Meet upstate Pennsylvania’s Reading Fightin’ Phils, the minor league offshoot of the Philadelphia Phillies and the most LGBTQ-friendly baseball team in the minors.
While the Philadelphia Phillies have hosted a Gay Community Night since 2003, most minor league teams haven’t embraced the LGBTQ community like the Fightin’ Phils, who will hold their seventh Annual LGBTQ Game Night on Wednesday, August 28 at 6 p.m. against the Bowie Baysox.
Anthony Pignetti, the Phils’ director of business development said, “We started something for Reading that we saw as more recognized at a National League level — Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles. As a minor league team, we just do things a little bit different than everybody else and wanted to make certain that LGBTQ inclusion was on our menu.”
He said the organization noticed that the LGBTQ community was underserved and, “we wanted to make sure they had special night, just as anyone else and any other community would.”
With organizations like the Reading PRIDE Celebration and LGBTQ Equity Alliance, LGBTQ inclusion is a part of the township’s mentality.
“We are accepting of everybody,” said Pignetti.
“Reading was the first city in Pennsylvania to have a nondiscrimination clause in its city employment ranks,” he said. “It’s definitely a Reading thing.”
Kutztown University, forever a supporter of the annual night out at the ballgame, is responsible for providing rainbow bracelets to the first 1,000 attendees of the game. “The university has long been involved, but now they are the evening’s actual sponsor,” said Pignetti.
Pignetti said rainbow symbolism is important to the Phils.
“We’re proud to have that [Greater Reading rainbow] sticker at the front door of our stadium,” he said, “and even have approval from the Travel Advocacy Group, after having gone through the proper sensitivity training for staff and best practices.”
FirstEnergy Stadium is one of the few minor-league baseball venues to be TAG-approved. In order to qualify, establishments must pass six best-practice qualifications, which include having a nondiscrimination policy, equal administration of personnel benefits and diversity and sensitivity training for employees.
The stadium is one of more than 150 entities in Reading displaying a Greater Reading rainbow sticker.
Working with Pennsylvania Americana Region, Reading’s visitors’ bureau, the Fightin’ Phils are involved with the Reading PRIDE Organization and take part in the organization’s events in City Park — “right down the street from the stadium,” said Pignetti.