Published on July 3rd, 2013 | by Ernie0
America’s Pastime in My Backyard – Jersey Jackals
For those that know me, know that I’m a big sports fan. I’ll watch pre-season football, basketball or spring training baseball. I’ll watch the English Premier League or Serie A in Italy. I’ll even watch hockey as long as it’s the winter classic.
That being said, I still enjoy participating in my own way. It was only about 5 years ago that I still played in a touch football league and I’m only a year away from a summer championship in a basketball league. Suffice it to say that my love of sports leads me to hope that my kids one day get involved in organized team sports without me forcing them to attend weekly games (another story for another time).
Well, part of my attempt at indoctrinating my children with the love of sports is taking them to various games. My son wasn’t even 18 months before he was walking the sidelines at one of my games, and both my kids have been to more professional sporting events in their first handful of years alive than I have until my teenage years.
Which brings me to the point, we had the good fortune of taking the kids to an independent league baseball game. The opportunity presented itself through the town recreation baseball association putting together a town day at the Jersey Jackals. The Jackals play at historic Yogi Berra stadium on the campus of Montclair State University.
More importantly, we took our kids because we knew of a number of other families attending that we are friends with.
To start, the stadium is only about 25 minutes from home. While that may not seem like a long time, catch a kid in the wrong temperament and it could seem like an eternity. Only being 25 minutes from home reduces the potential for a meltdown and the odds that I would have to yell some stereotypical dad comment like “Don’t make me come back there” or “If you two don’t cut it out, I’ll turn this car around.”
Once at the stadium, parking is free. That should be enough to entice anyone trying to take their children anywhere, but not only is parking free, but even in the worst spot; you’re not walking more than a few hundred feet from your car to the entrance to the stadium. Again, proximity is everything.
Once we parked our car we set up with a few other families to tailgate before the game. I was a bit skeptical at first, I mean, who’s ever heard of tailgating before an independent league baseball game. Well, I was way off as there were a number of people enjoying the company of their friends, some tasty food and any libations they may have brought. There were even families grilling!
Now, once in the stadium, you’ll find it to be missing the comforts of today’s professional sports arenas (i.e. big screen tvs in the outfield, electronic scoreboards showing all the other games, fan-cams, etc.). But you won’t feel it missing is the love of the game. Every being in your fiber resonates the love of baseball. After all, the players are making a modest income to play the game and certainly not enough to support any sort of extravagance that their big-league counterparts would.
You have some seats in the stadium specifically numbered just as you would in any stadium, but there are plenty of other seats that are bleacher seats. You can sit in the bleachers and enjoy the game just as you would have during your youth.
The food and drink selection aren’t bad either, and on some level very surprising. For instance, being on a college campus, I was not expecting any adult beverages to be made available. But was pleased when they had various domestic brews on tap, let alone a few imports from a bottle. The food ranged from your everyday hot dog and hamburgers to chicken fajitas and Caesar salad. Just slightly more upscale but again a little short of the majors.
One of the best parts of this family friendly excursion is that along the first base line in right field and wrapping around to right field is a large grassy hill. It’s a hill that invites children to simply run around and play while their parents can enjoy the game from a blanket on the grass.
I say one of the best, because by far the best part of this trip is comparing the experience against a trip to a major league ballpark and realizing that the kids get to see how much fun the game is but for a fraction of the cost. Tickets to a game can range anywhere between $5 and a whopping $11. That’s right folks, it’s cheaper to take your kids out to a baseball game than it is to take them to a movie for one of this summer’s blockbusters.
And that’s just the tickets, the aforementioned beers are anywhere between $5 and $7 depending upon the size of the beers. At a recent trip to CitiField a Miller Lite started at $8.25.
Let’s not even mention that each Saturday night, the Jackals host a fireworks show. Along with other promotional days like Family Fun Day where hot dogs are $1 and kids get to run the bases after the game, or All You Can Eat Friday where for 90 minutes you are entitled unlimited food, soda and draft beer.
So when you take into consideration the combination of cost, proximity and then the feeling you experience from seeing athletes play for the love of the game this is a truly great way to introduce your kids to sports as well as enjoy an afternoon/evening outdoors with the family.
I would highly recommend this trip to anyone that enjoys baseball and wants to share that love with their family at a reasonable cost.