Local Teams Offer Affordable Entertainment For Baseball Fans

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STATE – The Yankees and Mets both opened their new ballparks last week with positive reviews. But if big league ticket prices are a bit too much this year, there are more affordable alternatives closer to home.

The Newark Bears and Somerset Patriots both offer family-friendly baseball entertainment for about $10. A bit further away, the Trenton Thunder and Lakewood Blue Claws allow you to see future Yankees and Phillies stars for a similar price.

The Thunder open the 2009 season as the defending champions of the Eastern League against the Binghamton Mets on Wednesday. The series continues this weekend, with games on Friday at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Kids attending the Saturday afternoon game will receive a Joba Chamberlain replica jersey. Next week, the Thunder will play the Harrisburg Senators – the AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals – Monday through Thursday at 7:05 p.m.

Right-handed pitcher Zach McCallister, the sixth-best prospect in the Yankees organization according to Baseball Amarica, will open the season with the Thunder. Catcher Francisco Cervelli, who briefly played for the New York Yankees last season, will also start the year in Trenton.

The Blue Claws open their season tonight against the Delmarva Shorebirds, the class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Claws continue to play this weekend, with fireworks following Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game; a birthday party for team mascot Buster during Saturday’s 4:05 p.m. game and a 1:05 p.m. game on Easter Sunday.

Three of the top ten prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, as rated by Baseball America, will begin the season on the Blue Claws’ roster. Catcher Travis D’Arnaud is the No. 7 prospect in the Phillies organization. Outfielder Zach Collier, a supplemental first round pick in the 2008 draft, is ranked as the No. 8 prospect and left-handed pitcher Jason Knapp, a second round selection in the 2008 draft, is ranked as the 10th best prospect.

Both the Thunder and the Blue Claws are hosting a “Kids Eat Free” promotion at every game this season. Each child, ages 12 and under, will receive a voucher upon entering the ballpark good for a free hot dog, bag of potato chips and a 12 oz. fountain soda.

“We want to bring some joy back to Jersey,” said Joe Finley, president of both ballclubs. “Our teams are an important part of their respective communities, and this is our way of helping everyone in both areas.”

The Somerset Patriots will open the 2009 season as the defending champions of the Atlantic League when they play the Camden Riversharks on April 23. The team is managed by former Yankees Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle. Fireworks, a t-shirt giveaway and a team autograph session are among the highlights planned for the opening weekend.

The team is reportedly in negotiations to bring back fan favorite Jeff Nettles, son of former Yankees star Graig Nettles, for another season with the Patriots.

Newark Bears General Manager Mark Skeels (left) introduces Tim Raines, the team’s field manager, at a press conference last week. Raines played with the Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees and stole 808 bases in his career, the fourth-highest total in major league history. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Newark Bears General Manager Mark Skeels (left) introduces Tim Raines, the team’s field manager, at a press conference last week. Raines played with the Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees and stole 808 bases in his career, the fourth-highest total in major league history. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

The Newark Bears will be managed by seven-time National League All-Star Tim Raines this year. Retired U.S. General Colin Powell will throw out the first pitch of the season for the Bears on May 1; Grammy Award winner Patti LaBelle will sing the national anthem. On Sunday, May 3, former Yankee All-Star Tino Martinez will throw out the first pitch to kick of the first of the Bears Legends Sundays for the 2009 season.

On Saturday, the Bears will be holding tryouts for people who would like to sing the national anthem before a game this season. The auditions will be held at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, 450 Broad Street, Newark from 1-4 p.m. For more information, call 973-848-1000 or email info@newarkbears.com

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