Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2001

Minor-league baseball park search begins

April 26, 2001

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If a summer goes by without my fanny plopped into a seat of at least one minor-league baseball stadium, I feel cheated.

In fact, I can't remember the last time I was unable for whatever reason to fulfill this annual summer rite. Over the years, I've been in ballparks from Riverside, Calif., to Harrisburg, Pa., from Tacoma, Wash., to Albany, N.Y.

So if this is spring, you know what I'm thinking. What minor-league balllpark beckons? Which stadium unseen is on the horizon? Where will I tread where I have never trod before?

All I know for sure is it will be somewhere in the New York-New Jersey area. When your grandchildren live an hour north of the Big Apple, your general destination is clear. So in the spring your pore over your options.

I know where I would love to go. A new minor-league team a short-season Class A club will debut in Brooklyn this summer. That's right. Brooklyn, home of the old Dodgers. A new stadium has been built on Coney Island to house the Cyclones, named after the old amusement park's famous roller-coaster.

I suspect, however, I'm not the only one who would love to watch baseball in Brooklyn this summer, and that it might be easier to obtain tickets to a Broadway play than a seat at KeySpan Park even though the brand-new stadium will hold 6,500, making it about the same size as Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

Guess I don't have to tell you Brooklyn will be a farm team of the New York Mets.

Meanwhile, the Yankees also have a farm club in one of the boroughs. Staten Island has a team and its new stadium is next to the ferry terminal. In other words, you can take a New York subway to the Battery, board the ferry it's free to Staten Island and walk to the stadium where you can watch ball with the magnificent Manhattan skyline in the background.

Staten Island figures to be SRO this summer, too, although I've heard that new yard might not be ready in time for the late June season opener.

Another of my possibilities is another team in the same NY-P League the Hudson Valley Renegades. Located in a southern suburb of Poughkeepskie on the you guessed it Hudson River, the Renegades are a farm team of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and, near as I can tell, are only about half an hour from my grandkids.

Hopefully, I'll be able to plop my fanny into 4,320-seat Dutchess Stadium and, maybe if I'm lucky, spot a Mohican (Oh, that's right. They're extinct).

Another alternative I discovered is the New Jersey Jackals, an independent team not to be confused with the NY-P's New Jersey Cardinals or, I'm sure, the New Jersey Sopranos.

The Jackals play in the Eastern Division of the Northern League which also has a Central Division but not a Western Division or a Southern Division.

Probably the most intriguing aspect of the Jackals is where they play Yogi Berra Stadium. It's the baseball facility located on the campus of Montclair State College in Little Falls, N.J., and why it is named after baseball's master of the malaprop I know not.

Maybe Berra once said the stadium was so crowded that nobody went there anymore. Or maybe he lives in Little Falls, or donated money to help build the stadium.

At least if anybody ever asks you where Yogi Berra Stadium is, you'll know the answer although it's not a question I'd expect to see on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Regardless, I'd love to plunk my you-know-what into a Yogi Berra Stadium seat and watch the Jackals tangle with maybe the Adirondack Lumberjacks or the Allentown Ambassadors.

Perhaps I will. I sure hope so. Half the fun is in the anticipation.

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