Chronological Tour: Stop 22

Reading Municipal Memorial Stadium

Entrance to FirstEnergy Stadium, Sep-2011.

Interior view from the left-field bleachers, Apr-2001.

The view from home plate: mountains, trees, and scoreboard.

Quick Facts: Rating: 3 baseballs
A friend of mine from Brooklyn always raved about Reading’s ballpark, calling it his favorite place to watch baseball (aside from Yankee Stadium). I first visited in 1992, and I really warmed up to it over the next few seasons, making an annual trip to the park for 19 years straight – even though it acquired a corporate name, GPU Stadium, in 2000 (it became FirstEnergy Stadium for 2002). But changes made for the 2013 season caused me to lower its rating by one baseball, from four to three.

The park, erected in 1950, is the oldest in the Eastern League, and there are places where it shows, such as the narrow concourse. However, a new entry plaza erected for 2011 has taken some pressure off the crowded concourse that may have been suitable when the park opened but no longer worked efficiently.

Much of my warm feeling from this park came from the friendly staff. I especially appreciated hearing the voice of long-time public address announcer Dave “Frenchy” Bauman, who made everyone feel at home even as the team added mascots and side shows in order to enhance the family experience.

However, when the club announced that they were going to change the team’s nickname for 2013, in order to forge a separate identity from the major league club with which they have been affiliated since 1967 (and to sell some more merchandise with the new name and logo), Bauman quickly said that he would not work for a club with a cartoonish nickname. The team promptly called his bluff by auditioning for a new PA announcer, who was in place when the team became the Fightin Phils for the 2013 season.

Getting to the Game

The park is on the northern edge of the City of Reading, along Centre Avenue (PA 61) at the Muhlenberg Township line. It is easy to reach by car, especially from the north side. I have not checked to see what mass transit options are available.

Parking is free but limited. The spaces nearest the park are subject to attack from foul balls leaving the stadium. Many patrons park in a grass lot behind left field or in the lots of local businesses, although the latter is not an option for a weekday morning or afternoon game (the club plays several 11:00 starts and one 9:30 “third shift worker” game each season).

Watching the Game

Ticket prices are reasonable, with most tickets going for $10 to $12 as of 2015. All of the grandstand is now sold as box seats. Much of that grandstand is covered, providing shelter from sun and rain. The park has no luxury box seating; instead, it has more traditional box seats between the cross aisle (which is nearly at field level) and the rail.

Lineups, which used to be posted in the crowded concourse below the main grandstand, are now posted on a whiteboard as fans enter the new entry plaza. The club also hands out playbill-size programs.

Player data is displayed efficiently on a new 30-by-60-foot video board which replaced a smaller video board accompanying a dedicated scoreboard. That scoreboard is gone; the line score is now on a ribbon board located in left field and partially obstructed by speaker stanchions and a beer tent. I found the ball-and-strike count on the ribbon board small and difficult to read. In addition, the score is often removed from that board in favor of an advertising display. The old auxiliary scoreboard down the first-base line still operates, but is impossible to see from much of the main grandstand.

The new public address announcer is not as efficient as Dave Bauman was in announcing lineup changes. For instance, at a game I attended in 2015, there was no announcement of any of the three relief pitchers for the visiting team. He is also sometimes hard to hear above the music, and he also occasional struggles with certain player names.

Enjoying the Game

To its credit, Reading continues to do everything to make a day at the ballpark affordable. The team sells Berks hot dogs exclusively (a local company – Reading is the Berks County seat) and has kept the price of a hot dog low, with occasional “dollar dog” nights throughout the season. Other concessions are also reasonably priced. There is an enhanced food court in the new entry plaza down the right-field line, and other concession stands on the old concourse and at the top of the main grandstand, flanking the press box.

Around 2002, Reading became the third park I know of to add a swimming pool to its facility, joining Zephyr Field in Metairie, La., and Chase Field in Phoenix. There is also a beer garden in left field, along with multiple picnic areas.

Reading also employs numerous mascots to keep the kids entertained, as well as providing between-innings activities throughout the game. There are also kids’ activities in the expanded plaza that also includes the food court.

The 2011 renovation and expansion of the stadium also made the rest rooms a bit less convenient. It is almost impossible now to make a “pit stop” here without missing some of the game action.

Entrance to Reading Municipal Memorial Stadium, Aug-1995.
Game # Date League Level Result
51 Sun 2-Aug-1992 Eastern AA New Britain 4, READING 2
168 Fri 21-Jul-1995 Eastern AA READING 5, Binghamton 0
189 Tue 12-Sep-1995 Eastern AA New Haven 12, READING 7
193 Fri 5-Apr-1996 Eastern AA Portland 13, READING 7, 10 inn
249 Sun 29-Jun-1997 Eastern AA READING 8, Akron 6, 11 inn
277 Sun 17-Aug-1997 Eastern AA Bowie 7, READING 4
301 Sat 11-Apr-1998 Eastern AA READING 5, Trenton 4
343 Sun 30-Aug-1998 Eastern AA READING 9, New Britain 3
390 Mon 6-Sep-1999 Eastern AA READING 3, Harrisburg 0
403 Mon 24-Apr-2000 Eastern AA READING 8, Bowie 5
440 Thu 7-Sep-2000 Eastern AA READING 8, Harrisburg 1
453 Thu 5-Apr-2001 Eastern AA Akron 3, READING 0
492 Wed 22-Aug-2001 Eastern AA READING 10, Bowie 4
508 Sat 8-Sep-2001 Eastern AA READING 2, Erie 1
515 Thu 11-Apr-2002 Eastern AA READING 4, Akron 1
517 Wed 8-May-2002 Eastern AA READING 5, Altoona 3
580 Thu 3-Apr-2003 Eastern AA READING 7, Altoona 6
595 Sun 6-Jul-2003 Eastern AA READING 4, Bowie 3, night
619 Tue 12-Aug-2003 Eastern AA READING 13, Portland 3
715 Tue 31-Aug-2004 Eastern AA Erie 6, READING 5, 11 inn
735 Mon 11-Apr-2005 Eastern AA Harrisburg 5, READING 0
755 Wed 27-Jul-2005 Eastern AA READING 7, Bowie 4
806 Fri 14-Apr-2006 Eastern AA Altoona 12, READING 2
815 Mon 3-Jul-2006 Eastern AA READING 9, Erie 6
860 Fri 6-Apr-2007 Eastern AA READING 7, Harrisburg 6
888 Fri 24-Aug-2007 Eastern AA READING 5, Akron 2, 1st
889 Fri 24-Aug-2007 Eastern AA Akron 4, READING 3, 2d
942 Mon 4-Aug-2008 Eastern AA Portland 6, READING 5, 11 inn.
987 Sat 11-Apr-2009 Eastern AA READING 3, Harrisburg 2
1053 Tue 11-May-2010 Eastern AA New Hampshire 3, READING 2, 12 inn
1116 Thu 5-May-2011 Eastern AA New Hampshire 10, READING 5
1170 Sat 10-Sep-2011 Eastern AA New Hampshire 1, READING 0
1181 Sat 7-Apr-2012 Eastern AA READING 4, Portland 1
1271 Tue 13-Aug-2013 Eastern AA READING 7, Binghamton 6
1399 Sun 9-Aug-2015 Eastern AA READING 4, New Britain 1
1517 Sat 10-Sep-2016 Eastern AA Trenton 3, READING 2
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