Best of 2011-Food

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a “foodie”. I’m not into gourmet stuff. I just like a good quality food. I’m willing to try almost anything, especially ballpark food, just for my blog. That being said, I looked back over the variety of things I’ve tried or Ross has tried, just for you, my readers.

I have to say that the majority of places we’ve gone have had decent food. Most had passible hotdogs, fries and the like, so if I don’t mention it here, that means it was good or average enough not to stand out.

Best Hotdog–Reading Phillies

Best Hotdogs in the WORLD! The Berks hotdogs in Reading
Best Hotdogs in the WORLD! The Berks hotdogs in Reading

Hands down…no debate the Berks hotdogs at Reading’s First Energy Stadium are not to be missed. We went to may be fifteen or twenty games here and we never failed to eat at least one every time. The quality never waivers. These are the first hotdogs that you really don’t need ketchup to give them taste. In fact, by the third or fourth time I had one, I just gave up on the condiments all together, eating them plain. How many other hotdogs are THAT good?

Best Fries–Crab Fries–Philadelphia Phillies & Trenton Thunder

Chickie and Pete's Crab Fries
Chickie and Pete’s Crab Fries

Both Citizen’s Bank Park and Trenton’s Waterfront Park have Chickie’s and Pete’s outposts and everyone knows that Chickie’s and Pete’s have the best crab fries. I guess “technically” they’re not strictly ballpark food, but they are the go-to fries. If you see them, eat them.
Best Liquid Refreshment–Lemonade–Clearwater Threshers

Cheers! Lemonade at Brighthouse
Cheers! Lemonade at Brighthouse

Anyone who’s been to Brighthouse Field during baseball season knows how important it is to stay hydrated. Soda just doesn’t cut the mustard. You need something cold and caffeine free. Sure, you can go for the bottled water, but one bottle of water is just like any other. Here, you can see Ross and I sipping on a cold, sweet lemonade that was made as I ordered it. It’s sure to keep you refreshed.

Best Extra–Awshucks Corn–Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

Awshucks Corn at Coca Cola Park.
Awshucks Corn at Coca Cola Park.

It may be called Coca-Cola Park, but I’d call it Awshucks Corn Park. The corn is roasted in the husk and then dipped in melted butter or melted butter, parmesan cheese and garlic. I preferred the buttered, Ross preferred the “everything”. If you’ve every had braces and tried to eat an ear of corn on the cob, you know how difficult it is. It would take me more than twenty minutes to eat it and another twenty to brush my teeth, but it was SO WORTH IT! So much so, I did it twice in a week!
Best Special Treat–Fried Oreos–Hagerstown Suns

Fried Oreos
Fried Oreos

They are beyond awesome…but not something you could eat every day. They are a once a summer treat. I’m looking forward to them next year when we return to Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium…but only once. They are warm, sweet and almost melt in your mouth. I swear I could feel myself gain a hundred pounds as I finished my third, but for a once a year treat, it couldn’t be beat.

Best Cheese Steak–Philadelphia
(Sorry, I didn’t get a picture)

I decided to split this to Philly vs Everyone Else. If you’ve ever been to Philly, you know that there’s a reason why they are called “Philly Cheese Steaks”, so I found it unfair to try to compare all the ballparks in one category.

Ross and I debated on this one for a while, but we have come to a unanimous decision: we like Campo’s Steaks at Citizen’s Bank Park the best. Sure, there are a lot of people who will say that Tony Luke’s are better, but Ross and I like Campo’s. We feel that the steak is a smidgeon thicker at Campo’s but it’s the bread that kept us coming back for more.

Best Cheese Steak–Outside Philadelphia–Clearwater Threshers
(Sorry, I didn’t get a picture)

As any true cheese steak fan knows outside of Philly, what we call a “cheese steak” isn’t what everyone else calls a “cheese steak”. Once you have had the best, you really get choosey as to what is acceptable to you.

At Brighthouse Field, Delco’s has a steak stand just behind home plate. While hot dogs are the go-to food in Reading, Delco’s are our go-to dinner in Clearwater. The steak is good, not fatty at all and it’s smothered in cheese and the rolls are perfect.
Overall, I enjoyed our gastronomic tour of the ballparks. Once I started blogging here, I really made it a point to try a hotdog at every park for comparison as well as looking for any food that would make that park stand out. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. Of all the foods we ate, there were only two that were just plain bad. They weren’t just not to our liking, but bad. I won’t mention them here, I mean it could have been just an off night for them, but I will tell you this much…I won’t try them again to find out!

I hope you liked this review of the Food of 2011. I’ll be posting more “Best of” lists in the near future.

So Close, Yet So Far Away

5 time NL East Champ Banner

I’ve waited to comment on the end of the seasons. It hurt. For this die-hard fan, it hurt.

As far as the Phillies went, the season opened with such promise and the bright flame of that promise burned brighter and brighter as the season went on. They clinched a play off berth earlier than ever before and it looked like we could all go to sleep and wake up at Halloween to find a pretty new ring in our treat bag. Instead, we found a cruel trick.

The St. Louis Cardinals, who went on to win the Series in SPECTACULAR fashion, crushed out that flame. Worse yet, adding a literal injury to that insult, we lost Ryan Howard to a ruptured achilles tendon on the last play of the season.

I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for the Cards. I have family in the St. Louis area and I even went by Busch Stadium this year as I took the Metro out to the airport after visiting my family. I would say that the Cards are my 3rd team. The first being, of course, the Phils. Second is the Tampa Bay Rays, my new adopted home town.

Busch Stadium

At least if the Phils had to lose, they lost to the best, right?

And that was the way it went the whole way down the farm system. Every team that made the playoffs, lost to the eventual winner of the league. I was there when both the Reading Phillies and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs lost. I suppose that should be some comfort that they lost to the best of the best. Frankly it isn’t, it still hurts.

This lover of the Phils had to take time to heal. I had to curl up in a corner like a dog and lick my wounds. The thing I hold onto now that we have cold and snow is that…there’s only 103 days left until Spring Training…

Moneyball–Right on the Money


Since I left my job last fall, I must admit one of my greatest guilty pleasures is being able to go to a movie matinee on opening day. I get to see it before anyone else, but don’t have to fight the crowds. Moreover, even though I no longer work, there is still something so special, almost forbidden about seeing a movie at a time where I would have been working.

Ross and I caught the 3 p.m. showing at our local “small town” theater. I had thought since it was at 3 on a Friday, that it would be relatively empty…it wasn’t. (I think this is a sign of how well it will do) I would say that the top half of the theater was about 1/2 full and the bottom had a few people.

The movie centers around Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane. Beane had been one of the hottest prospects in his day. The Mets actually picked him higher in the draft than Darryl Strawberry…but he never panned out. After floundering in the majors for several seasons he asked the A’s, whom he was playing for at the time, to hire him as a scout.

After several years, Beane moved into the front office and was eventually promoted to general manager. After losing in the playoffs in 2001, Beane went to Cleveland to attempt to make a trade, but what he found was “Peter Brand” a Yale graduate with a degree in economics.

At this point, I have to mention that “Peter Brand” played by Jonah Hill in the movie, was a pseudonym for Paul DePodesta, a Harvard graduate who went on to be a general manager/assistant general manager for several other major league teams.

Brand used “sabermetrics”, a method of statistical analysis, to help Beane to pick players based on their statistics more than their “money value”.

The movie portrays their meeting and how they used this statistical analysis to take a group of low value players and turn them into a winning team.

As far as Philly connections, Ed Wade is mentioned as Beane negotiates a trade and Raul Ibanez is “shown” playing in a key game scene. I am willing to guess what whomever casted this movie was not a baseball fan as the “Raul Ibanez” in the movie appeared to be African-American as opposed to Ibanez’ Cuban heritage.

While I like sports, I’m not necessarily a big fan of sports movies. That being said, it gives more credence when I say, “I really liked this movie.” I thought it was really well paced. I always say a good way to judge a movie is by how many times you check your watch. I didn’t look once…meaning I was entertained, interested and the movie moved at a good pace.

I was also tickled to snag a free movie poster at the theater…another bonus of going to a matinee on opening day. so now, right above my computer is a picture of Brad Pitt. How great is that? 😉

My Rating:
Moneyball–Gets 4 1/2 balls out of 5.

Home NOT Sweet Home

I am a little lax in updating and for that I apologize. Last weekend we did 3 games in 3 days: 1 in Lehigh Valley and 2 in Reading…and this week 2 games in Lehigh Valley…both Reading and Lehigh Valley are about 90 minutes from us so for each game it was a total of three hours in the car…a LOT of driving.

Reading lost their first game against the New Hampshire Fishercats…then won the second. They came back to Reading even and we were excited to see them. It was just not meant to be. It was Reading’s first win to the post season in ten years and while the series didn’t end in victory, I think it bodes well for the future. The Fishercats won both games…and eventually went on to win the Eastern League Championship.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs won the first round against the Pawtucket Red Sox. They were commanding and we were so excited and hopeful they’d “Bring Home the Bacon”. We even went so far as to buy tickets for their three home games just so we’d have a chance to see them win.

It just wasn’t meant to be. The rally towels given out at the first game of the final round just didn’t work.

Governor's Cup
Governor’s Cup

I guess what was the most difficult was Reading’s loss. I had so much invested in that series…I was so sure they’d be able to make it. I know a few of the guys and if sheer will power could have helped, then all the well wishes and hope I had for them would have pushed them over the top.

I still consider myself incredibly lucky to have gotten to know them and hope them the best in the future, where ever they land…and if they can stay with the Phillies…I’ll see them again in Spring Training.

They’re Movin’ On UP!

Dominic Brown
Dominic Brown

It was the Jefferson’s Theme song that said:

We’re movin’ on up,
To the big time…
We finally got a piece of the pie!
The same could be said for several of the IronPigs. Within a few hours of losing the Governor’s Cup, five of the IronPigs were given their tickets to the big time. Justin DeFratus, Brandon Moss, Joe Savery, Erik Kratz and Domonic Brown got the call.

Justin DeFratus
Justin DeFratus

Justin DeFratus started the season with Reading, but was called up to the IronPigs midseason. This is his first trip to the Bigs.

Erik Kratz
Erik Kratz

Catcher Erik Kratz has played in the majors before, briefly, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kratz was an All-Star catcher this year in the International League.

Brandon Moss
Brandon Moss

This won’t be the first trip to the majors for Brandon Moss. He has had brief stints in the majors with several of his former teams. Moss lead all hitters in the International League with a .385 average and 4 home runs in the playoffs this year.

Joe Savery
Joe Savery

Pitcher Joe Savery is having an impressive year. He started the year in Clearwater as a position player, playing both first base and left field. Then he moved up to Reading as a designated hitter and relief pitcher. After his brief stop in Reading, he was called up to Lehigh Valley as a full time reliever. Not bad for a guy who was considering giving up the dream and going back to college this fall.

My favorite picture of Dominic Brown...Spring Training 2011. He had been taken out of the game and came and sat on the wall next to me and talked to fans as he signed autographs.
My favorite picture of Dominic Brown…Spring Training 2011. He had been taken out of the game and came and sat on the wall next to me and talked to fans as he signed autographs.

Domonic Brown is returning to the Phillies, he has bounced back and forth most of the season. The picture above is one I took in Spring Training. Domonic had finished playing for the day and instead of heading to the locker room, he sat down on the wall next to me. He sat there for quite a while talking with the fans and just enjoying watching the game with us.

Congratulations to all five newly promoted Pigs!

Phillies’ Minor League Players Picked for International Tournament

Tuffy Gosewisch
Tuffy Gosewisch

On September 15, USA Baseball announced the 2011 World Cup/Pan Am Team. These are minor league players who are not currently on Major League Baseball 40-man rosters.

Reading’s Tuffy Gosewisch (pictured above) and the Iron Pigs’ Joe Savery (pictured below) were chosen.

Joe Savery

It is worth mentioning with Savery being promoted to the Phillies, his eligibility for the tournament is in question.

I’d also like to mention that Reading’s Chris Kissock (pictured below) and Jay Johnson, a left-handed pitcher for Lakewood were picked for Team Canada.

Chris Kissock

Wake Me Up When September Ends-Phillies Clinch NL East

Sept 18 201 Wake me up in October headline

There it is, the Phillies’ Magic Number is ZERO! They have clinched the NL East!

They clinched it the earliest in franchise history with 13 games left to play (six games sooner than the previous record.) This was win 98…if they win 2 more of the next 12 games, it will only be the third time in franchise history where they have won a hundred games or more in a season.

I saw this “front page” on’s sports page and the only think I could hear in my head was Green Day’s “Wake Me Up, When September Ends”. It’s been running through my head all day.

How amazing was their win last night? Just think, for Joe Savery, Justin DeFratus, Brandon Moss, Erik Kratz and Dominic Brown, they hadn’t even been with the team for twenty four hours!

What struck me is that they are the team with the most losses in a franchises’ history, yet here they are back-to-back-to-back-to-back, or FIVE TIME NL EAST CHAMPIONS!

5 time NL East Champ Banner

Derrick Mitchell, Unsung Hero No Longer

Derrick Mitchell
Derrick Mitchell

Saturday, September 10th, the Reading Phillies gave out their end of the year awards. There were several given out but one stood out above all others, the Broadway Charlie Wagner Unsung Hero Award.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you will surely have noticed that of all the players I’ve sung the praises of, I’ve sang out about one above all others–Derrick Mitchell. I’d have yelled from the rooftops if I thought anyone have listened and finally, it seems that the Reading Phillies have FINALLY taken notice.

In naming my favorite player the “Unsung Hero” the R-Phils noted that during the course of this season he:

~Hit .265 with 19 home runs and 79 RBIs–All of which were career-highs

~Tied for the team-lead in stoled bases with 20

~Hit 15 of the 19 home runs before the All-Star Break

~Finished 2nd on the team in HRs, 3rd on the team in runs with 67 and 4th in hits with 126

~Finished tied for 6th in the entire Eastern League in HRs with 19

Derrick also tied for the Sir Speedy Stolen Base Leader Award with Michael Spidale.

It just makes me wonder…what took them so long?

While Ross and I were not able to see every game this season, we guess between 15-20 games plus most of Spring Training and we saw it…which is why I’ve been singing his praises at the top of my lungs.

I guess for them to see it, late is better than never…

Ross wanted to share his thoughts:

As you know, Baseball Betsy is NOT about “stats”, it’s about the entire baseball experience both on the field and off. Sometimes I can find a stat that stands out that even Betsy will appreciate:

When I go to a game, I look for three things in a prospect:

Speed on the bases

I measure power by home runs, clutch hitting by RBIs and speed by stolen bases. I then give a point to each player for a home run, a RBI and a stolen base. I total them at the end of the regular season.

Guess who had the highest total in the ENTIRE PHILLIES FARM SYSTEM with 118 points? Our “Unsung” hero, Derrick Mitchell.

In the games we attended Derrick had some outstanding catches in centerfield. Derrick is truly a 5-tool player who in the 2011 season, hit, hit for power, and can run, throw and field with the best of them.
Now that he’s won this award, others are starting to notice as well. Both Ross and I are sure that he has a very bright future ahead!


Remembering 9-11, Ten Years Later

I try to keep my blog a positive and happy place, but this is one of those things that I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to those who lost their lives and had their lives changed forever that fateful day.

In 2001, both Ross and I worked at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, PA. Ross’ office was literally under the Capitol Dome. My office was in the building directly next to the Capitol. Our day started at 9 a.m.

I had barely made it to my desk when Ross called saying he had heard that a “small plane” had hit the World Trade Center. I turned on my computer and saw a small picture on the internet. I went to a coworker’s office and one man became panicked. He had cousins that worked in the building. He began to try calling anyone who might know where his family was. The rest of us tried to find more information on the internet as no one had access to a TV or radio.

The sad thing was, our work internet had never been so taxed. You could only access part of a page about once every time you pressed refresh. Each one of us took a different news source. It was horrible to know that something so terrifying was happening and not have access to information. Soon after one of the bosses put the sound from ABC news on the PA system…

Soon the Pentagon was hit. We knew we were under attack. We were sitting in the most identifiable, iconic government building in the state. It also sits atop a hill.

Soon afterwards we were told by security that we needed to evacuate the building. I tried to call Ross…it took more than 10 tries to get through even though his office wasn’t very far away. We agreed to meet in the parking garage under the Capitol. I said goodbye to my coworkers and went the car.

When I got there, Ross wasn’t there. I wondered why it was taking him so long since my office was farther away. I walked back to the elevator banks to go up to the main floor and a friend of mine came down the stairs in nearly a run.

“RUN! You have to get out! Security said there is another plane in the air over Pennsylvania and it’s heading for the Capitol!” I went from concerned to panicked in less than a second. I had to find Ross…I started pounding on the elevator buttons and my friend screamed, “Don’t use the elevator, you don’t want to get trapped!” as she hurried to her car.

Looking back, I believe that this must have been Flight 93 which went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I ran up the three flights of stairs to the main floor. I couldn’t find Ross. I called his office, his cellphone and his pager and got no answer. By this point the Capitol was a ghost town. I finally found him, calm as a cucumber. He had gathered his work to take home so he could work from home if we were not able to go back the next day.

As we left Harrisburg, it looked so desolate. I don’t know if we saw a dozen cars on the way home. The entire place had to have emptied out in a matter of minutes.

In a blink of an eye, the world changed.

A year later, I participated in the Rolling Requiem at the Capitol, a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Requiem” that would begin in every time zone at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first plane had struck the first tower.

The Choir of the Rolling Requiem
The Choir of the Rolling Requiem (Photo courtesy of the Patriot News)
View of the Choir from above in the Capitol Rotunda
View of the Choir from above in the Capitol Rotunda


Performing the piece was very healing. The opening line translated from the original Latin is, “Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine on them”.

Flags at Half-Staff in honor of those lost on 9-11
Flags at Half-Staff in honor of those lost on 9-11

It’s a day that can never be forgotten. Last year, Ross and I went to see the Lakewood BlueClaws fight for the South Atlantic League Championship. Lakewood is not far from New York City. Many of those lost that horrible day were from New Jersey, some were local to the Lakewood area. The moment of silence before the game was stunning.

So I leave you on this most hallowed of days, with a picture of the flags last year in Lakewood at half staff in memory of those we lost.
I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free,
And I wont forget the ones who died who gave that right to me,
And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today,
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land…

God Bless the U.S.A~~~~~~~Lee Greenwood, Proud to be an American

Step 2 to Bring Home the Bacon

Betsy and Ross at Coca Cola Park
Betsy and Ross at Coca Cola Park

It was our first game at Coca-Cola Park. Ross and I had tickets for the first game of the Pawtucket Red Sox and Lehigh Valley IronPigs, but due to the flooding from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee (see my post: Deeper and Deeper) Ross and I did not feel safe traveling that far when our ability to cross the river was so precarious.

Even though Allentown is technically farther from us than Reading, it takes us about the same amount of time to get there as it does to Reading.

One thing I always take notice of is the atmosphere of a stadium as well as the vibe of the crowd. The day got off to a good start when a gentleman saw Ross and I taking pictures of each other and he came over and took this picture. It’s one of the few I have of the two of us at a game where we not all contorted from one of us trying to hold the camera out far enough to get us both in the shot.

Do you remember a few months ago when I was at a park where I grabbed a cheesesteak for dinner and I learned that important life lesson about never eating at the only concession stand without a line? It was a good sign that every single solitary stand at Coca-Cola Park was LONG! The first place we stopped was “Aw Schucks”, a stand selling roasted ears of corn on the cob.

Since getting braces, I haven’t had corn on the cob and at this time of the year it kills me. I love corn. Ross offered to get one and let me see if I could manage it.

Awshucks Corn at Coca Cola Park.
Awshucks Corn at Coca Cola Park.

To my surprise, I was able to eat it! I ran back and got an ear for myself. Ross’ ear was an ear “Aw Shucks” style, with butter, a “secret blend of southwestern spices” and parmesan cheese. I chose one brushed with butter and added salt and pepper. Both were wonderful! This corn may very well end up on my upcoming “best of” post after the conclusion of the season.

Next, we wandered out onto the outfield walkway:

The Scoreboard at Coca Cola Park
The Scoreboard at Coca Cola Park
Looking In From The Outfield Walkway at Coca Cola Park
Looking In From The Outfield Walkway at Coca Cola Park

We then had a “Box of Rivets” which are Pretzel Factory pretzel bites with red, white and blue salt. Very yummy and much better than the standard “Super Pretzels” normally sold at sporting events.

Rivet Pretzel
Rivet Pretzel

We continued around and as we came to left-center field, we looked up and there in the sky was a beautiful rainbow. It had to have stayed in the sky for almost half an hour. After a week of rain and flooding, it was a welcome sight! We also hoped that it was a harbinger of good things to come.

Rainbow Over Coca Cola Park
Rainbow Over Coca Cola Park

The stadium has a lot of interactive things to do, a mini golf putt-in game, bouncy things for the kids, speed pitch, a playground and my favorite…a cut out “Thingy” where you could stick your head through to take a picture…

Betsy with Ferrus and FeFe
Betsy with Ferrus and FeFe

As we continued around, we found the “Pigs to the Bigs” Wall:

Pigs to the Bigs Wall
Pigs to the Bigs Wall

Here, each star has the name of former IronPigs players who went on to play in the Majors, like Dominic Brown, Vance Worley and John Mayberry, Jr among others.

The first indicator of how important this game was, not only was Ruben Amarro, Jr. in attendance, but also Dave Montgomery and Steve Noworyta.

Ruben Amarro and Steve Noworyta.
Ruben Amarro and Steve Noworyta.

Pitcher Ryan Edell looked good but gave up a run early…once he settled in, he was rock solid. He doesn’t have a lot of speed, he uses his placement and control to get strike outs. He reminds me of a younger version of the Phillies’ Jamie Moyer.

Ryan Edell
Ryan Edell

He was simply amazing with how he shook off that early run and he just dominated the Sox from that point on.

Brandon Moss came up in the second and hit the ball solidly to left center to tie the game.

Brandon Moss
Brandon Moss

In the third, Moss hit another one that was inches from going over but it bounced back, Scott Podsednik scored and Kevin Frandsen was thrown out at the plate. The Pigs were ahead 2-1

The Pigs stayed in the lead until the eighth when Tagg Bozied missed a tag of the lead off better that eventually allowed the Sox to drive in a run to tie it up.

The game remained tied until the bottom of the tenth. When Moss returned to the plate with the bases loaded…and then…

The Crowd Goes Wild
The Crowd Goes Wild

Moss hit a single to drive in the winning run! The crowd went HOG WILD!

It was an amazing game! The atmosphere was electric. I can’t speak to what the feeling would be during a regular season game, but this, only the second post season in IronPigs history was amazing.

The people in this stadium were super friendly, the facility is one of the nicest I’ve ever been to, it’s almost a perfect blend of the amenities of Citizens’ Bank Park, with the intimacy and “home town” feeling that I love about Bright House Field.

It was an amazing win. I was blown away. Where else in the world do people chant “Oink” in unison?

The Pigs now go to Pawtucket for up to three games. They only need one more win to bring home the bacon.