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
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.
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
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.