Sunday, May 29, 2005

Clawing Our Way To See The Bears

We went to see the Newark Bears play the Lancaster Barnstormers this afternoon at Newark's Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium. I have no idea what the "Eagles" in the stadium's name stands for.

I'd been to this park only once before, about four years ago to see the MetroStars play some sort of exhibition match against a team of local alleged all-stars. The pitch was laid out right across the baseball diamond, clay and all, and was one of those matches you leave saying, "I'll never go to one of these things again".

Because one of the Bears' selling points is the fact that you can get there easily by NJ Transit train from anywhere in the North Jersey area, we decided to try out a trip to Newark's Broad Street Station, which is only a few hundred yards away from the stadium.

When we arrived at the station, I marveled at the old-time feel of the station, especially compared to the new-school ambiance of recently built stations like the one in Secaucus. It reminded me a lot of the bigger Philly stations, all wood and plaster. My love affair with the trip ended sharply as we exited the station and headed toward the park.

It appeared that the entire expanse between the station and the park was under some sort of construction, but I'm not sure what, since there was no machinery or workers, only cordoned-off areas, lots of cones, half dug streets, and dirt everywhere. As we walked past a bus stop, a small group of people who looked like extras from Escape From New York were arguing with each other, particularly two guys who probably had 12 teeth and a combined blood alcohol content of .85 between them. As I whisked Kimberly safely past them, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a fight starting, and when I turned around, sure enough, the dynamic duo were throwing full swing punches at each other in front of the other bus stop lampers. Sadly, a family of four who were on the same train as us had to perform some fancy footwork to navigate through that gauntlet of drunken brawling to get to the game which I'm sure they, as we were, lead to believe would just be a fun train ride away. I'd loved to have heard the Dad's response to his seven-year-old's question of "Why is the guy with the dirty bandana and the giant bottle of beer beating up the skinny guy with the eyepatch and gold tooth?". At last look, one guy had actually knocked the other down in the middle of the street, as the rest of the spectators started to break it all up.

Because of the construction, all markings having to do with making the walk from the station to the park are gone, crosswalks included, so to make the short walk to the gate is like playing Frogger across a couple busy streets, with the added obstacle of avoiding the crackhead-types milling around for no apparent reason.

I had my camera with me, so you'd be seeing photos of this mess if it weren't for the fact that I'm sure I would have had it jacked if I took it out of my bag. And don't get me wrong...I'm no country bumpkin. I grew up in a Jersey inner-city, and spent a lot of time in my early adult years in the middle of Dinkins' "No-Man's Land" NYC...but I haven't seen a city scene like this in a lot of years. How the Bears get anyone to comeback to the stadium after that walk from the train is beyond me.

Once inside, the park was eerily empty, especially for a weekend doubleheader day...this shot was taken at the bottom of the second inning:

...but the lack of people in the park allowed me to upgrade my own seat low enough to take a shot like this:

The Bears won the first game, but we were so bummed with the super-quiet atmosphere, we split soon after to make the depressing 5 minute walk back to the station.

Oh yeah, the food sucked at the game too. A $3 super-average hot dog served by a surly woman with a mustache is definitely not state-of-the-art minor league ballpark cuisine these days. After having big fun with the Mudhens in Toledo and out at Shea in the past few weeks, this short trip couldn't have been more disappointing. It's gonna have to be "Free Tickets With Police Escort From The Train Station Night" before I go back there again.

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