June 10, 2021
Jersey Shore BlueClaws are back in the stadium, offering competitive entertainment and family fun
By Tim Morris
One of the most popular summer pastimes on the Jersey Shore is back. Professional minor league baseball and its fan-friendly environment have returned to FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood after a year of absence due to the pandemic with the Jersey Shore BlueClaws.
The BlueClaws, a minor league subsidiary of the Philadelphia Phillies, officially opened the 2021 season on May 4th at FirstEnergy Park.
“There is a lot of excitement,” said BlueClaws director of communications and radio station Greg Giombarrese. “It’s been a unique year for us with the name change, the promotion and the 614 days between the season opener and our last game.”
As expected, the response from the population and regional companies was positive. When tickets went on sale, the public devoured them. Since the BlueClaws played their first home game in 2001, nearly 8 million people have walked through the turnstiles to watch a game. Catching a BlueClaws game became a must.
Due to the current restrictions on the stadium with 6,588 seats, the team cannot currently occupy all seats. Tickets are sold in pods for two to six people with social distancing.
However, more fans can watch the team play in person via the stadium’s 360-degree hall, where they can watch the games from picnic tables and grass berms outdoors.
Aside from simply getting back to the game, there is excitement about the caliber of baseball that is played in Lakewood. Jersey Shore is playing in the High A East division this year, not the new Low A division.
“The players have come one step closer to the Major Leagues,” said Giombarrese.
The BlueClaws 2021 are managed by Chris Adamson and have a roster of 30 people. Major league health protocols are followed in minor leagues. It is more likely than ever that fans will have the opportunity to see players advancing to the big league.
Due to the pandemic and the resulting loss of revenue, Major League Baseball restructured the minor leagues, with many cities losing their teams due to cost reductions. Giombrasse said the BlueClaws were confident the team would be back in business after baseball returned.
“We’ve had a great relationship with the Phillies all along, and we’ve been great partners,” he said.
Even in the single aloop, the BlueClaws sent more than their fair share of players to the next level.
“108 players went to the show from the bank,” noted Giombarrese.
The team has withdrawn two numbers, number 19 from Cole Hamels and number 29 from Ryan Howard. Hamels was an all-star pitcher for the Phillies and the MVP of the 2008 Philadelphia World Series champions. First baseman Howard was also a multiple All-Star for Philadelphia, as well as Rookie of the Year, the 2006 National League MVP, and was a key member of the 2008 Champion Team.
Another positive aspect of the restructuring is the division in which the BlueClaws are located. You are located with the Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees), Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets), Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nationals) and Aberdeen Iron Birds (Orioles). Having the Yankee and Met teams in the division is a plus, explained Giombarrese, because it helps audience numbers as Yankee and Met teams will draw their fans into the stadium. In addition, the close proximity of the teams makes it easier for BlueClaws fans to see their team play on the street.
The BlueClaws play a 120 game board with 60 home appointments.
In addition to baseball, the BlueClaws offer many other activities for fans. In 2018, the club renovated the ballpark and added the Toyota Home Run Pavilion, which includes a nine-hole mini golf course (each hole is named after a former BlueClaw) and boardwalk games and rides for the family. There are also 17 live fireworks nights, including July 4th, and themed nights. Themed evenings include Pride Night (June 4), Girl Scout Family Night (June 11), Father’s Day (June 13), Camp Day (July 6), Military Appreciation Night (July 8), Autism Awareness Night ( August 6)) and Fan Appreciation Night (September 12).
Baseball fans aren’t the only ones happy that baseball is back. This also applies to those who are dependent on work in the stadium. When the BlueClaws are at home, they employ up to 200 people. This is work that wasn’t available a year ago.
The BlueClaws were the Lakewood BlueClaws until the 2021 season. Giombarrese said the team planned to move from Lakewood to Jersey Shore in 2020 to pay tribute to its large fan base.
“[The name change] the next logical step was to take advantage of the support we have from all over the Jersey Shore, ”said Giombarrese.