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New Jersey baseball: Still plenty of attractions

Camden RiversharksIt was a hard 2015 for some New Jersey ballparks, with open facilities in Camden, Newark and Atlantic City — but there’s still plenty of baseball in the Garden State, and fans have lots of solid choices when it comes to great ballpark experiences.

The departure of the Camden Riversharks (independent; Atlantic League) leaves a hole at Campbell’s Field, where the team set up shop for the last 15 years. Campbell’s Field is a pretty ballpark at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge, and while the team struggled at times, it did capture a loyal following who appreciated affordable baseball. Though there have been efforts by the ballpark owner, the Camden County Improvement Authority, to bring in another team, those efforts have fallen short, and right now no affiliated or independent team move is on the horizon.

The same goes for two vacant former pro venues in the state, where Newark’s Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium and Atlantic City’s Surf Stadium will host only smaller events like college baseball this spring. An attempt to reach an agreement with an operator who wants to operate youth tournaments at Surf Stadium is still under negotiation.

This doesn’t mean pro baseball is totally dead in the Garden State — quite the opposite. The Trenton Thunder (Class AA; Eastern League) remains one of the best draws in Minor League Baseball, and a game there is always an event. The Lakewood BlueClaws pace the Low-A South Atlantic League in attendance at FirstEnergy Stadium. We have three New Jersey-based teams in independent leagues: the Somerset Patriots, New Jersey Jackals and the Sussex County Miners. The Patriots are a great draw at TD Bank Ballpark, where passionate fans catapulted the ballpark to the winning indy facility in our Best of the Ballparks voting. The Jackals play at Yogi Berra Stadium, and a trip there should be combined with a trip to the adjoining Yogi Berra Museum. Dave Chase and crew pulled off a successful revival of baseball at Skylands Stadium in 2015, with more on tap for 2016. And, of course, there’s plenty of baseball action in adjoining states, ranging from the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees to minor-league teams like the Staten Island Yankees (short season A; NY-Penn League) and the Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A; Carolina League). So don’t let the negative news about a few ballparks get to you — there’s a lot of great baseball on tap for 2016.

RELATED STORIES: New Britain replaces Camden in AtL lineup; Camden Riversharks close up shop; Camden in the midst of baseball intrigue

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