Atlantic League Opening Day
Friday, April 29, 2011
The independent Atlantic League of Baseball kicks off their fourteenth season this Friday night but not without changes to the circuit. The Road Warriors are back and the Newark Bears are out.
The Newark Bears Baseball Club ended their affiliation after thirteen years in the Atlantic League where they previously won two Championships in 2002 and 2007. They will be switching to the Canadian/American (CanAm League) this season. The move is an attempt by the Bears to cut operating costs. The Bears have tried for years to boost attendance with little success. So now they must take the step to reduce their expenses by playing a shorter schedule. The Atlantic League plays a 140 game schedule while the CanAm League limits itself to a 94 game schedule which starts in May.
The same has been done before. One time Atlantic League teams; The Atlantic City Surf and Nashua Pride were two clubs which made moves to the CanAm League. The Atlantic City team won the inaugural Atlantic League Championship back in 1998 but would eventually fold after switching Leagues. But the Nashua club, who won the Atlantic League Championship in 2000, reorganized and became the Pittsfield Colonials of the CanAm League.
In the Bears place and to protect schedule integrity by maintaining eight teams, the Road Warriors will make a return to the Atlantic League. It's their first appearance in the League since 2007 when they played prior to Southern Maryland joining the League. The Road Warriors are a road-team-only with no home games. They will be managed by former MLB'er Roy Howell, who played from 1974 to 1984 with Texas, Toronto, and Milwaukee.
As a fan of this League, I followed and cheered for Newark because of their proximity to Brooklyn. I'll still follow them in the CanAm League, but I am now forced to chose a new A.L. team to pledge my allegiance to. It's an easy and logical choice to make.
I am now a Long Island Ducks fan. I'll definitely be talking Ducks Baseball here. The Atlantic League's 2004 Champions are quite a success story in their own right. After the New York Yankees, the Mets, and the Brooklyn Cyclones, I'd venture to say the Long Island Ducks are the most stable and successful baseball franchise (based on fan attendance) within fifty miles of the New York City line. They've certainly carved out a niche for themselves out in eastern Long Island and routinely have 6,000 fans per game. The Long Island Ducks organization was originally the brain-child of former N.Y. Mets great Bud Harrelson. Buddy was also a lead figure in the creation of the Atlantic League itself.
One of Pennsylvania's two teams; the York Revolution; won last year's Atlantic League Championship by defeating Connecticut's Bridgeport Bluefish. It was their first title. Bridgeport's lone title came in 1999. The other Pennsylvania team is the Lancaster Barnstormers who won a title in 2006.
But the power house of the league, and owners of the most hardware would be New Jersey's Somerset Patriots. Managed by former great New York Yankee relief pitcher Sparky Lyle, the Patriots have won five of the Atlantic League's thirteen trophies. In 2008 and 2009, they won back-to-back titles. And now as a Ducks fan or as a Bears fan prior to this season, the Somerset Patriots are quite simply, the enemy to me. But rival or no rival, they are still an easy drive from Brooklyn for the motivated fan such as myself.
I've travelled to all the Atlantic League member team's home parks but two. I'm yet to go to York's and Southern Maryland's home fields. This season might very well be the season for some Blue Crab's Baseball. I'll see about that. But as far as parks I have been to, Campbell's Field, home of the Camden River Sharks, has by far the most picturesque setting in the league; sitting at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge on the banks of the Delaware River and over looking downtown Philadelphia. And the park itself is indeed very handsome.
The Atlantic League is a great escape for those times I want to venture outside the city to satisfy my Baseball fix. In year fourteen, the League now has well over a decade's worth of history and solid foundations on-which traditions are being built upon.
This coming Friday, April 29, 2011 - the Atlantic League kicks off another season of convenient, affordable, entertaining, and Professional, ...Baseball.
See you there!
Atlantic League Champions:
1998 ~ Atlantic City Surf
1999 ~ Bridgeport Bluefish
2000 ~ Nashua Pride
2001 ~ Somerset Patriots
2002 ~ Newark Bears
2003 ~ Somerset Patriots
2004 ~ Long Island Ducks
2005 ~ Somerset Patriots
2006 ~ Lancaster Barnstormers
2007 ~ Newark Bears
2008 ~ Somerset Patriots
2009 ~ Somerset Patriots
2010 ~ York Revolution
CanAm League Welcomes The Newark Bears ~ Mike.BTB