The Courier Post Reports: Riversharks mark Opening Night
CAMDEN — Celebrating his big 7th birthday, Richard Chandler was living large at the Riversharks home opener on Wednesday, joining the team in pregame introductions on the field and, by the bottom of the first inning, playing in the Fun Zone behind the Camden bullpen with relief pitchers so close by, he could touch them.
Wearing his maroon Berlin Township Little League game shirt and hat, the athletic Chandler smiled while shooting basketballs outside the right field line, only about half the distance between first and second base from the playing field here below the Ben Franklin Bridge.
For the young Chandler, he was enjoying himself so much you might have thought he was across the Delaware River on this overcast night at the Phillies-Mets game at Citizens Bank Park. Not even a light drizzle from the skies above could dampen his happiness.
His mother, though, was smiling just as wide and was just as happy as her son.
“I love it; they encompass everything,” Dawn Chandler of West Berlin said about her first visit to cozy Campbell’s Field. “There is entertainment for the children and my husband (Joel) in the stands watching the game and it’s affordable.”
Indeed, everyone was having a good time.
And, this is precisely the fail-proof formula of fun Chandler described – with her son able to play and fool around, with her husband able to watch quality Atlantic League professional baseball and with everyone able to go home with money still left in their pockets – that the Riversharks have been providing for 12 seasons now on the riverfront in Camden.
“Our baseball is really good, too,” said General manager Adam Lorber. “But people enjoy our Fun Zone, rock climbing wall, the fireworks ...”
The entire entertainment package drew about 4,000 fans a game last season in the award-winning 6,500 seat stadium.
The Riversharks sold 5,865 tickets for the opener against Lancaster, a game in which the Riversharks lost 15-5.
In addition to the regular season games, the Riversharks will also host the 2012 Atlantic League All-Star game on July 11 as well as the Ron Jaworski “Jaws Youth Playbook” celebrity softball game earlier that evening.
In their Delightful Dozen Year home opener against Lancaster, the Riversharks provided plenty of pregame pomp with New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno throwing out the first pitch while the Collingswood and Westmont fire departments presented the colors as the Rosa Middle School of Cherry Hill played the National Anthem.
“It is kind of fun, it is nice to get out and do something new and to show our talent,” said Ian McClellan, a sixth grader at Rosa.
The Riversharks manage to squeeze as much local color and charm as possible into each game.
Before the home opener, the Clearview Middle School concert band played and the First United Methodist Church of Williamstown choir sang America the Beautiful.
“It is a lot of fun here,” said Robbie McMurray, an 8th grader at Clearview Middle. “It is nice small games with a small amount of people and we are all here to have a good time.”
Keeping fans and family in touch with area baseball, the Riversharks boast some former South Jersey standouts on the team - pitcher Billy Rice and catcher Shea Harris, both of Washington Township and pitcher Joe D’Alessandro of Glassboro.
The Riversharks also claim a handful of former Major League players on the current roster, including outfielder Felix Pie, who played for the Orioles last year. Meanwhile, manager Jeff Scott was the scouting director of the Cardinals when St. Louis drafted Albert Pujols and bench coach Ron Karkovice, a first-round pick of the White Sox in 1982, caught Wilson Alvarez’s no hitter for Chicago in 1991 against the Orioles.
And, Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, who threw a no- hitter last week against the Twins, was with the Riversharks in 2005 while negotiating with the Angles. He was scheduled to pitch against these very same Lancaster Barnstormers, on the field for this opener, but a deal was reached with the Angels before his Riversharks’ debut.
But, seeing a former or future major leaguer isn’t why young Richard Chandler came to Campbell’s Field on his birthday.
“I like getting food,” he said, “and being happy.”