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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading once again stakes its claim as Baseballtown, USA

READING, Pa. – In the sports world, many cities have become synonymous with one thing or another. Detroit is Hockeytown. Eugene is Tracktown. Green Bay is Titletown. And on Tuesday, in one glorious amalgamation of absurdity, Reading once again staked its claim as Baseballtown, USA.

Instead of a series of hitters trying to send BP fastballs out of the yard, Reading turned the traditional home run derby on its head. Each player was given 2 minutes to hit as many as many of the targets – a mascot in a crane (200 points), a driving range golf ball collector(100 points), and a series of pink lawn flamingos (20 points) were just a few examples – to try to rack up the highest point total.

The more targets the batter hit, the more points he earned. A home run carried a value of 25 points. 
The only ways to earn zero points were by swinging and missing, hitting a foul ball, or landing a ball in the cocktail party happening on the infield dirt.

That’s right, there was a cocktail party happening on the infield dirt.

Vendors from the area set up tables on the field to showcase their wares to the more than 9,000 fans in attendance to witness Tuesday’s spectacle. Pepsi and All-Star Distributing provided drinks, Berks Packing grilled hot dogs and burgers, Adelphia Seafood shucked a wall bar near third base, and Sweet Street Desserts feted the crowd with tasty after-dinner treats.

As if that weren’t enough, Grammy-winning guitarist David Cullen, a native of Reading, serenaded the stadium all evening from the pitcher’s mound.

In all, 31 hitters stepped up and took their cuts in an effort to raise money for the United Way. The more points a hitter earned, the more money was donated in his name to a branch of the charity.

This being Reading, there were a few surprises in store during the course of the evening. Shuffled among the All-Stars were a few special guests swinging for the fences. In fact, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, a fan-favorite for years among the denizens at FirstEnergy Stadium, earned himself 80 points before Thunder center fielder Melky Mesa had the misfortune of trying to follow his act.
Longtime R-Phil Michael Spidale was also part of the festivities, as was former Phillies closer Ricky 

Bottalico, who closed the evening with a 128-point performance. Bottalico also served as the evening’s guest broadcaster.

Trenton’s Brett Marshall, who was tabbed on Tuesday as the Eastern Division’s starting pitcher for Wednesday’s game, even took his turn. He hit one home run, but finished with just 60 points, or 20 fewer than the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.

Mesa, the Thunder’s other representative, earned 300 points and finished 40 points behind winner Chris Rahl, the slugging outfielder for the Harrisburg Senators. Mesa hit seven home runs, but his big-money ball came when he struck the base of the cherry picker just to the right of dead center field. That drive was worth 100 points.

For more than five decades, the Reading Phillies have been responsible for some of the finest and most innovative shows in all of minor league baseball. And on a picture-perfect summer evening, they once again showed the sport exactly how it’s done. 


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