On Sunday night I took the Ballpark Nerd family to Baseball Town, Reading, PA, for an Eastern League matchup between the Altoona Curve, AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Reading Fightin Phils, AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Fightin Phils currently sport the best record in pro baseball, 76-38, and are preparing for a postseason playoff run behind sluggers Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens who have hit a combined 66 home runs through August 9th.
The Fightin Phils make their home at FirstEnergy Stadium, the oldest ballpark in the Eastern League. Built in 1951 FirstEnergy Stadium hosted minor league affiliates for the Cleveland Indians 1951-1961, 1965 and the Boston Red Sox 1963-1964 before the Phillies came on board for the 1967 season. The ballpark’s history is chronicled with photos throughout the concourse honoring well-known players who spent time in Reading on their way to the Show. Notable recent Phillies farm hands include 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins and 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Ryne Sandberg, who was traded to the Cubs, also played for Reading. The most unique feature of FirstEnergy Stadium is the Fightin Phils clubhouse that is not connected to the team’s dugout. Players wait for a security guard to stop traffic on the concourse before walking over.
The Fightin Phils success this season has resulted in call-ups to AAA Lehigh Valley for prospects like J.P Crawford. If you look closely you can see the next great Phillies team developing on the farm. As a Mets fan this is something I am not looking forward to, but was happy to see the Fightin Phils in action. Team leader in wins, Nick Pivetta took the mound against the Curve’s erratic Cody Dickson. Rhys Hoskins team record five walks led to a unique 0-1-0-1 batting line. The Curve pitched away from Hoskins and fellow slugger Dylan Cozens throughout the night forcing their teammates to carry the offense which they did to the tune of a 14-0 win in front of 6,626 fans.
The Ballpark Nerd player of the game was Andrew Pullin, 2-5 2B HR 4 RBI. Since being promoted to Reading on June 23rd, the 22-year old has done nothing but hit. In 30 games, Pullin’s batting line is .368/.416/.616 with eight home runs, seven doubles and twenty-six RBI.
There usually isn’t a reason to stick around during a 14-0 game however when you have the opportunity to run the bases postgame heading home can wait. Growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s I do not recall teams’ having promotions that allow fans to run the infield. The closest fans would get was banner day or the occasional storming of the field after clinching a division, pennant or World Series. These days I try to schedule attending games with my four year-old son around the promotions as motivation to keep him interested in the game. Spending more time at the ballpark usually costs me more in concessions and trips to the team store, but the memories are what matter most.