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Minor League All-Star game block party brings baseball enthusiasts, families

Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 12:00 AM     Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 6:58 PM

CAMDEN — Franklin Township residents Mike and Tonya Shanko were wearing their matching Sand Gnats T-shirts as they stood in front of a moon bounce, watching the group of kids they brought with them to Campbell’s Field jump and play.

The Shankos brought as many members of their son’s t-ball team as possible to Camden early Wednesday afternoon so they could experience the full effect of the activities taking place at the field.

Before the 2012 Atlantic League All-Star game on Wednesday evening, the field hosted a massive block party full of fun and games for both kids and adults. The game featured players from the Camden Riversharks, Bridgeport Bluefish, Lancaster Barnstormers, Long Island Ducks, Somerset Patriots, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Sugar Land Skeeters and the York Revolution.

“It’s a good value for kids and families,” Mike Shanko said. “You get to see real baseball and it’s a good afternoon.”

With music blaring, kids participated in a hula-hoop contest and played on multiple moon bounce houses as well as a giant inflatable slide.

For Mt. Laurel resident Lillian Linnen who brought her two great-grandchildren, Isaiah, 6, and Imani, 8, the block party was the perfect way to get the kids out of the house to enjoy themselves on a day that wasn’t quite as hot as others this summer.

“For the children, it gets them out of the house, out from the computer,” she said, while Imani, whose face was painted like a tiger, was having a blast spinning four hoops to victory in the hula-hoop contest. “Block parties bring people together.”

Also before the all-star game could begin, a celebrity softball game took place on the field pitting former Phillies players like Larry Bowa, Michael Markann, and Steve Carlton, against local sports legends like Ron Jaworski, Ike Reese, Vai Sikahema and Mike Mamula.

“I want to see Jaworski playing baseball,” Audubon resident Pete Speakman said of the former Eagles quarterback.

The celebrity game —which benefited the Jaws Youth Playbook and Kisses for Kyle charities — were a chance for parents and grandparents who brought their kids to the game to see the legends of their own youth.

“They’re interested in seeing some of the older players, but that’s more for me,” Shanko said of his t-ball team.

Wednesday’s activities prior to the all-star game were also an attempt to get more people interested in minor league baseball. And, according to the fans who showed up, the sport can be even more entertaining than its major league counterpart.

“It’s good, cheap entertainment. You can afford to come here,” Rob Parks, of Paulsboro, said.

For Dave Urban, who traveled to Camden from Blue Bell, Pa., to meet his brother-in-law for the game, minor league baseball is the way to go.

“It’s a real value. It’s just hard to afford a major league baseball game,” he said.

Contact Rebecca Forand at rforand@southjerseymedia.com.

Read the full article here.


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