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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Jun 10, 2021

Jersey Shore BlueClaws Back in the Stadium, Providing Competitive Entertainment and Family Fun

By Tim Morris

Minor League professional baseball is back with the Jersey Shore BlueClaws. Fans of BlueClaws got to see their team in action when they opened their 2021 season at home in FirstEnergy Park on May 4.

One of the most popular summer pastimes at the Jersey Shore is back. Professional Minor League baseball and its fan-friendly environment have returned to FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood with the Jersey Shore BlueClaws after a year’s absence due to the pandemic.

The BlueClaws, a Minor League affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, officially opened the 2021 season on May 4 at FirstEnergy Park.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” said BlueClaws Director of Communications and radio broadcaster Greg Giombarrese. “It’s a unique year for us with the name change, the move up in level, and the 614 days between the opening of the season and our last game.”

As expected, the response from the public and area businesses has been 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 gone through the turnstiles to watch a game. Catching a BlueClaws game became a must-do.

Because of current restrictions to the 6,588-seat capacity stadium, the team currently can’t fill all the seats. Tickets are sold in two-to six-person pods with social distancing.

However, more fans can see the team play in person via the stadium’s 360-degree concourse where outdoors, they can view games from picnic tables and grass berms.

Besides the simple return to play, there’s excitement about the caliber of baseball being played in Lakewood. Jersey Shore is playing in the High A East Division this year, not the new Low A league.

“The players are one step closer to the Major Leagues,” Giombarrese pointed out.

The 2021 BlueClaws are managed by Chris Adamson and have a 30-man roster. Major League health protocols are being followed in the Minor Leagues. It’s more likely than ever that fans will have the opportunity to see players who will be moving up to the Big Leagues.

Because of the pandemic and the ensuing loss of revenue, Major League Baseball restructured the Minor Leagues with many towns losing their teams due to the cost-cutting. Giombrasse said the BlueClaws were confident that when baseball returned, the team would be back in business.

“We had a great relationship with the Phillies all along, and we were great partners,” he explained.

Even playing in the Single Aloop, the BlueClaws sent more than their fair share of players to the next level.

“108 players have gone from the shore to the show,” Giombarrese noted.

The team has retired two numbers, the No. 19 of Cole Hamels and No. 29 of Ryan Howard. Hamels was an All-Star pitcher for the Phillies and the MVP of Philadelphia’s 2008 World Series champions. First baseman Howard was also a multiple All-Star for Philadelphia as well as Rookie of the Year, the National League’s 2006 MVP, and was a key member of the ’08 champion team.

Another positive of the restructuring is the division the BlueClaws are in. They are in 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, Giombarrese explained because it will help with attendance as Yankee and Met teams will draw their fans to the stadium. Also, the close proximity of the teams will make it easier for BlueClaws fans to see their team play on the road.

The BlueClaws are playing a 120-game schedule with 60 home dates.

Jhailyn Ortiz (13) high fives Logan O’Hoppe (6) after his two-run home run in the fifth inning that helped the Jersey ShoreBlueClaws open the 2021 season with a 6-2 win over Hudson Valley at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood. It was the Blue Claws first game in 614 days

Besides baseball, the BlueClaws offer plenty of other activities for fans. In 2018, the club renovated the ballpark, adding the Toyota Home Run Pavilion that includes a nine-hole miniature golf course (each hole is named for a former BlueClaw) and boardwalk games and rides for the family. In addition, there are 17 live Fireworks Nights, including July 4, and theme nights. Among the theme nights are 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 (Aug. 6) and Fan Appreciation Night (Sept. 12).

Baseball fans aren’t the only ones who are happy that baseball is back. So are those who depend on work at the stadium for employment. When the BlueClaws are home, they employ up to 200 people. That’s work that wasn’t available a year ago.

The BlueClaws were the Lakewood BlueClaws until the 2021 season. Giombarrese said the team had planned to make the change from Lakewood to Jersey Shore in 2020 to acknowledge its large fan base.

“[The name change] was the next logical step, to embrace the support we have from all over the Jersey Shore,” said Giombarrese.