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Excitement for opening day builds at Reading Fightin Phils event

Alissa Kaeser is a regular at Reading Fightin Phils games, but on Saturday she took a shot at serving a role at FirstEnergy Stadium in addition to fan.

Kaeser was among about two dozen who tried out to sing the national anthem for a game this season, each braving the rain and cold as they tried to impress the judges on an outdoor stage.

Kaeser, 24, of Reinholds, had never sang the anthem solo in public before but shook off her nerves to deliver a rendition she was proud of, as was her aunt.

“She knocked it out of the park,” said Michol Kaeser of Birdsboro, hoping her niece gets picked to sing at a game this year.

“We’d bring the whole family,” Michol said. “We’d need our own section.”

The tryouts were part of a big morning at the stadium, which also included ticket pick-ups for season ticket holders and a job fair.

Rob Mest and his daughter Natalie, 13, picked up their season tickets and then shopped in the Fightins store on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Rob Mest and his daughter Natalie, 13, picked up their season tickets and then shopped in the Fightins store on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Those who came out said they were eagerly anticipating the season, with opening day set for April 9th versus the Portland Sea Dogs.

Last year the team drew 390,000 fans throughout the season, and this year team officials anticipate having at least that many, especially with the stadium’s new Redner’s Event Center scheduled to open in June.

It is the stadium’s biggest upgrade since it underwent a renovation in the early 2010s, said Jake Starr, team public relations/media relations manager and broadcaster.

In addition, the video scoreboard is undergoing $2 million in improvements to make it bigger and clearer, he said.

The event center is a large brick building with expansive windows that sprawls behind center and right field.

Fans or groups can rent part or all of it on gamedays, and it will also serve as a public venue for wedding receptions, banquets, and similar events, and a player development facility

It will have a gameday capacity of about 280, and when rented for non-gameday events has a capacity up to approximately 1,000, depending on how it’s set up, Starr said.

For those who came to get their season tickets Saturday, though, their focus was more on the games that are drawing nearer.

Among them were Tom and Bonnie Swartzentruber of Elverson, who have had a partial season ticket package for years.

Tom and Bonnie Swartzentruber of Elverson pick up their Fightins tickets on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Tom and Bonnie Swartzentruber of Elverson pick up their Fightins tickets on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Bonnie said she likes that the stadium is small, the atmosphere friendly, and the games much less expensive and closer to home than those in Philadelphia. Tom said he likes how quickly the games go, and the entertainment the team provides between each half inning.

Richard Podguski of Hamburg was raised in Reading and has been coming to R-Phils games since he was a boy.

“I grew up here,” he said of the stadium.

He’s had a season ticket package since 1985, with his current plan providing tickets to each Saturday night game.

Richard Podguski of Hamburg picked up his Fightins season tickets on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Richard Podguski of Hamburg picked up his Fightins season tickets on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

What Podguski enjoys about Minor League baseball – and the Fightins games in particular – is getting to see developing players up close.

“It’s amazing when you get to see them at the AA level and you can really tell whether they have the ability to make it to the Major Leagues,” he said.

He remembers seeing current Phillies third basemen Alec Bohm play in Reading and predicting future success for him.

“You could tell by the sound of the ball coming off his bat,” Podguski said.

Rob Mest of Laureldale and his daughter, Natalie, 13, came to pick up their family’s season tickets – a full stack containing four tickets for each of the team’s nearly 70 home games.

“I’ve been a diehard fan since I was a kid,” Mest said.

For the last 20 years he has been a season ticket holder and has attended several thousand games, he estimated. On Saturday he said he’s as pumped up as ever for opening day, when his family will be at their second home – Section 103, Row 1, seats 1-4.

“It’s fantastic here,” he said. “I can’t wait.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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