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A Gem In Camden

seanavatar – Sean Selby

Now that we have finally thawed out from the long winter, we can get to enjoy being outdoors, and what better way to do so than by taking in a baseball game. The smell of funnel cake and popcorn fill the air and the sounds of the gloves popping serenade your ears. Once the first batter steps onto the freshly laid chalk and into the batter’s box, you settle in and watch the boys of summer play the game they love. All of this … for just a few dollars.

What? Only a few dollars? No, I’m not living in the past, I am talking about a family friendly, up close and personal ballpark in Camden, home of the River Sharks.

Last night, Ron and I attended the home opener, which marks the 15th anniversary  of the franchise. The River Sharks are a club in the Atlantic League, an independent league which features rosters of ball players who have spent time with MLB clubs.

The stadium, Campbell’s Field is located right on the bank of the Delaware River in Camden, NJ. It is a beautiful ballpark that features a fantastic backdrop as the Ben Franklin Bridge, which connects Philadelphia and New Jersey, hovers over the outfield wall. The stadium seats 6,425 and has plenty of activities for the entire family. There is a carousel along the left field concourse, as well as face painting stands, a very popular funnel cake stand, and the Bullpen Bar, which is along the 1st base concourse for the big kids. Tickets are extremely reasonable and you are close to the action.

The 2015 RiverSharks are managed by Chris Widger, who is in his first year at the helm. Widger was a member of the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox in 2005 and now Widger is hoping to bring Camden it’s first Atlantic League championship. Widger spoke about his new role after his first home opener, “We’re learning as we go, I mean, I like the on field stuff,  that stuff comes easier for me…” He continued about the changes to his routine, “signing guys, having to release guys, dealing with agents, it’s not stuff I don’t want to do, but I like the on-field stuff, working against the other manager.”

The team features Ryan Strieby , a 6’5” 235 lb righty who has major pop in his bat, and Jeremy Barfield, the team’s cleanup hitter, a 6’5” 220lb outfielder who previously spent time with the Oakland A’s organization.

Other players that may help the club are first baseman Joel Guzman, a former major leaguer (LA Dodgers), and last night’s starting pitcher, Ryan Kulik, a native of Marlton, NJ. Kulik, a lefthander, pitched a strong home opener going 6 1/3 innings, giving up 7 hits but only one run which led the  Riversharks to a win over the Bridgeport Bluefish 6-2. RiverSharks catcher Jose Gil brought in the game’s first run. The second inning with an RBI single scoring Jose Guzman. After Bridgeport tied it up at 1-1, Gil brought two more across the plate after he hit a double to left, putting the Riversharks up 3-1 in the fourth inning. The game had controversy as well when centerfeilder Michael Rockett made a diving catch, was originally called a trap, but after an umpire meeting, was called a catch. The play seemed to take the wind out of the sails for Bridgeport as they fell apart following the call.

If you want a cheap, yet just as entertaining alternative to the Phillies, take a short trip over the bridge and check out this team. We had a blast there, and you will too.

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