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Newark USA

A fotojournal about LIVING in Newark USA, New Jersey's largest and most cultured city, by the author of the foto-essay website RESURGENCE CITY: Newark USA.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bears' Home-Game Season Opener

Long post, some 2,500 words, with 32 fotos.

The Newark Bears minor-league professional baseball team has its season-opening home game this evening at 7:05pm, followed by fireworks. The last game I attended was the home opener in May 2011, from which I show pix today.

There were mounted policemen to provide security and atmosfere.

Kids esp. liked the horsies, but I'm pretty fond of horsies myself. At least my older sister and I took horseback riding lessons in the Leonardo section of Middletown Township (Monmouth County) when we lived there in the mid-1950s. But the last time I went horseback riding was in the Breckenridge area of Colorado in the early 80s (I think). I don't know that I can ride anymore, after my knee surgeries, or if the bowing (bóe.wing) around the horse would cause problems.

There are, in any case, no riding stables in Newark, so I don't have to test. Horseback riding in one or more of our major parks is something for the city's boosters to think about: for-rent horses and a bridle path. Anything that can distinguish Newark, in a good way, from other cities in the region would help us promote tourism.

Also outside the Stadium were this police motorcycle and boat.

A man dressed as Batman was also in attendance. This foto shows him with some NPD officers. (A gentleman I met that day took this foto and sent it to me. I told him I would credit him, but don't know what I did with that email, so don't have the name to show. If he sees this, I ask him to contact me so I can give him that credit. For the time being, I am copyrighting it in my name to preserve a copyright, and will change that notice to show his name once I hear from him.)

Foto courtesy of and © L. Craig Schoonmaker 2013.

I showed other pix of Batman, and the Batmobile, on November 3, 2011.
Gaetano treated me to the game, and we met outside Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, which is between Broad Street and McCarter Highway, by the Passaic River.

That 2011 home opener was in the morning, so the festivities were presumably much more elaborate than they will be tonite.

Several Newark Public Schools bused kids in (note the familiar yellow school buses above), presumably for free admission. That at once gave the kids a treat, worked to give them a feeling of connection to the team (so the Bears might build a loyal following among the young), and gave the stands a more-occupied look than they would otherwise have. Attendance at Bears games has been miserable for years, and the current owners just don't seem to know how to bring more fans to the Stadium. Part of it has to do with the fact that this minor league is independent, and has no "farm teams" from major-league franchises. Still, the current league has an interesting geograffic spread: Rockland [NYState] Boulders, Québec [City] Les Capitales, Trois-Rivières [Province of Québec] Aigles, Grand Prairie [Texas] Airhogs, Laredo [Texas] Lemurs, New Jersey Jackals [Little Falls], Wichita [Kansas] Wingnuts, Fargo-Moorhead [North Dakota] RedHawks, and Amarillo [Texas] Sox. (I thought the absence of a color before "Sox" odd — until I realized that "amarillo" is a color: yellow, in Spanish.)

I don't understand, frankly, why Newarkers feel so little attachment to the Bears and spend so little time in that splendid Stadium, with its great, green lawn and terrific views of near-in skyscrapers. I have had a number of emails from Frank McCree, a frequent reader who has provided some statistics to indicate how bad things are as regards attendance at the Stadium, and I plan to address that issue soon.

Before the game began (in 2011), the schoolkids were allowed to go down onto the field and see things from a perspective they would not otherwise get.

Gaetano and I did not test whether adults could also go down onto the field.

The Stadium is in the northern portion of the Downtown Broad Street corridor, the area to which the IDT building is central. This foto shows the Gateway Center area, which is separated from the Stadium area by a stretch of parks and low-rise buildings. Note the gray drawbridge that carries trains over the Passaic River from Newark Penn Station eastward.

In this picture, you can see some of the kids, but also the picnic-style tables at which you can eat the refreshments available from various concessions while not missing a minute of the game. I have eaten there, and it is exceeding pleasant.

While the kids were wandering, groundskeepers tended to last-minute preparations for the game. Here, some mechanical device supplements the manual work of another man.

And here, the man hoses down the exposed ground (to hold down dust?).

You can see the magnificent results of the great care these groundsmen provide. This vast lawn contrasts with the highrise buildings of the Downtown business district's southern (Gateway) area, at left, and northern (IDT) area, right (did I really have to say "right"? or did my mention of "left" before, compel the conclusion that the second area mentioned was at the right? Is "right" really redundant, superfluous, or annoying, or just reassuring? These are issues that writers must contend with all the time. Do we say too much and annoy people for essentially repeating ourselves? Or is a certan amount of repetition actually essential?). Few ballparks have so close-in a setting to a major city.

Unfortunately, not all parts of the Stadium are as well tended as the lawn. Here you can see that letters are missing from the names of two Newark players who went on to the major leagues, Ray Dandridge and Larry Doby. I am told that those letters are still missing, two years after I took the foto below. Why?

Numerous local public officials took to the infield (mostly in business clothes, not team uniforms), including the two most important, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and Newark's Mayor Cory Booker (you can decide for yourself who is more important).

Booker did wear a (modified?) Bears 'jersey' top rather than jacket, but his dress shirt and tie were under it.

Booker graciously agreed to pose for pix with fans.

Various reporters, fotografers, and videografers were in attendance.

Note the blue-gray drawbridge in the background, which carries traffic on Interstate 280 over the Passaic River.

Among the fotografers was Gary Barat (like "Barrett"), a principal of the Barat Foundation, which uses the arts to help bring out the best in young people. I introduced Gaetano and Gary, then Gary went on his way to take more pix.

Sidebar. I learned by email notice from the Foundation yesterday that Gary's wife, Chandri, and dauter Athena, were (jointly?) awarded the honor of "Garden State Woman of the Year 2013" by the Women's Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation, in a ceremony in the Fairleigh Dickinson Mansion May 15th. Congrats!
The Foundation recently installed two sea-lion "Animodules" at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange to celebrate the return of sea lions to the Zoo. At the dedication of those animodules, Chandri (Executive Director of the Foundation), was, alas, fotograffed with Governor Christie. I suppose avoiding such a thing is hard in such a circumstance, but I wouldn't want to be seen in a picture with Christie. "Animodules" are explained at a slitely out-of-date webpage at the Barat Foundation's website, which refers to the third year of the Arts Parade, when that Parade has marched for four years. Regular readers of this blog will have seen many pictures of animodules, in the Parade, in Washington Park, in Barat Foundation HQ, and other places. Now there are two on permanent(?) display in the Turtle Back Zoo. I must get there sometime.

In the foto above you can see the relaxed sort-of uniforms that at least some Newark schools now require. I highly disapprove of school uniforms and the regimentation they bespeak, but many people argue that they keep kids from imposing on their families to spend outlandish amounts on expensive clothes and shoes, and work to minimize robbery of students by people eager to relieve them of their fancy shoes.

Here, the Newark Fire Department had an information/recruiting table. I have great respect for firemen, and the NFD is a fully professional department that works out of a number of historic firehouses of distinguished architecture. The Newark Museum includes a Fire Museum in a small building separate from the main Museum, alongside the sculpture garden. Each June, Washington Street from Central Avenue to Broad Street is closed for an "Antique Fire Apparatus, Muster and Parade" that draws equipment from numerous fire departments and private owners from all over North and Central Jersey. I showed the 44th annual event here on July 9, 2011. The 46th is to take place on Sunday, June 2nd, 12 noon-3pm. In 2011, the NJ Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held at NJPAC on the same day as the Fire Muster, so that was a very good time to be in Downtown Newark, which is largely deserted on Sunday afternoon, even in fine weather. This year, however, the June 8th induction ceremony was canceled because of a government reorganization, which seems odd, in that I thought the HoF was a private organization.

The fence around the ballfield has, in more prosperous times, been lined with ads. Now, the space where no ads appear is covered by brick-patterned paper. Perhaps when the economy recovers fully, large areas that now look like a brick wall will instead be plastered over with advertisements. Is that an improvement?

Here is the Bears' dugout. You can see some of the players and their understated uniforms that year. I think there was more red in prior years' uniforms.

Cheerleaders and entertainers perform on the roof of the Bears' dugout, facing the crowd. I suppose that produces some racket over the players, but don't know how well insulated against sound that roof is. The noise is, in any case, part of the excitement of the game, and may help the players stay 'up' for the game.

Here is a closer view of some of the performers.

During breaks, cheerleaders, some very young, did routines close to the crowd on the grass alongside the path to first base.

Bears games are more than baseball games. There are occasional breaks in the action in which things like hobby-horse and sumo-costumed races take place to engage the children. I find that to be somewhere between charming and so-cute!, not all deadly-earnest athletic competition by paid combatants.

Park admission is only $10. And for that, several nites per season, you get fireworks! (I took this foto after a game in May 2007 of the fireworks over the scoreboard area.)

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