Sunday, July 5, 2015

Day 6.1: New Jersey Jackals: They're Not Just the Residents, They're Also a Baseball Team

As any of you who have tried this know, getting a car into and out of New York City is a pain in the ass on par with two root canals while being chased by a bear. So while we were only about 30 miles from Pat's place after last night's Rockland Boulders game in Pomona/Ramapo (an ongoing debate), NY, we elected to a get a hotel west of the Hudson ahead of more NYC-area games today.

Our original plan had been to futz around NYC and then drive to the Hudson Valley Renegades for a night game, but now we needed to figure out what to do with a nearly-full day of our newfound outside-NYC time. We consulted our SJIV Scheduling Matrix and noticed a convenient 1105a start for the New Jersey Jackals in Little Falls (not Little Rock, which threw Zach for about 10 minutes...thanks, Ben) an easy 35-minute drive from our hotel. Much better than yesterday's 6-hour grind. So on to the Jackals we went...

Highlights and Lowlights:

1. It's the second example we've come across of one of our favorite stadium designs: the Amphitheater-style where you enter at the top and walk down to all the seats and the field. The only other place we've seen this is the Hickory Crawdads, where the stadium was very clearly just dug out of the side of a hill. We like things that turn typical baseball on its head, so we're big fans of this stadium design.
"Please come with us, down into the Belly of the Jackal." This is what their ushers should say to all fans at the gate.

2. The walk-down design also combines with the relatively-green surrounding area to give the park a hidden feel, even this close to a lot of industrial cities. The dumptrucks actively constructing behind the outfield fence admittedly cut a bit of the ambiance, though.

3. The team plays at Yogi Berra Stadium. There's also a museum to the old coot nearby.
Pretty much the only Yankee we don't mind seeing shit named after.

4. Speaking of team homes, the visitors were the Garden State Grays, whose home is...well, they're actually homeless. They're a road-only team that helps to fill in holes in the other Can Am teams' schedules. They just started playing a few days ago, though; during the first half of the season their function was filled by an all-star independent team from Japan. We have never heard of this structure before and it's cool as hell! We're really regretting missing the Shikoku Island all-stars. 

5. Unlike those jingoist Rockland Boulders, the Jackals recognize the first part of their league name by displaying what's probably called "Old Maple" loud and proud.
The Can Am League. Counterpoint: U-S-A! U-S-A!

6. It was a weekday day game during the summer, which means lots of campers. On the plus side, all the campers seemed to be from camps run by local police forces, so they were all heavily-guarded. Apparently this wasn't just a police camp-heavy day, either; this is typical. New Jersey has at least one thing figured out.

7. While we're still sort of on stadium design features, there was a nice unused grill and picnic area. Zach would love to spend a summer day being the grillmaster and using that outfield picnic area to its fullest potential.

Complete with Tiki Bar, because...Jersey?

8. The stadium's single luxury box. Unused for today's game. As baseball egalitarians we appreciate the lack of ultra-rich seating.

And there he sat, alone in his tower, overlooking the fields of joyous fans and underpaid serfs...

9. The visitors' bullpen was very clearly just bulldozed out of the side of a hill. Dirt walls and all.
How very...pastoral.

10. The girl making my homemade lemonade squeezed half a lemon, then dumped in some ice, and sugar, and water. And then shoved the plastic cup into a large paper Pepsi cup, making the first bootleg cocktail shaker I've ever seen. Frankly it could've used a few more shakes to mix properly, but I'm not sure its structural integrity would allow that. 10/10 for creativity, though.

11. The stadium had yet another small net. Are we just being more observant this trip? It was fairly short and only ran out about 1.5 seat sections on either side.

12. Also, the dugouts were again at field level and unprotected by any fence, but their positioning was not nearly as safe as Pawtucket (closer in, and not as much space back of home plate). Still, nobody got hurt by a foul today, so maybe (read: certainly) the designers know better than us.
That's one way to keep your players paying attention.

13.  Yet another TOOTBLAN! Dude, if you're gonna be aggressive and go for the double you gotta slide into 2nd. No reason to be out on that play.

14. The park's dimensions were the smallest we can remember seeing in awhile. 398' to dead center, 308' at the foul poles. That's shorter than the right field Short Porch from last night's Boulders game (312').

15. A kid near us was bragging to his friends about how he gets "at least two balls [thrown to me] at every real baseball game." Fuck you, kid, until last night's home run none of your Scrappy Journeymen in nearly 90 years has ever gotten a foul ball or home run. Fuck kids, seriously. Of course the little turd was wearing a Jeter shirt to complete the picture, too. Fuck Li'l Jeets, man.

16. The Jackals must really hate their interns. In the middle of the game, on a 3-run homer - excuse me, a "Jackal Jack!" - they shot confetti. Onto the field. Steamers and bits of paper. The 1st base umpire shook his head disapprovingly, but apparently this is a regular thing they started doing this year. They had to clear the field of streamers before the next play.

We were not expecting this, and so our pictures of the aftermath after we realized what was happening kind of suck. We were really disappointed we couldn't get another home run to get an action shot of it, but rest assured the field was rainbow-colored in the aftermath. Anyway, this is an awesome idea and all other teams should start doing it! Carnivals and obstacles on the field are two things we can get behind.

If you zoom in you might be able to make out some of the rainbow aftermath.

17. Probably the coolest thing about this particular game was that since we deliberately sat away from the campers and the stadium was otherwise nearly deserted, the game was very audible. We could hear bits of the players talking with each other or the umps ("Noooo way" from the batter on a low 3rd strike call), slamming helmets after bat at-bats, and chatting about plays in the field.

They also talked a lot with the first base umpire. We were sitting so close we could make out much of what he said, and there was a lot. He liked to talk with everybody - players, base coaches, the other umpires. Very friendly fellow, obviously. At various times we thought we heard him discussing with players and coaches his co-ump's strike zone, the fielding percentages of various players on the field, and so on. He was sometimes gregarious, sometimes very just...explanatory. "That was a foul," was said simply, with no roar or insistence, on a foul fly to right. He was also helpful in warning the crowd of fouls: "Watch out! Heads up!" whenever one headed into the stands. Appreciate it, Blue!

The gem of the night was definitely said to the near-dugout: "Can I get a first base coach?" Out trots a first base coach, who had been persistently late the whole game to the point that we wondered if the Grays had a first base coach. "Thanks, Louie."

18. The home plate ump was spectacular and PUMPED. Even with a fuller stadium we would have no trouble hearing the "STEEEEE-HAH!" for strike two, or the popping "HAH!" and K-punch for a looking strikeout. But in such a quiet stadium today, it was truly spectacular. MVP, home plate Blue (we think we heard your name is Tim). You should have a future, man.

Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Price of Beer: 5.5/10 points. $6.75/24 oz of good craft stuff, $6.50 for the same amount of swill. Not bad, Jackals. Not bad.

Most Caloric Concession Item: 5/10 points. Fried Milky Way. Oh baby, yes, that's some minor league-quality food.

Pat refused to partake, saying the one he had like 6 years ago at the Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo was still with him.

Minor League Personalities: 2/10 points. Again, it was a weekday day game, so pretty much all we saw were campers and families. We'll give the campers the LL team points.

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats: 0/10 points. We (apparently) have readers in Myanmar, don't you know who we are?

Tailgating: 0/10 points. 1105a start, not much chance for points here.

Funniest Roster Name: 7/10 points. Another stop with a lot of competition! There was the Vike-tacular Mark Threlkeld. The improperly pronounced Kale (KAHL-ay) Sumner. The nonsense complete sentence Carl Thomore. The tragically unpaired Joel Rosencrance. But we'll have to give it to the probably-too-old-to-be-named-after-the-NBA-star Victor LeBron. At least he won something this year...

Promotion Quality: 7/10 points. There was no special promo today, but they do have quite a few on the schedule, we just weren't anticipating coming to this team. More importantly, the Jackals had some interesting variations on typical contests. Instead of the tug-of-war, they strapped two kids together with a rope and had them run at max speed in opposite directions; we've seen this before, but it's less common and much more dangerous and hilarious.

They challenged some adults to flip plastic "burgers" from the dugout roof onto a grill on the field in an effort to, we think, win said grill. Neither was successful, but the contest was entertaining and unique.

The typical race was between ketchup, mustard, and hot dog. The three interns engaged in some amusing horseplay, knocking each other down and such before arriving just short of the finish line at the same time, stopping, and...deciding to settle it all with a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors instead. We had never seen this before. It was hysterical. Way to make a hackneyed thing cool again, interns. Also, Ketchup was racing for our side of the field, and he heard my heckle-threat. He lost anyway.

They also let a small child "Tackle the Jackal." The announcer had to really encourage her to attack him. It was...kinda of awesome. We always support inciting children to violence.

Crowd: 4/10 points. It's a day game, so the crowd was small. They were kids, so they were disinterested. But they were nowhere near as irritating as camp day at Rancho Cucamonga last year, so that's worth some points. We attribute this to all of them being from camps run by police.

Men’s Room: 0/10 points. Even Inde-pro ball has disappointed us this year.

Bonus Points: +5 for amphitheater design and other park features, +1 for Yogi Berra Stadium, +1 for hosting a homeless team, +1 for Canadian flag, +1 for bullpen dug out of hill, +2 for improvised cocktail shaker, +1 for micronet, +1 for dangerous dugouts, +2 for really short park at the edges, -2 for Li'l Jeets, +4 for confetti upon homer, +3 for chatty first base ump, +2 for enthusiastic home plate ump,

Summary: 52.5 points on our totally arbitrary scale. It's always kinda hard to rate a park on a day game, but that's all we can write about for these guys. An amphitheater park is always worth a stop, and that plus the confetti alone lead us to recommend dropping in for a Jackals game if you're in the area. We believe they'll generally have more enthusiastic crowds and less children, but really, the quiet stadium was cool, too, if for no other reason than being able to listen to the umpires! 7/10.

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