Minor-league baseball team celebrates LGBT game night

The Reading Fightin Phils — described by a team representative as “the most LGBTQ-friendly baseball team in the minor leagues” — are gearing up for their sixth annual LGBTQ game night.

“We’ve never been a team to sit still and go with the flow of what everyone is doing,” said Anthony Pignetti, Fightin Phils’ director of business development. “We’re accepting of everyone, so it was a no-brainer to do this type of night.”

The Fightin Phils will host the Hartford Yard Goats 7:15 p.m. Aug. 15 at FirstEnergy Stadium, the team’s home stadium. The event is a celebration of the LGBTQ community and a collaboration with Reading Pride, and will feature informational tables from LGBTQ groups such as LGBT Equality Alliance and ally organizations in the area like Kutztown University.

The team was motivated to launch the event after seeing the success of similar initiatives, such as the Phillies’ Gay Community Night that launched in 2003.

“Our inclusion of every member of our community has always been a major priority for the Fightin Phils. We never wanted to keep anyone from having a night at the ballpark,” Pignetti said.

FirstEnergy Stadium is one of the few minor-league baseball venues to be a TAG-approved designation. TAG, or Travel Advocacy Group, approves hotels, resorts and attractions based on how welcoming they are to the LGBTQ community. The establishments must pass six best-practice qualifications to be TAG-approved, which includes having a nondiscrimination policy, equal administration of personnel benefits and diversity and sensitivity training for employees.

The stadium is on the list of more than 150 entities in Reading, including hotels, restaurants, museums and attractions that display a “Greater Reading” rainbow sticker. The sticker signals to patrons that the establishment is LGBTQ-friendly. Lisa Haggerty, the marketing manager of the area’s tourism agency, Pennsylvania Americana Region, said the stadium’s policy of inclusiveness makes it easier to attract LGBT tourists.

“The team has always been in support of the LGBTQ community. The Pride night event attracts more people every year to Reading. We have a very active LGBT community and we invite many others throughout the state to see what we have to offer,” she said.