After a long cold winter baseball returns to the Jersey Shore this weekend as the Lakewood BlueClaws bring the game back to First Energy Park.
The South Atlantic League Affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies started the year with games in Savannah and Greensboro and will welcome the Hagerstown Suns to town for three games before the Grasshoppers get another shot with three more games against the BlueClaws.
As they kick off the 14th season in Lakewood Opening Day will have a full slate of activities for the Thursday night game. It will also be the first Thirsty Thursday of the year with $1 beer and soda as well as 50 cent wings in the Coors Light WRAT Trap.
The Friday night series against the affiliate of the Washington Nationals will also be the first fireworks display of the season and the start of the first Dollar Weekend with tickets to games through Sunday costing just $1. Friday’s game will also be the unveiling of the team’s new alternate jersey that they will wear to end each week during the season.
When the team takes the field on Saturday they will celebrate the birthday of everyone’s favorite mascot Buster with the help of some of his friends. First pitch is set for 4:05 while Sunday’s game kicks off at 1:05. The first 2000 fans at Sunday’s game will get a free schedule cup and all kids will get a free hot dog, bag of chips and soda at all Sunday and Monday games.
As the local representatives of the Miami Marlins the Grasshoppers will jump into town starting on Monday for a three game set. Monday’s game starts at 6:35 and the first 2000 fans will receive a BlueClaws magnetic schedule. The schedules will also be available to the first 2000 fans on Tuesday, which is also the first Seniors Eat Free game of the year. The fans at Wednesday’s series finale will also get a chance to get a schedule to keep track of the team for the rest of the year.
Lakewood will make a short trip to Hagerstown to end the week before coming home on April 21 when they welcome the Charleston River Dogs to town before four more games with Savannah.
The team itself will have some new faces, some familiar faces and even a few local faces. After being selected in the first round of last year’s draft short stop JP Crawford will play for the Claws this year as will Toms River North grad Mark Leiter Jr. who looks to follow in the footsteps of his dad and uncle to the major league pitching mounds. Other top prospects starting the year in New Jersey are outfielder Carlos Tocci, third baseman Zach Green, outfielder Dylan Cozens and outfielder Larry Greene Jr.
Also making a return to the BlueClaws dugout this year is Manager Gregg Legg. This is Legg’s second stint with the team having guided them during the 2001 inaugural season. He had been the team’s hitting coach since 2008. He will be joined on the coaching staff by pitching coach Les Lancaster who spent last year with the BlueClaws and Coach Lino Connell who spent last year as the hitting coach with Williamsport. He also served as pitching coach for the local squad in 2012 making him another familiar face for local fans.
Fans coming to the ballpark will see some big changes to the stadium this year including a wide variety of new concession items. Some of the major additions include shaved ice, more barbecue choices and a stand called the BGR which will feature a selection of burgers of all shapes, sizes and ingredients.