Jerry Izenberg of the Star Ledger reports that on numerous occasions the New York Mets, using their territorial rights, blocked a move that would have allowed the New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton Wilkes-barre Yankees, to play at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium in Newark for the 2012 season, while their own ballpark was undergoing renovations. This is an absolute must read for Newark Bears fans.
Izenberg explains that the Mets feared that the Yankees move to Newark would have deterred fans from going to games at Citi Field and describes the deal as "stone cold dead" and points out that Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo thanked the Yankees and General Manager Brian Cashman for their consideration.
I'm actually at a lose of words right now. Seriously, what a season 2012 could have been, even if it would have been for a lone year. It's no secret that attendance at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium hasn't been up to par, so to speak, over past seasons. A team stocked with top major-league ready prospects would have been like revisiting the early 20th century when future Yankees roamed the fields in Newark and could have potentially opened the door for other affiliates to move into the area. Unfortunately, like the Newark Bears of old it appears that any chance of that happening is history.
According to the Can-Am League transaction wire, the Newark Bears have picked up contract options on a total of 14 players for the 2012 season. Of course things will likely change down the road, but it gives you somewhat of an idea idea as to the direction the team is headed moving forward.
Looking back over the past few seasons, it appears that only a few of the players whose options are picked up generally return to their ball club the following year so this is by no means a guarantee that these players will return to the Den. Keep in mind also that the Sussex Skyhawks exercised contract options on a number of their players for the 2011 season, a year in which they didn't even operate.
Below is a list of the Bears players who have had their contracts picked up for the 2012 season:
C Billy Alvino (.305/.391/.386)
C Eric McGee (.276/.329/.513)
INF Paddy Matera (.292/.378/.396)
INF Ryan Walsh (.292/.360/.412)
OF Burt Reynolds (.232/.291/.445)
OF Caleb Stewart (.281/.397/.561)
SP Alex Smith (10-3, 3.39 ERA, 56 SO)
SP Brian Parker(0-3, 3.33 ERA, 22 SO)
RP Matt Fitton (0-1, 3.43 ERA, 31 SO)
RP Kyle Morrison (3-4, 6.02 ERA, 67 SO)
RP Pedro Rivera (0-2, 11.85 ERA, 8 SO)
RP Chris Rollins (3-2, 3.72 ERA, 30 SO)
RP Anthony Pluta (2-2, 3.63 ERA, 39 SO)
CP Mikey Mehlich (1-4, 3.29 ERA, 29 SO)
As the tenth anniversary has come and passed it is worth noting that at one time the Twin Towers were the focal point of the outfield at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium; treating spectators to a gorgeous view. Sadly, that all changed on September 11, 2001 when hijackers flew bringing the towers down; killing thousands of innocent Americans in the process.
Ten years later Victor Rojas, former Bears general manager and current Los Angeles Angels broadcaster, offered a brief account on what is was like to watch the horror unfold from inside Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium on his Facebook page:
Howard Herman of the Berkshire Eagle wrote a rather discouraging article about the Pittsfield Colonials franchise on Tuesday. According to Herman, Can-Am League officials and owners will meet on October 3 to discuss, among other things, the future of the Colonials franchise and whether or not they can still be a viable franchise.
The story quotes league commissioner Miles Wolf as saying "If you can't pay the piper, you can't dance," and notes that the league covered the team's freight expenses for the latter half of the 2011 season. Certainly not the words you want to hear from your commissioner. Herman's story is definitely an interesting read for any fan following the independent leagues.
Pure speculation on my part here, but I'm guessing we'll likely see a six-team league next year with the New York Federals dropping out as well. Losing the Federals isn't a huge deal since they were a travel team pretty much used as schedule filler.
The Colonials, which is an extension of the Nashua Pride franchise, on the other hand, was a dominant force this year and was one of four teams to advance to the post-season this year. If they were to fold, it would be a pretty significant lose to the league in terms of competition.
In addition, the team fielded the Can-Am League rookie of the year, Patrick Moran, someone who if he is back in the league next year would certainly be a welcome addition to Newark's pitching staff which struggled down the stretch.
It's worth noting that there have been discussions about bringing back the Atlantic City Surf, but it's not immediately clear which league they if they do indeed play in 2012. In fact, when questioned by a fan; the individual manning the team's Facebook account admitted that even they weren't sure which League the team would compete in next year.
The good news is that the Bears intend to be back next season, which is certainly a sigh of relief after the past few years of questioning the team's future although plans can always change between now and Opening Day.
Quebec and Rockland did very well in terms of attendance this year (although in Rockland's case it's not fair to judge them purely on their inaugural season as team's almost always draw better when they're new).
Brockton (1,810), Worcester (1,782) and New Jersey (1,768) all did similar attendance figures. They were followed by the Bears who drew an average of 997 nightly. If there is any positive to take away from this season is that it seemed that Newark's attendance both on paper and in person picked up through the last two months of the season after new ownership came on-board.
Pittsfield, unfortunately, came in last place with only 845 per game. Believe it or not, their attendance figures actually improved this year as last season they averaged only 717 on a nightly basis, which is clearly not enough to sustain a professional team.
I think the Nashua/Pittsfield franchise is a prime example of what happens when teams simply just don't pan out. What started as a dream in Nashua turned south when the organization did not live up to financial expectations in the years that followed. Even a move to the less expensive Can-Am League in 2006 wasn't enough to drastically turn things around. I hope that new independent franchises, such as Rockland and Sugarland, do succeed in their respective leagues, but history does not offer a great deal of optimism.
As Herman notes that the team isn't officially dead just yet. If the team's current owners can find a new buyer, then there is a chance that baseball returns to Pittsfield in 2012; but I personally wouldn't hold my breath.
Today the Can-Am League announced this year's post-season All-Star team. Newark Bears outfielder Danny Santiesteban was the team's lone representative. In 362 at-bats throughout the 2011 campaign Santiesteban hit for a team-best .326 batting average , while clubbing 13 home runs and driving in 74 runs.
To view the other All-Star recipients check out the league's press release here
For more on Daryle Ward's final game in a Newark Bears uniform, check out my article for the South-Ward Patch here
Newark Bears center fielder Tim Raines Jr. bats against the Brockton Rox on Friday night, July 29: