At a time of year when FirstEnergy Stadium would normally be buzzing with Minor League baseball, things have mostly been quiet so far this year. But on Sunday the gates will swing open for the Reading Fightin Phils’ Father’s Day Celebration, with CDC guidelines in effect for social distancing.
The Father’s Day Celebration, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., will include live music, food and drinks, and the chance for families to play catch and Wiffle ball on the field. (Bring your own bats, balls and gloves.)
It will be the third event at the stadium since COVID-19 restrictions were eased from the Red to Yellow phase in Berks County.
On June 11, the Fightin Phils hosted a Party with a Purpose to benefit the Berks County Quarantine Open Mic, with local musicians Matt Bailey, Connor Bates Craven, Noah Gibney, Amanda Mellinger and the Acoustic Carrot performing in the Tompkins VIST Plaza.
And Thursday, June 18, another Party With a Purpose to benefit Humane Pennsylvania, and featuring music by Kim and Paul of Vuja De, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m.
Scott Hunsicker, Fightins general manager, said that with baseball on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team is coming up with other ways to showcase its facility and offer its fans a sense of normalcy.
“We said, ‘What do we already do at our games that we can just do so we’re not reinventing the wheel?'” Hunsicker said. “We’re trying to stay true to our normal model, so when people attend the event it will feel like a smaller version of what they’re already used to and what we’re good at, which is food and music and baseball.
“But we don’t have the baseball so we just concentrate on the food and music. So that’s really what Father’s Day will be. We have the plaza as the main hub, then tables out on the field, as well. People can play catch in the outfield within their family group.”
Hunsicker said Father’s Day, with its post-game catch, is always a highlight of the Fightins’ season for fans of all ages.
“It’s one of the best days of the year, really,” he said. “I mean, I get to play catch with my dad on the field. It’s really neat.”
Grammy-winning Berks County guitarist David Cullen will be providing music from the stage in the stadium’s Tompkins VIST Plaza, where the Grand Slam Grill will be open, serving hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers, sausage sandwiches, fries, soft drinks and ice cream novelties. Adult beverages also will be available. All food and drink purchases will be by credit card to avoid handling cash.
Cullen’s performance will be streamed on the video board in the outfield so fans on the field can enjoy it, as well.
Tables will be set up so everybody is socially distanced, and attendees are asked to wear masks when they are not at their tables.
“It’s really just a relaxed, laid-back event for families to come gather at the ballpark and spread about and enjoy some food,” Hunsicker said.
A $5 admission fee will be charged, with proceeds going to the team’s Baseballtown Charities nonprofit. All attendees will be required to purchase admission passes online in advance at www.fightins.com/events/2020.
“People will know that by coming to Father’s Day, they’re helping inner-city kids and kids with physical and developmental challenges play more baseball,” Hunsicker said.
The team’s five main mascots — Screw Ball, Change-Up the Turtle, Blooper the Hound Dog, Bucky the Beaver and Quack the Duck — will be on hand to pose for photos with children.
Due to social distancing restrictions, they will not be roaming around and high-fiving kids, as they normally would. Instead, there will be a cordoned-off area for the mascots where children can approach and get their picture taken, but without hugging and touching.
Hunsicker said people who attended the first Party With a Purpose really seemed to enjoy themselves, and he’s expecting more of the same on Sunday.
“Just to have people in the plaza, listening to music, spread out at different tables and eating, from a mental health standpoint, was very good,” he said. “It was a nice little bit of normalcy.”