What a way to end a baseball weekend: with the Lakewood BlueClaws on Sunday night! The previous day I spent nearly 9 hours up the road watching the Staten Island Yankees host the Vermont Lake Monsters in a double header. The second game was supposed to be a 7 inning game and took 15 for the Lake Monsters to earn the split. Because the game went to nearly 1am, the planned fireworks were cancelled. I got to my hotel around 1:40, and was up early Sunday to be in line to see Ellis Island by 8am, then headed to Lakewood, NJ to see the BlueClaws take on the Greensboro Grasshoppers. I was already dragging a bit when I pulled into the parking lot at FirstEnergy Park, but that didn’t last long. With a huge crowd in attendance, and the smell of great food and the anticipation of a great matchup between two South Atlantic League rivals, I got my energy back. And what a place to see a game! The fans were great, the food options were incredible, the fireworks were awesome, and we even had a little snafu after the top of the ninth that lead to a climactic bottom of the ninth. What more could I ask for?!?
The BlueClaws and FirstEnergy Park
First sign that tonight was going to be a lot of fun. Any team that has racing breakfast sandwiches is ok in my book!
The BlueClaws are the Single A affiliate of the Phillies, and have called Lakewood and FirstEnergy Field home since 2001. Prior to that, they were in Fayetteville, NC (as the Generals) and in Cape Fear (as the Crocs). Since moving to Lakewood, they’ve been one of the best draws in minor league baseball, and have already surpassed 6 million fans. Tonight was no exception, with a crowd of 10,011, one of their largest ever. FirstEnergy Park opened in 2001, and is one of the few ballparks (and the only one in NJ) that features a wrap around concourse in the outfield. Plenty of berm seating is available, and there’s a great little tiki bar out there. There’s something for everyone, and for the musically inclined, they even offer air guitar rentals!
The tiki bar menu.
A view from the tiki bar.
Waiting for that elusive home run ball!
High security required for the free air guitars.
Is it a fair pole or a fowl pole?
They have a VERY well stocked fan shop!
One of three championship trophies from their South Atlantic League play.
Next time I am getting this!
OMG, the food!
I can honestly say I have never seen so many food options than those at FirstEnergy Park! Fried candy bars, fried Oreos, fried cookie dough, brats with onions and peppers, gourmet burgers, pork rolls, sushi, teriyaki chicken, subs & sloppys, and a bistro with bbq, rib rolls, and even a shrimp advocado salad! And yes, even a healthy food stand! I think I will go on a two day fast prior to coming here next time!
First time I have seen the Rocky Mountains lit up like this.
In the end, I went with teriyaki chicken and sushi from Mr. Miyagi’s. It was amazing! Never had sushi at a game before, but there’s a first time for everything! And one of these days, for the first time, I am going to try fried cookie dough. Next time!!
I do love the triple header peanut shells!
The BlueClaws did a great job with their entertainment between innings. I am kind of glad they didn’t repeat the dizzy bat race (been there, done that!). They had a couple of mascot races, including the eyeballs (kinda freaky but very fun!), and the race between the breakfast sandwich pieces was pretty good too!! They also had a “build the sandwich” game as well as a race between three boys to fill buckets with colored tennis balls. Overall, very innovative with their entertainment and not intrusive at all!
The egg wins with the breakfast sandwich race!
They eye ball race was a photo finish! Don’t blink!
Collecting tennis balls race.
Buster was very excited when the lights finally came back on in the middle of the 9th (more on that in a bit).
To quote “A Tale of Two Cities” it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Great plays were made throughout the game, including the decisive ninth inning, when Grasshoppers’ second baseman Justin Twine made two terrific plays to rob Lakewood hitters reaching base. Prior to that, BlueClaws LF Zach Sullivan barely missed a homerun to left field, bouncing off the top of the wall and the Hoppers’ DH Wilson Garcia ended up at second base. A throwing error by BlueClaws starting pitcher Tyler Gilbet in the third led to another run for the Grasshoppers. But overall, a fine defensive game between both teams!
Gilbert’s throwing error in the third leading to a Grasshoppers run.
Garcia doubles off the wall and the Grasshoppers just miss the ball!
Grasshopper’s Twine makes one of his two defensive gems in the ninth.
Hopper’s Aaron Blanton tags out Jose Pujols.
Other game photos:
Some cotton candy skies over the ballpark!
Thrilling conclusion – lights out!
In the top of the ninth, the Grasshoppers went down 1-2-3 and up by a score of 4-3. Immediately after the third out, the stadium lights went black and video started on the scoreboard. Whoah!! What about the bottom of the ninth?? There was a 23 minute delay to get the lights back on, but sadly for the home team, great plays by Hoppers’ Twine left the home town fans going home empty with a 4-3 loss in a well fought game.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at FirstEnergy Field. All the fans around me were very polite and in tune with the game. The food was awesome, and there were way too many choices! My only regret is that next Saturday, July 9th, it’s CATurday in the park. Had I known, I would have waited and brought my cat, Spot, to the park. OK, well, maybe not. In any case, it capped of a great weekend, and the BlueClaws are definitely a team to visit in the future!
Me thinks there’s foul play afoot……
Maybe the BlueClaws will have to play some old fashioned shadow ball in the ninth?
Bottom of the ninth and I saw my all time favorite rally cap!
The BlueClaws put on a fantastic fireworks show after the game. After the disappointment of the previous night in Staten Island, with no fireworks due to the game ending late, I was ready for a good show. Lakewood did not disappoint! However, as any amateur or professional photographer will tell you, shooting fireworks is very tricky, especially without a tripod! Hopefully a few of these will give you an indication of how awesome the show was!