ShoreTown Ballpark – Jersey Shore BlueClaws
Photos by Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
ShoreTown Ballpark 2 Stadium Way Lakewood, NJ 08701
Year Opened: 2001
Down the Shore Everything’s Alright
The Jersey Shore Blue Claws baseball team plays their home games at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, New Jersey. The team is the High-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies and underwent a couple of key changes this past offseason (2020). One was a name change from Lakewood to Jersey Shore and the other was a change in the league from the South Atlantic League in Low-A to High-A East due to minor league’s realignment.
The Blue Claws were founded in 2001 and have showcased some of the Phillies premier prospects over the years including Cole Hamels and Rhys Hoskins. FirstEnergy Park holds 6,588 fans plus additional space on the grass in the outfield and offers a truly unique game day experience.
Food & Beverage 3
FirstEnergy Park has numerous concession stands serving both food and drink. The main stands are the Coors Light Food Courts located on the left and right field lines. Food is divided into entrees and snacks/sides. A hot dog costs $5, a burger costs $7, and a veggie burger costs $8. Offerings also include Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese (a local shore favorite) for $7 and chicken tenders and fries for $10. Sides include $6 onion rings, $5 popcorn and peanuts, and Cracker Jack for $4. Drinks are served at the food court as well as separate stands that serve alcohol and an ice cream stand for the kids. Ice cream comes in both cup ($6) and sundae ($8) form and has chocolate, orange, and vanilla flavors.
Local breweries Toms River Brewing and Pinelands Brewing Company are represented with a stand on the concourse behind home plate. The sandbar in left field is another option for adult beverages. An alcohol stand in right field offers Coors and Miller for $7 and Corona, Blue Moon, and White Claw for $8. Coca-Cola is the stadium’s main soda and is served for $5 at the food court. Concession stands accept both cash and credit/debit. I tried the chicken fingers with fries and they were very good, not chewy or hard, well cooked, and the fries were crispy and tasty.
Whether named Lakewood or Jersey Shore, the Blue Claws have an unmatched atmosphere. FirstEnergy Park is laid out like most minor league stadiums, obviously way larger than a high school field but nowhere near as big as a major league park. Reserved seating is available along the left and right field lines and behind home plate. The outfield is a grassy area where people are welcome to sit. There are also fire pits in the outfield and oversized beach chairs where people of all ages can sit, although kids get more of a kick out of those than adults. Premium seats are located on the second deck. Everything is visible from any seat in the stadium; there are no seats that are obstructed. Any seat is prime foul ball territory as well, so bring a glove. One deficiency is that free WiFi isn’t available at the park.
The Blue Claws mascot is Buster, a Philly Phanatic-inspired character that is of an unknown species. Despite his undefined genus, Buster elicits responses from kids that are akin to a Beatles concert in 1964, meaning they go absolutely bonkers for him. The PA announcer at the stadium has a clear voice and isn’t over the top; he doe his job without making a clown of himself. Music played between innings is classic rock. It is interesting to note that rap and country are not played at all despite being oft-played at other sporting venues. After weekend games live music is played in the Sand Bar in left field and special promotions include musical chairs to Dead tunes and the classic pork roll, egg, and cheese eyeball races.
In terms of seating, there isn’t a bad seat in the house for a night game. However, for a day game, it may be better to sit further up due to the lack of cover from a second deck on most of the seats.
FirstEnergy Park is located in a fast developing corner of an increasingly overdeveloped town of Lakewood, New Jersey. Once a secluded resort amongst the pines, Lakewood has become a haven for the Orthodox Jewish community in the last twenty years. The stadium complex now features three office buildings, and across Route 528 a new housing complex and shopping malls have cropped up including a QuickChek convenience store.
The night of the game Stadium Journey attended, downtown Lakewood was a ghost town due to it being the day of Shabbat or sabbath in the Jewish faith. That being said, it’s not like Lakewood is a hub of nightlife any other day of the week. Lakewood is a heavily religious community and excessive hedonism is not in the cards.
However, the allure of attending a Blue Claws game is proximity to the shore. Blue Claws games take place in the summer and the summer population at the shore is swelled due to an influx of tourists from both the New York and Philadelphia metro areas. Attractions, entertainment, and food near Lakewood all fall to the communities on the shore like Belmar, Seaside Heights, and Asbury Park, which are all twenty or more miles away. Asbury Park features the legendary concert venue the Stone Pony as well as trendy restaurants like Porta and the Robinson Ale House. Six Flags Great Adventure is in neighboring Jackson, also about 15 minutes from the ballpark.
In terms of hotel accommodations, there is a Hilton Garden Inn located on Route 70 in Lakewood, and a Ramada further down 70 in Toms River. Hotels are way more common at the shore with bed and breakfasts, motels, and upscale hotels like the Asbury in Asbury Park.
The Jersey Shore Blue Claws have led the South Atlantic League in attendance almost every season since their inception. The game attended by Stadium Journey was packed, but a majority of the fans were deadheads, acolytes of the legendary rock band the Grateful Dead, at the game for the sole reason of listening to Dead cover band Splintered Sunlight. There was a large cluster of fans in left field at the concert who were not seated in their assigned seats watching the game. That being said, I’ve been to Blue Claws games in the past where the stands were full and fans were loud throughout the entire game, so this game was an anomaly and not the norm.
FirstEnergy Park is very accessible both in terms of getting to the stadium and moving around the stadium once inside. In terms of mass transit, the stadium is accessible by car from both major cities of New York and Philadelphia, it is a mere five minutes from the Garden State Parkway. However, the stadium isn’t on one of NJ Transit’s train lines. Technically the nearest airport to the park is the Lakewood Municipal Airport but the park is less than an hour away from Newark and Atlantic City airports, as well as a little over an hour away from Philadelphia International Airport as well as JFK and LaGuardia in New York. Parking options are immense and parking costs a mere $5.
There was a line to get in before the game to get it but it moved extremely fast. Tickets can be bought online or in-person before the game and tickets are scanned both on phones and with hard copies. People with bags are subjected to a bag check as they enter the stadium.
The concourse is crowded and concession lines are long at times but moved quickly and efficiently. The main concourse has a view of the playing field and features numerous sections of handicap-accessible seating as well as handicap-accessible parking spaces.
Return on Investment 4
When you attend a Jersey Shore Blue Claws game, you are getting your money’s worth. The in-game entertainment, game atmosphere, and hospitality are well worth the price of admission. Reserved seats cost $16 each in advance and $18 on the day of the game, Diamond Deck club seating is $35 in advance and $40 the day of the game and private outfield fire pits are $90. $10 for chicken fingers or $5 for a hot dog is nothing compared to other college and professional stadiums. Programs are fully online and aren’t sold at the game.
FirstEnergy Park features a nine-hole mini golf course in right field and a kids zone in center field with carnival style games like basketball for prizes, and a “test your pitch velocity” game. There is a bearded ticket taker in a red shirt with the name tag “Santa Claws.” The Claws Cove, a merchandise shop behind home plate sells jerseys, bats, and a plush of the team mascot, Buster. There is the retired number of former Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels in center field. The club wears Grateful Dead theme tie-dye jerseys. The friendly staff and ushers make an effort to make visitors feel welcome.
Bruce Springsteen once said “Down the Shore Everything’s Alright,” and the same can be said about the experience at a Jersey Shore Blue Claws game. If you’re visiting the shore for a week, a day, or the summer, be sure to catch a game in Lakewood.