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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In one of the more pleasant suburbs of Northeast New Jersey lies Yogi Berra Stadium, home of the New Jersey Jackals. The team has carved a nice little niche in the area as they have been playing since 1998 and cater to the many families that live in the populated area to the west of New York City. Four championships have been won by this Can-Am League franchise, though all of the titles were won when they played in a different league. Playing on the campus of Montclair State University, Yogi Berra Stadium may not have the most ideal location or most polished look to a stadium, but it is a fine facility that suits the Jackals and their fans quite well.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
An open-air concourse is the setting for the walkways around the ballpark and the food stands are on the sides. Though I was happy with the food options, not all the stands were open and apparently this is quite common. The typical items are all available here like hot dogs ($2.50), cheeseburgers ($4.50), and nachos ($3.50). Buffalo Strips and Veggie Burgers were nice choices, along with Sweet Potato Fries, an item that seems to be exploding in popularity. A couple of businesses from nearby Fairfield provided a local touch at the ballpark, thanks to Hollywood Pizza and Cricket Hill Brewery. A decent amount of beers were available, both of the domestic and imported variety and a pint was reasonably ranged from $3.50 to $4.50. Wine was also a surprising feature. Meanwhile, with so many kids usually at the game, Rita's Italian Ice and Applegate Farm Ice Cream should keep them happy.
Yogi Berra Stadium is built into a hill, so there is no impressive façade as fans make their approach and walk in. It does allow for a unique view as fans enter and look down on the field before taking the steps to the ballpark below. The layout is a fairly standard one-level design with a walkway in the middle. Most of the 3,784 seats are individual chairbacks, however the ends are bleachers with backs. A huge hill out along the right field side is only offered as a ticket when the bowl gets sold out; however, the team leaves it open for fans to sit or move there.
The scoreboard in the outfield is simple with just a box score, but needs some improvement as the lone graphics board consistently displayed the wrong batter at the plate. Several spots around the park have activities for kids. Walking around Yogi Berra Stadium, there is a lot of red, plus the team store and bathrooms feature logos and team colors. Given that the ballpark is shared with the Montclair State Redhawks, it still has the feel that it is the Jackals stadium.
The ballpark location in the back of Montclair State University's campus leads to a blah spot as the campus doesn't provide much of a setting. Outside of the University in surrounding Little Falls there are a few diners and restaurants with Six Brothers Diner the closest and probably the best option (given that the diner is very classic New Jersey). Otherwise, it is mostly residential around the school.
When compared with teams in similar independent leagues, the Jackals are a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of drawing fans to the ballpark. It is a very family-oriented atmosphere with lots of kids at the game. I attended a late morning start which featured mostly school groups, however even night games have mainly families. The promotional schedule has several group sleep-over nights. That doesn't mean there aren't any diehards as one superfan brings his trumpet, playing some occasional tunes at the game.
U.S. Route 46 is the main road to get to the ballpark and US 46 is easily accessible from major highways like Interstate 80 and the Garden State Parkway. Once off of US 46, Montclair State can be a bit of a challenge to navigate because of curvy campus roads and a couple one-way streets. Plus, the GS Parkway tends to struggle here. The best way to get to the facility is to use the Clove Road exit off of US 46. Follow that road to a left onto Yogi Berra Drive and that will lead you to the ballpark. Parking is plentiful, though recent construction has restricted the spots right near the stadium to Hall of Fame members. The general public uses the CarParc Diem Garage, which is a short walk away.
Bathrooms are easily accessible and have plenty of room and space.
Prices typical of a minor league experience can be found here with tickets going for $9 and $11. Add in the bonus of free parking and rather reasonable concession prices, the Jackals experience is a good deal.
With all this mention of Yogi Berra Stadium, there probably should be some explanation about the man whom the stadium is named for and the relationship with the stadium. The famous Yankee catcher has lived in nearby Montclair for decades and is a big part of this ballpark. To the right of the main entrance is an excellent museum that features Yogi memorabilia and displays (open Wednesday-Sunday from Noon to 5 PM, admission is $6).
The museum is also a Learning Center, something that Yogi actively partakes in. He is also a visitor to the ballpark and the suite that overlooks the stadium from the back of the museum is for him and other honored guests. The Yogi Berra Stadium and Learning Center helps to elevate the stadium experience from what is an otherwise ordinary, standard ballpark.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium & Arena Visits.
Member Review by ballparkreviews on Jul 07, 2013
Yogi Berra Stadium is starting to look a bit run-down. While it was the finest ballpark in the league when it first opened, that is no longer the case. Many of the seats have faded and it still maintains a rather unfinished feel. It is also not the most comfortable place to take in a game. Many of the seats are obstructed by metal railings or by other people's heads because the slope of the seating bowl is not steep enough. It also irks me that the team no longer offers scorecards of any kind. While the food offerings are decent and the park is easy enough to get to, it simply doesn't stack up to other nearby parks. That said, the Yogi Berra Museum, located adjacent to the park, is fantastic and well worth the admission price.
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