The last few weeks, I had free time to catch up with some places not too far from my home base. Even though they are roughly an hour away, it’s been 10 years or so since I last visited and returning helps as I update reviews to a new format. First up was a trip to Newark for a Devils game at the Prudential Center. This really is a nice building, from the classy exterior design to the spacious concourses. Inside looks good, but I don’t like the upper side seating as they are so high and splitting them into two levels means a lot of obstructed seats (glass and railings). The biggest change that I saw was the atmosphere. I always found Devils games to be blah and maybe that stems back to the dull Meadowlands days when they played that boring, defensive style of hockey. Even at The Rock, there wasn’t much energy from the crowd in 2010. That changed big time during this visit as fans were vocal from the get go. Along with “Let’s Go Dev-ils”, the “You Suck!” after goals came with more force and it also would pop-up randomly at times. This is quite the vulgar place as I couldn’t believe how many times I heard F-bombs, not just walking by someone in the concourse, but shouted in the arena as well! There was a “F— the Rangers” chant and a take on the MSG whistle guy that finishes with “Rangers Suck, Flyers Swallow”. Jeez! C’mon there’s kids that come to games. How do you explain that to your 10-year old? On the PK, you’ll hear fans go “Kill…Kill….Kill”. At least I appreciated the David Putty homage where they spell out Devils.
A couple days later on a Saturday, it was a doubleheader. The first game was in Bridgewater to see the Somerset Patriots. Last time here, the Patriots were an Independent team in the Atlantic League. Now, they are in Eastern League as AA affiliates of the Yankees (switched from nearby Trenton). TD Bank Ballpark is a fairly standard ballpark built in the Northeast during the 1990s. So many of these are the same, brick and green with the same style interior. I didn’t spend long here as I had another game to get to, but saw all the runs of a 5-0 win for the home side. I left to get to Red Bull Arena early as I wanted to do a full tour of the building. This was the site of my first MLS game and even though I’ve been to five more, it still holds up very well as one of the best. Putting the luxury suites all on one side is a big win for me and a lot of the upper deck seating being very steep means an excellent perspective throughout the stadium. You may have heard what happened at this game. When it happened, nobody in the crowd (including myself) had any idea what was going on or why there was such a long wait. In retrospect, I should’ve realized, but live, it was a lot of standing around as we got restless not knowing the circumstances. Vanzeir makes me sick and so does Struber. Of lesser importance, there were 21 minutes of extra time added and it lead to an absurd “90 +17′” equalizer from the Red Bulls as the game ended 1-1. That dropped my head as I had $10 on San Jose at +400.
The final re-visit came last Saturday down in Lakewood. It was an interesting drive from North Jersey as I made my way through downpours and hail into a different world as the sky was kind of orange from a nearby brush fire. I mentioned that so many of these NJ-PA ballparks are all similar and this is no different. Same colors and shallow seating bowl, but the difference at ShoreTown Ballpark is “The Boardwalk”. Even though the Shore is 20-30 minutes away, that is understandably the theme here. Not a lot of baseball focus as you have boardwalk games, a huge outdoor bar and lifeguard chairs to give that feel like you’re along the beach. The season opener had a packed house, but this game only had 500-600 people on hand. It’s April, so I wasn’t expecting much. In the middle of summer (or on Thirsty Thursday) this is the place to be.
This recent stadium sprint will continue in a few weeks as I get a new one on the docket. A trip to Dunkin’ Park in Hartford will once again complete all of the Eastern League Ballparks for me. I’ve held off on visiting the State Capitol because I like to give new teams a 5 year grace period and see how much the fan support remains after the honeymoon wears off. Assuming the weather doesn’t cancel this trip, I’ll have a stadium review on the right, but won’t blog it. Instead, I’ll recap all of the Eastern League Ballparks as that will make the second league that I’ve seen every facility in.