A Great Time in Reading, Even Though They Lost

Twilight in Baseballtown
Twilight in Baseballtown

Back in Baseballtown, it was good to be home.  There’s something special about First Energy Stadium, to me. I love it’s brick, the way the players have to cross the concourse to get from the locker room to the field, the BEST hotdogs in all of baseball, the ostriches.

Wait! Ostriches?

The Ostrich

Ok, I’m not sure I like the ostriches. There’s a whole load of reasons and I’m not really into the “rebranding”, but I’m not going into that now. Let’s just look at this picture of a large bird in a little truck and leave it at that.

I really had a good time. I got to see my favorite players, Derrick Mitchell, Jesse Biddle, Kelly Dugan, Austin Wright, and Seth Rosin before the game.

Derrick Mitchell led off. Now before I start, I want to go back to two years ago this week. Back then Baseball Ross and I lived in Harrisburg, PA and we went to a lot of games in Reading. I had talked to Derrick Mitchell that night and had complimented him on his home run the night before and asked him to hit one for me for my birthday. He laughed and said, “It doesn’t work that way.” Well that night it did. He hit a home run for me for my birthday. I always tell Derrick that that was one of the coolest birthday presents I had ever gotten. (If you want to read the blog from that night and see the video, you can click HERE)

So Derrick was up to bat and then…it happened (again) he KILLED a ball right over left center near the 370 sign.

Derrick Mitchell sends one over the fence
Derrick Mitchell sends one over the fence

Another homer…and what is this week??? That’s right, my birthday.  After the game, I saw Derrick, he had remembered that my birthday was this week and he even said, “I felt really good after that first one, I’d have hoped to hit you a second for your birthday.” It blew me away, that he could remember! (And people wonder why Derrick is my favorite.)

I also have to mention a funny thing that happened after the game…I was talking to Derrick as I mentioned above and a kid about ten years old kept interrupting while Derrick and I were talking. When Derrick left to go back to the locker room, we said our goodbyes and he gave me a hug. The kid then looked at me and asked me if Derrick was my dad! (ROTFL) Considering that I had been feeling, err older since it is my birthday this week, that kid really made me feel good.

I got to see Kelly Dugan and Maikel Franco in their Fightins uniforms for the first time as well…

Maikel Franco
Maikel Franco
Kelly Dugan
Kelly Dugan

Another cool thing that happened was that I got to visit the press box. I had the privilege of becoming friends with a talented local writer who kindly invited me to visit him in the press box. It was my first time in a press box during a game. I found it quite cool and was grateful to have had the chance to check out the game from that very different perspective.

Something that Ross and I love is the Berks hot dogs. When you see as many games as we do, you get stuck eating a lot of food from the concessions. Over the years, you get to appreciate the places with good food and loathe others where the food is not palatable. I love the concessions in Reading. The Berks hotdogs are the best in baseball.

Reading lost that night, but while I wish they had won, I still had a great time. I saw my favorite players, had a homer hit for my birthday, saw my new friend in the press box, saw my favorite usher and had a great hot dog. We saw a beautiful sunset (picture at the top of the page).

It was an awesome night in Baseballtown.

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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.