The Reading Phillies were one of the highlights of last year’s Pennsylvania-centric road trip, as I was able to witness (and participate in) the team’s extensive tribute to the iconic Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. I even got the opportunity to dress up as his “apprentice” and throw a few hot dogs into the crowd myself.
This year’s tribute to the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor took place on Sunday (July 10), and once again I was in attendance. Looking back on it, I’m not sure this was the best idea — I wasn’t on any particular assignment, just motivated to get out of New York City and see some Minor League Baseball. In all honesty, I’m half insane this time of year — either overwhelmed by Minor League Baseball or beating myself up because I’m not.
So off I went. And this time, I made sure to arrive in Reading in time to visit the town’s star attraction: The Pagoda.
This is a quirky place with a quirky history, but nonetheless a beloved area landmark. As all-knowing Wikipedia reports, The Pagoda was “completed in 1908 at a cost of $50,000, it was intended to be the hotel/restaurant centerpiece of a luxury resort. When plans for the rest of the resort were abandoned, the 7-story wooden building and 10 acres of land were donated to Reading as a public park in 1911.”
The main attraction are the views:
Inside the main entrance of the Pagoda is a small cafe and gift shop. For $1, one may trudge up all 87 steps to the top floor.
I would have liked to hang glide from the Pagoda to FirstEnergy Stadium, but that option is no longer available. It was nonetheless a painless 10 minute drive, and upon arriving I checked out the stadium’s refurbished exterior. As you may remember, the 60-year-old facility underwent a $10 million renovation this past offseason.
It was a full two hours before game time, and the place was already jumping. The Reading Phillies do a phenomenal job (better than any team I’ve ever seen) when it comes to making the ballpark a pre-game entertainment destination. Upon entering the “Vist Financial Plaza”, there is a carnival-esque concourse area packed with concessions, games, a bar, and performance stage.
But I made a beeline for the seating area behind home plate, as members of the team’s “Kid’s Club” (aka “Future Crazy Hot Dog Vendors) were participating in a Question and Answer session with theme jersey-wearing pitchers Austin Hyatt and and Derrick Loop.
Questions included “How do you know what time it is to hit?”, “After you hit someone, do you feel bad?”, and “Do you guys ever get to go to ‘real’ Phillies games?”
After Hyatt and Loop departed, out came the man himself:
It was around this time that I dropped my camera onto the concrete. It wasn’t a high drop or particularly hard landing, but nonetheless the screen froze and it was rendered unusable.
The lack of a camera, compounded by my general confusion over exactly what I was hoping to accomplish in Reading in the first place, led to a bit of an existential crisis. When a blogger breaks his camera, does he cease to exist?
The answer, in this case, was yes. After touring the ballpark, sans camera, with media relations director Tommy Viola I stuffed my credentials in my pocket and spent the remainder of the evening simply watching the ballgame. It was kind of nice, actually.
But this post shall continue, thanks to these photos from R-Phils team photographer Ralph Trout.
The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor’s legion of “future vendors” received free t-shirts, and later got to perform on the field.
See that suspiciously big-headed individual in the middle of the above shot? That’s the “life-size 550-lb Crazy Hot Dog Vendor replica,” awarded to one lucky (?) fan after the ballgame.
The aforementioned “VIST Financial Plaza” is highlighted by a performance stage. If you’re lucky, the mascot band will be playing.
Truly, the R-Phils know how to pack ’em in.
Toward the end of the ballgame, I decided to see how my camera was doing. The good news was the screen was no longer frozen, but the bad news was that the batteries had drained. I snapped one quick photo before it shut off for good.
And that, as they say, was that.