is That?

This season when customers ordered a Reading Fightin’ Phils miniature batting helmet of ice cream, they also received an extra souvenir.  Each miniature helmet came with a holographic sticker of a former Reading Phillies player.  On any game night, fans could receive Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Pat Burrell, Carlos Ruiz, or Darin Ruf, depending on what day of the week it was.  All five played or currently play for the Philadelphia Phillies and four were members of the 2008 World Series Championship team.

Despite the popularity of these five players throughout the Phillies organization, it surprised me how many customers didn’t recognize the different players.  After realizing that what they received was a sticker and not a spoon, the next reaction was typically, “who is that?”.

The sticker that garnered this reaction the majority of the time was Pat Burrell.  After Burrell, a lot of fans were confused by the Cole Hamels sticker.  For some reason most of the fans, adults and kids alike, seemed to think that it was Chase Utley.  While Hamels played in Reading for part of one season, Utley never played for Reading except during a couple rehab appearances.  They also look nothing like each other.  The most recognized sticker was easily Darin Ruf, who played for Reading in 2012, followed by Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard.

After the first few times that we had confused customers, my sister and I started to discuss how people could not know who these players were.  The only one we found a good reason for was Burrell.  The majority of the fans who didn’t recognize Burrell were the younger fans.  This made sense to us because most of them were either babies or most likely not even born yet when he played in Reading and he hasn’t played for Philadelphia since 2008.

We never managed to come up with a decent answer to the confusion between Cole Hamels and Chase Utley and I’m not sure we ever will.