READING, Pa. -- Almost two weeks ago, the Reading Fightin Phils welcomed a pair of live ostriches at FirstEnergy Stadium to celebrate both the new Fightin Phils ostrich icon and Berks County's long-lasting history with agriculture. Over 400 people suggested names to the team through a contest sponsored by Steve Moyer Subaru, 830 AM WEEU, and the Reading Eagle, but Baseballtown picked two names that stood out above all the rest.
The two live ostriches will now be known as Ruth and Judy, honoring two of the most prominent female figures in the history of the Reading franchise and Berks County agriculture.
The first bird named Ruth pays tribute to the Queen of Baseballtown, Ruth Hartman. Hartman, who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League featured in the hit film "A League of Their Own", was the long-time softball coach at Reading High. In her 18 seasons as head coach, Hartman's team compiled an overall record of 217-73 as well as two Berks County Championships, three District titles, and two state runner-up finishes. A decorated farmer, Hartman has also raised prize-winning Corriedale sheep named after Reading and Philadelphia players such as Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, and Cody Asche.
The ostrich Judy recognizes Senator Judy Schwank. Since graduating from Penn State with an advanced degree in agricultural education, Schwank has taught at the secondary level, directed the Berks County Cooperative Extension, and served two terms as county commissioner. After leaving county government, Schwank served as president of the non-profit organization 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania and later as Dean of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Delaware Valley College prior to being elected to the State Senate in 2011.
The winning names of Ruth and Judy were submitted by Kellie Butsack and Kimberly Fies, respectively. Both Butsack and Fies will win a 20-person party at the Reading Eagle Character Pool Party, a ceremonial first pitch, and Fightin Phils merchandise.
Honoring the newfound struthious logo of the Fightin Phils, the ostriches Ruth and Judy will celebrate Berks County's farming history like no other minor league team has ever done. The project would not have happened without the help of Senator Schwank, Steve Moyer Subaru, the Honorable Matthew Meals from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Sheila Miller from Berks Agricultural Resource Network, Future Farmers of America, Kutztown Bird and Animal Hospital, and University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center.