Provident Bank Park in Pomona, N.Y., has the advantage of being the newest stadium in the area. But the home of the Rockland Boulders also has some character, features that you don’t see everywhere. There’s a center field bridge just like Citi Field and there are old school outfield bleachers. There’s a field level bar just inside the left field foul pole and in right field as well “The Short Porch.” Another bar sits on the roof on the third base side. The scoreboard is major league caliber with state of the art video. There’s a spacious children’s playground, not just a bounce house squeezed onto the concourse, and plenty of parking all around the stadium.
Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton and TD Bank Ballpark in Somerset are solid runners-up in this category and while they are both great places to see a ballgame these two stadiums are a little more of the cookie- cutter variety and don’t have as many unique features as Rockland.
Best Stadium Food
The choices at TD Bank Ballpark in Somerset rival even the newest major league stadiums. There is a build your own burger bar, a burrito stand that also offers dry rub barbeque and a sausage stand. (Unfortunately they serve Premio sausage which is crap, but they seem to have completely cornered the local sports venue market.) There is a healthy choices section with items like salads and turkey burgers in addition to the traditional ballpark standards. For dessert there is an ice cream parlor and a stand to get freshly-made funnel cakes. There is also a nice little bar along the third base side that has a pretty good beer selection. The Patriots have a ton of people working there so there are no lines. In Somerset everybody eats, nobody waits.
Trenton is a solid runner up with Chickie & Pete’s, the Waterfront Grille and barbeque in left field.
Best Name for a Stadium
Most of these parks are named after banks. The New Jersey Jackals stadium is named after Yogi. No contest! Yogi Berra Stadium, Little Falls, N.J.
Most Idyllic Setting for a Ballpark
I didn’t enjoy my trip this year to Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island. Maybe they just don’t do day games well. When I got there the parking lot was full which is understandable since the lot also serves the Staten Island Ferry. What is not understandable was the three slugs who manned the parking lot gate who kept their back turned and ignored the cars looking for a place to park. So I drove around and eventually found a 2-hour meter spot that was 15 minutes away, meaning I had about 90 minutes to watch the game. Since it was an 11 a.m. start I was planning to have lunch at the ballpark but the concession stands were so overwhelmed that I would have spent at least half of my 90 minutes waiting on line.
But take a look at what you see when you look out toward center field. Does it get any better than that?
There are a couple of solid runners up in this category. MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, in on the ocean in Coney Island and the Camden Rivershark’s Campbell’s Field in tucked under the Ben Franklin Bridge. Both are beautiful settings.
Best Baseball Team
The Atlantic League plays a split season. In the first half, the Somerset Patriots had a 67% winning percentage and finished 6.5 games ahead of the Long Island Ducks who were themselves 40-29. Second half same story. As of this writing the Patriots are 24-16, 6 games up on the Ducks. Only issue to be settled is which team gets sacrificed to the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. I saw about 12 different minor league teams from 4 leagues this year and I don’t think any of them could beat the Patriots in a series.
Lifetime Achievement Award
The Trenton Thunder are the gold standard for minor league baseball in the NY/NJ area and have been since they were founded. The Thunder is the team that ushered in the modern era of minor league baseball in this area. Before the Thunder opened play at what was then called Waterfront Park in Trenton in 1994, there was no minor league baseball in the area since a short-lived double A team in Jersey City in 1977-78. Before that the last minor league team folded up in 1961.
Soon after the Trenton team got started there would be teams in Frankford (Sussex County), Newark, Little Falls, Atlantic City, Somerset, Camden, Lakewood, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Pomona. Some have dropped off, some are thriving and some are fighting to survive. But during their 20 years, with three different major league affiliations but with consistent ownership, the Thunder have provided a first rate fan experience and have kept the ballpark full of people. If you ever plan to get involved in operating a minor league sports franchise, go spend some time in Trenton. Nobody does it better.