Before last night’s Phillies Futures Game, the Reading Figthin Phils (Class AA; Eastern League) honored owner Craig Stein with a bronze plaque outside of FirstEnergy Stadium. Stein, who has owned the club since 1986, joined a limited circle of influential Reading baseball figures to be recognized at the ballpark over the last 50 years, as his enshrinement adds to a group of 10 that includes former owner Joe Buzas.
Given the success that the team has had under his watch, Stein is very deserving of the recognition. Along with finishing at or near the top of the Eastern League in attendance every season, the team has received numerous awards. Stein’s contributions have also been noted in the past, as he joined Joseph Finley in being recognized with Ballpark Digest’s Organization of the Year Award for 2008.
In 1991, the club was presented the Bob Freitas Award by Baseball America, given annually to the best operation at each level. Three years later, Reading was presented the Larry MacPhail Trophy by Minor League Baseball as the Best Promotional Team in baseball. They were awarded their second MacPhail award in 1999, making it the second time in five years the team was recognized, and their second Freitas Award in 2000. For all of their success, Reading was also awarded the Bob Freitas Decade Award by Baseball America as the top Double-A franchise of the 1990s.
Stein and the franchise reached another milestone in 2003 when they were presented with the John H. Johnson President’s Trophy, the top honor given by Minor League Baseball.
Stein’s leadership and commitment to improving the stadium and the fan experience has made the Fightin Phils one of the most respected franchises in Minor League Baseball.
Over his 30 years of ownership, Stein has invested millions of dollars in to America’s Classic Ballpark, starting with replacing the wooden bench seating with individual seating in the main grandstand as well as adding a roof over the area. He continued to make numerous renovations over the years including the addition of three picnic areas, a swimming pool in right field, and a major ballpark renovation in 2011 among other continued improvements to the 66-year old ballpark, including the new first base Dugout Suite this season.