Monday, July 24, 2017

A night with the New Jersey Jackels

A few weeks ago, I found out that there was an independent league team that played just minutes from my house. The New Jersey Jackals, playing in Little Falls, NJ are part of the Can-Am League. Their stadium is called “Yogi Berra Stadium” and is located on Montclair State’s campus.

I felt kind of dumb that there was pro baseball so close (not counting, you know, both NY MLB teams, Staten Island, and Brooklyn). But this is REALLY close. Like 10-minute car ride, close.

On Friday I checked the schedule and noticed that there was a 6:05 game on Saturday, and that the game would be followed by fireworks. Having missed our town’s July 4th fireworks while on vacation, I decided we should take the kids to the game and fireworks show.

Plus, it was Star Wars night and they were handing out light sabers. I admittedly know absolutely nothing about Star Wars, but my son thinks it’s cool, so that was a bonus. He wore the “Darth Gator” shirt I got him in New Orleans.

I decided to rely on buying walk-up tickets, which was a mistake. The line was really long. It was actually quicker for me to buy tickets online (while in line!) and then go grab them from will call. Ahhh, attending baseball games in 2017.

Upon entering, you get a great view of the field before walking down the steps. Each kid got a lightsaber, so they were really excited. My 3-year-old daughter saw a storm trooper and got really scared.

The stadium is kind of charming, nestled against a hill and right behind the Yogi Berra Museum (which I have’t been too womp womp). The field itself looked a little raggedy, but I get it. An independent league team likely doesn’t have the budget for top notch field care. It wasn’t bad, just not as pristine as you see at other pro ball parks. 
We found some bleacher seats down the third baseline and settled in. We had assigned seats, but it was pretty empty where we were, so we had plenty of space for the kids to move around. 
One downside, and I’m not sure if it’s just because it was a busy game with the promotional night, but the concessions lines were crazy long. It look me about 30 minutes of waiting to return with food and drinks, and I missed a chunk of the first inning. The prices were too bad, for stadium concessions. Not great, but not terrible.

The team wore Star Wars jerseys that were to later be auctioned off, which were cool looking.
As for the baseball, yikes. I don’t want to complain too much. These guys are still playing pro ball, and good for them. Many are former MLB draft picks, and a few players on New Jersey even spent some time in The Show, including Johnny Hellweg (Brewers).

The biggest issue for me is how long the game took. I can’t imagine how boring it might have been for kids, although luckily they had their lightsabers and duels were breaking out all over the park. The pitchers just couldn’t throw strikes. All game. And with the threat of rain, I was really worried the kids wouldn’t see fireworks.

It did rain a little, but all in all, the fireworks came after a four-hour, nine-inning game. That’s simply too much. Not sure if they need to do less promotions between innings or cut games to seven innings or what, but holy crap, four hours for a nine inning Can-Am league game is painful. I’m not sure if this is the norm, or just the result of a sloppy, high-scoring game. I hope it’s the latter.

All-in-all, it was fun to go to a ball game and give the kids something different to do on a weekend night. Neither showed much interest in the game, although my son did enjoy really high pop flies. They did have fun dancing and watching the various ballpark antics, including Jack the Jackal mascot. I see no reason why we wouldn’t make this a yearly visit to the park.


  1. That's awesome A.J. Good to see that your son got a bit of enjoyment out of it. That's how it starts, little by little.

    4 hours is a damn long game though, you're right there. Having the game just 10 minutes from your house is something you can't beat.

  2. Sounds like your family had a nice time. I totally get your pains about long games though. The biggest problems with game times in SI/BK is that, in spite of the pitch clock, it takes forever because the league is dealing with new pros who were just amateurs a few months ago.

    "My 3-year-old daughter saw a storm trooper and got really scared."
    This speaks to the point that before the internet and pop culture turned stormtroopers into clumsy oafs/laughing stocks, they were made to intimidate.

  3. I used to live near the Somerset Patriots, another independent league team. Some of the games, it's obvious why they aren't playing at higher levels. Other times though you look at these guys and say I bet he could make it in The Show.

  4. 4 hours? Yeesh. I don't care what you're doing, but four hours is too long for anyone to focus on just one thing for that amount of time.
    I'm an advocate for the 7 inning ballgame, which is what we play at the high school level. It truly is a beautiful thing to be done with a baseball game in two hours.

  5. There was an independent league team in our town for a couple of years (left last year when city refused to renew contract with team). It's nice if you're desperate for live baseball, but as you said, every game seemed to take forever and the quality was not good. The crowds were next to nothing.

    I'd rather take the extra time to go to Syracuse for a Triple A game. The amenities are better and the players know how to play at a proper pace (hopefully pro baseball in Syracuse still exists there in a couple of years).

  6. I find independent baseball fascinating. The games are pretty terrible but I respect the guys that go out there to keep the dream alive. Baseball America had a pretty good article last week about how a lot of the players make the team.