Chronological Tour: Stop 195

Baseball Becomes a Shore Thing

Entrance to GPU Energy Park, Apr-2001.

The view from center field during the game.

Outfield signs are somewhat unobtrusive here.

Quick Facts: Rating: 3 baseballs
Apparently, there are only so many blueprints for new ballparks. It took me about nine innings, but I finally realized why I was experiencing déjà vu at this yard. With the exception of exterior trim around the entranceways, the park appears to be a dead ringer for Smokies Stadium in Sevierville, Tenn., which I visited in the summer of 2000. Even the seating capacity is similar, although this stadium seats 588 more than the one in Tennessee.

So why a larger capacity park for a lower level of ball? Despite the fact that this is low Class A ball vs. the Double-A Southern League, the designers expected large crowds due to the location of the park, on the northern edge of Ocean County. Thanks to the Garden State Parkway, the bedroom for New York now stretches this far down the Shore. There is also some baseball tradition in the area, and fans have been flocking to the park since the opener. An August 2002 game I attended drew a South Atlantic League record 13,003 fans. (In recent years, the club has moved to limit the number of general admission tickets they sell, in response to fans who said they felt claustrophobic at jam-packed weekend games.)

Getting to the Game

The park sits at the intersection of two Ocean County highways, each of which leads to more significant arterial roads. New Hampshire Avenue leads up from NJ 70 to the south, while Cedar Bridge Avenue comes in from the Garden State Parkway to the east and US 9 to the west. Several years after the park opened, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority opened Parkway exit 89, which serves Cedar Bridge Avenue and makes access from the north much easier.

There are two entrances to the parking lots, one from each county road. That said, the park suffers from poor access and egress. It took me 15 minutes to get out of the parking lot after stopping at the souvenir stand following one game.

The parking fee was raised for the 2015 season, from $3 per vehicle to $5. Perhaps it’s what the market can bear, but it still seems unusually high for low A ball.

Watching the Game

Tickets are discounted for advance purchase; game-day tickets cost $2 more. This is not my favorite routine, but it does help to manage crowds; the club has a better idea of how many people to expect at a game based on the advance sale. As with many clubs, some group discounts are available.

The starting lineups are posted on a whiteboard behind the customer service desk. That desk also has a limited number of copies of the day’s starting lineup printed out for those fans who keep score, so they don’t have to stand in front of the desk and transcribe the lineups. The BlueClaws hand out a free playbill-sized game-day program, updated generally twice each month, but that also means that rosters may be outdated by as much as three weeks.

The scoreboard and video board are generally run competently, but the public address announcer has been known to gloss over pitching changes. A new matrix board, including a scoreboard display that is left in place at all times, was installed for the 2015 season.

Enjoying the Game

The wrap-around concourse at FirstEnergy Park includes not only concessions all around and a tiki bar in center field, but also lifeguard chairs which fans may climb into and watch the game for a time along the concourse. (Climb into and out of the chair at your own risk.) There are also round tables on the concourse behind the seating sections so fans can eat what they just bought at a stand and not have to bring it back to their seats if they desire. (Concessions are priced in line with much of the New York area, which is to say a little higher than in some other parts of the country.) It is quite possible for a fan who bought a general admission ticket to stand at one of these tables for the whole game.

As with many other clubs, the BlueClaws run the Thirsty Thursday promotion, with discounted beer and soda pop. However, the cheap beverages are only available at the outfield tiki bar, leading to the phenomenon that the main concourse and seating bowl are half-empty on Thursday evenings while most of the alleged spectators are in the outfield, often standing in the beer queue.

The BlueClaws are named for the blue crab found in Atlantic waters. (So is an independent league team in Maryland.) While the team retired its fondly remembered original logo, affectionately called “Pinchy”, after the 2009 season, the primary mascot remains a crab called Buster. (Buster. Crab. Ha ha.) Pinchy is scheduled to make Thursday “throwback” appearances in 2017, according to an October 2016 team press release.

Game # Date League Level Result
454 Fri 13-Apr-2001 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 1, Hickory 0, 11 inn
457 Mon 7-May-2001 South Atlantic A Delmarva 5, LAKEWOOD 2
519 Mon 24-Jun-2002 South Atlantic A Greensboro 5, LAKEWOOD 3
555 Mon 26-Aug-2002 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 3, Hickory 0
584 Tue 6-May-2003 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 3, Charleston WV 2
685 Tue 3-Aug-2004 South Atlantic A Augusta 4, LAKEWOOD 1
734 Thu 7-Apr-2005 South Atlantic A Lake County 10, LAKEWOOD 2
809 Wed 26-Apr-2006 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 7, Hagerstown 7, 17 inn, curfew
(BlueClaws won completion, 8-7, 22 inn)
812 Mon 26-Jun-2006 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 4, Lake County 1
838 Tue 15-Aug-2006 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 7, Hagerstown 5
850 Wed 6-Sep-2006 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 2, Lexington 1
854 Thu 14-Sep-2006 South Atlantic A Augusta 11, LAKEWOOD 1
855 Fri 15-Sep-2006 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 5, Augusta 0
(BlueClaws win league championship)
859 Thu 5-Apr-2007 South Atlantic A Greensboro 11, LAKEWOOD 7
895 Thu 30-Aug-2007 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 1, Lake County 0
919 Thu 3-Apr-2008 South Atlantic A Lake County 4, LAKEWOOD 0
951 Mon 18-Aug-2008 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 9, Charleston SC 1
986 Fri 10-Apr-2009 South Atlantic A Delmarva 3, LAKEWOOD 1
1004 Thu 6-Aug-2009 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 7, Lake County 5
1040 Tue 15-Sep-2009 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 3, Greenville 0
1052 Thu 22-Apr-2010 South Atlantic A Hagerstown 11, LAKEWOOD 7
1100 Sat 11-Sep-2010 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 6, Hickory 0
1103 Fri 17-Sep-2010 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 2, Greenville 1
1117 Wed 25-May-2011 South Atlantic A Greensboro 4, LAKEWOOD 1
1130 Sun 24-Jul-2011 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 5, Augusta 1
1192 Wed 11-Jul-2012 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 9, Hickory 3
1221 Tue 21-Aug-2012 South Atlantic A Delmarva 4, LAKEWOOD 2
1265 Thu 8-Aug-2013 South Atlantic A West Virginia 7, LAKEWOOD 0
1306 Wed 23-Apr-2014 South Atlantic A Charleston SC 9, LAKEWOOD 3
1331 Tue 5-Aug-2014 South Atlantic A Asheville 8, LAKEWOOD 1
1339 Thu 14-Aug-2014 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 8, Hagerstown 0, 6 inn, rain
1375 Wed 15-Apr-2015 South Atlantic A Greensboro 7, LAKEWOOD 2
1400 Mon 10-Aug-2015 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 5, Greensboro 4, 12 inn
1459 Mon 13-Jun-2016 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 5, Hagerstown 0
1487 Thu 18-Aug-2016 South Atlantic A Hickory 4, LAKEWOOD 2
1514 Wed 7-Sep-2016 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 6, Hagerstown 1
1522 Thu 15-Sep-2016 South Atlantic A Rome 2, LAKEWOOD 0
1544 Sat 15-Apr-2017 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 3, Greensboro 1, night
1582 Tue 15-Aug-2017 South Atlantic A LAKEWOOD 2, Kannapolis 1
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This page updated 15-Aug-2017