Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Newark Bears: There Will Be No Baseball On Broad Street This Season

From the desk of:  THE BROAD STREET NINE

NEWARK BEARS: Game Called.

Winter appears over.  The last remnants of snow have finally melted from the front of my house. Clocks have been set forward again.  The calender says it's Spring.  One cycle ends, and a new one begins.  The time for renewal, growth, and BASEBALL, are near.

In the matter of our national pastime being played in New Jersey's largest city, I wish it were that easy, ordered, and neat.

While groundskeepers around the nation are manicuring baseball fields in preparation of Opening Day, there is little activity in Newark.  The gates to The Den will remain chained up this season. The endangered Brick City Bear will stay in extended hibernation until further notice.

This organization has been plagued by ineffective ownership well before Dr, Doug Spiel and Danielle Dronet separated themselves from the previous structure.  That's already been well chronicled.  The couple has also been resoundingly criticized, but I feel they at least entered this endeavor with good intentions, unlike the more scrupulous scuttlebutt involving a previous partner.

I believe the Bears' problems were already greater than this ownership's ability to change things around any time soon.  Years of depressed attendance figures, and mounting debt became too much to overcome.  The last domino appears to have unfortunately fallen on their watch.

Sometimes, it is easy to read writing on a wall.  In my opinion, things really started taking a turn for the worse after the Bears second Atlantic League title in 2007.  The gift shop is usually a good indication of team health.  In 2007, the shop was still packed with everything a fan could want - yearbooks, pins, scorecards, jerseys and t-shirts, name it.  The next season, it was bare.  Sure enough, the team filed for bankruptcy by the end of 2008.

Their situation hastily deteriorated from then on, and by 2011, the Bears found themselves playing in the more economically feasible CanAm League.  But that remedy lasted exactly three seasons. The Newark Bears are now idle.  Future seasons remain equally in doubt.

Jose Herrera's three home runs in the clinching game of the 2007 Atlantic League Championship Series was very literally the Newark Bears last hurrah.  I'm glad I was there.

Founded in 1998 by then owner, and former Yankee catcher, Rick Cerone, the Newark Bears were a charter member of the independent Atlantic League.  The construction of Bears and Eagles Riverside Stadium was completed soon thereafter.

Former major leaguers Tim Raines and Garry Templeton were the Bears two most recent field managers.  They were among the many well known big leaguers who came to play or coach in Newark over the years.

The city of Newark has such a rich baseball legacy.  The current situation is a shame.  I still feel Brick City can draw off that history, and make baseball a successful endeavor today.  Obviously, several things need to change first.  I do know, an easily accessible downtown ballpark lying dormant this summer, is a ponderous development.  Baseball needs to continue in Newark.

Truth be told, the Canadian/American League is in no better shape.  That circuit has been reduced to four members this season, and will participate in the American Association as a division.  Over the last five years alone, the Atlantic City Surf and Nashua Lions, two other charter members of the Atlantic League who also switched over to the CanAm League, have folded, along with the Brockton Rox, Pittsfield Colonials, Sussex SkyHawks and Worcester Tornadoes.

Only the Quebec Capitales and the New Jersey Jackals remain from recent Can Am League history.  The Rockland Boulders and Trois-Rivieres Aigles are newer expansion teams added over the last three years.


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