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In 2007, the year Hunsicker was named general manager of the club, he was also named the Eastern League Executive of the Year. Since then he completed a $10 million renovation of First Energy Stadium, the largest in its history, while managing a staff of 375 people.
Standing well over six feet tall, Hunsicker was recruited to play football and baseball for the Albright Lions. He planned to be a high school guidance counselor and baseball coach, but changed his major to psychology and marketing. A public relations and marketing class taught by Ed Trayes, Ph.D., '60 changed his life.
Trayes required students to shadow a professional in their field of choice. So Hunsicker contacted former Albright sports information director Mark Wallace, who had gone to work for the Reading Phillies. One day of shadowing Wallace turned into an internship that same semester.
After graduation, team owner Craig Stein and then General Manager Chuck Domino asked Hunsicker to become the first group sales manager in team history. "I had no intention of working here," he said, "but Craig and Chuck were such great role models that it made the offer very attractive." With the support of his parents he sealed a deal with the club and never looked back.
"The Reading Phillies are known nationally for being whacky," explains Hunsicker, whose talent for creating fun off-field promotions has led to the team's success. "We know how to create an exciting atmosphere, and we'll try anything once."
Hunsicker and his team have created events such as Elvis Night and a postgame running of the bases for kids. For those who are retired or work second shift, a 9 a.m. game attracts more than 1,000 fans for breakfast at 7 a.m. Gluttony Night allows fans to eat all they can at the concession stands for just $7. And on 29 nights a year, post-game fireworks light up the sky.
In 2000 First Energy became one of the only stadiums to install a $1.4 million pool in the outfield. Then came the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, a young man who appears to be riding an ostrich puppet while throwing wrapped hot dogs into the crowd. Today the popular character even has its own bobble-head doll.
"The key to a good promotion is that it must be carried through the entire organization," explains Hunsicker. This sometimes includes the players, who sport tie-dye uniforms on Retro Night and have even worn long blonde wigs to the pitcher's mound. "The players appreciate what we do," says Hunsicker. "No one wants to play in an empty stadium, so they are very supportive of what happens here."
One of Hunsicker's most successful promotions almost never happened. The Reading Phillies decided to buy three new mascots to accompany the existing mascot, "Screwball." When Hunsicker approached a manufacturer about creating the new mascots he was refused. "They told me that teams can only have one mascot and that our idea would never work," he says, smiling. So he turned to a costume catalog and ordered dog, turtle and beaver costumes. "I just picked three costumes and hoped for the best." He added a duck in 2000, and the five mascots are now one of the largest attractions. They have even formed a mascot
Well known throughout Berks County for his success with the Reading Phillies, he's also known for his modest attitude and approachable personality. "I lived in my college apartment above the Northeast Tap Room for 13 years," says Hunsicker, "and I still eat a 'Pigger's' pizza [Pizza Italia] once a week." Even today, his office in the newly renovated First Energy Stadium overlooks the parking lot and he's not above throwing on a mascot suit to help out.
"I can't imagine what my life would be like had I not made the choice to come to Albright."
Hunsicker discovered his talent for entertaining at Albright when recreating the deathmobile scene from the movie Animal House during a Homecoming football game. In charge of the Zeta Omega Epsilon fraternity float, he purchased a used car for $200 and started construction. "We didn't have a title or anything, just sawed the roof off and covered it with a giant wooden cake that said 'Eat Me' across it." During the halftime festivities the group set off smoke bombs and the car burst out of the cake. "We did a victory lap around the field and then drove across to the tailgating area," says Hunsicker. "People went nuts, they loved it."
Working with the Phillies has led to personal moments as well. White Star Travel, a major advertiser with the team, is owned by fellow Zeta brother Christ Kraras '69. Hunsicker credits Kraras with becoming a great mentor and eventually a great father-in-law. "I got to know Chris and I spent a lot of time learning from him. I became friends with his son Dean and soon fell in love with his daughter Marisa." Hunsicker and Marisa were married in 2004, coincidentally the same year he moved out of his college apartment. The couple have three sons ages 6, 4 and 1.
"I can't imagine what my life would be like had I not made the choice to come to Albright," Hunsicker says. "Albright brought me to Reading in 1988 and I'm still here. I couldn't be happier."
Judging by the attendance at First Energy Stadium, Reading baseball fans are equally happy with his decision.
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