Now that the Reading Fightin Phils‘ (Class AA; Eastern League) season in the books, FirstEnergy Stadium is hosting football for the first time in over 30 years.
With the MiLB offseason underway, many ballparks are planning to host events between now and the 2019 campaign. Football games at the high school level are a fairly common offseason ballpark event, but the situation is a bit unique at FirstEnergy Stadium, where the Fightin Phils are hosting the Gridiron Classic.
The ballpark had not been used for football in 36 years, but that streak is ending this fall, as FirstEnergy Stadium will host a series of area high school football games for the next two weeks. In order to accommodate the games, the facility has received a full gridiron (shown above). The field was ready for Thursday night’s game, and prompted plenty of memories of the ballpark’s past history with football. More from the Reading Eagle:
There was no pitcher’s mound or base paths, and fresh sod covered the infield. The field had just enough room for the pair of goalposts, which were placed near the visitors dugout and the right field warning track.
Sitting along the first baseline, Jim Pizzo of Muhlenberg Township couldn’t help but think about his own high school football days playing at the stadium in the 1960s.
“The infield was bad,” said Pizzo, 71, a former running back. “You landed on the infield in the wintertime and it was hard and you’d have all that sand in your face. The infield was the infield. They didn’t cover it like they did for today.”
The transformation of the football field began last week. By Thursday the field was ready for prime time.
The final game in the Gridiron Classic is scheduled for October 5.
Image courtesy Reading Fightin Phils.