RIVALRIES LIVE ON
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RIVALRIES LIVE ON

When the Jackals joined the biggest, most successful independent baseball league in the country in 2020, it was monumentally bad timing. The entire Frontier League season was wiped out because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

     The following year was much better, the show would go on in 2021, but with a limited schedule due to lingering virus issues regarding travel and group gatherings. Finally, last year, the 2022 campaign marked, as President Warren Harding used to say in 1920, “a return to normalcy,” and New Jersey was travelling to new, exotic sites like Evansville, Ind., and Florence, Ky., and Schaumburg, Ill.

     This year’s schedule continues the evolution and keeps key rivalries intact, but also brings some interesting twists.

     There are only three games on the league’s “early” opening night and just one in the East Division on Thursday, May 11, with the Jackals taking the 30-mile ride to Pomona, N.Y., to start a three-game series with the New York Boulders. After that, they’ll make a quick trip to Quebec to face the Capitales, then right back to Jersey to visit the Sussex County Miners at Skylands Stadium for a single game on Friday night before the home opener against those same Miners at Hinchliffe Stadium on fireworks-Saturday night, May 20, followed by a Sunday afternoon finale at Hinchliffe.

     And that’s just one of this year’s twists. Last year, the two Garden State teams didn’t meet until July 1, then they were scheduled to meet a total of 12 times, six at each home. (As it turned out, the final game of the year was cancelled.) This year, they start their rivalry much earlier, but they will face each other just nine times, six at Hinchliffe, three at Skylands. Last year, the Jackals went 6-5 against the Miners, including the nine-inning no-hitter tossed by Jorge Tavarez to knock Sussex out of playoff contention on the final weekend of the season.

— Much of last year’s schedule against West Division opponents is directly reversed: Last year, three away games in Evansville and Florence; this year, they’re home games. Last year, three home games with Joliet and Gateway; this year, they’re home games. Last year, three home games vs. Windy City and three away games with Schaumburg; this year, reverse the sites.

— Exactly the same as last year, the Jackals will play 51 home games and 45 away games. Last year, they played nine home games against the homeless and last-place Empire State Greys, who finished the season 6-90. This year, they’ll host the Greys for 12 games. Overall, New Jersey will play 66 games against fellow East Division rivals and 30 games against West Division teams.

— Monday, June 19, is Juneteenth, a national holiday decreed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in 2021, commemorating the proclamation of freedom for slaves in Texas in 1865 after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. There will only be one ballgame played on this year’s holiday: a rare Monday night game with the Jackals facing the Greys at Hinchliffe Stadium, one of the last ballparks in the U.S. that once hosted Negro Leagues games in the 1930s and 1940s.

  

THE OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC: Founded by Robert B. Thomas in 1792, this annual publication is a gold mine of information that is “useful with a pleasant degree of humor.” (It’s also a great little inexpensive gift each holiday season.) Among the many gems are the day-by-day monthly pages that show historic dates, astronomy and astrology dates, Mother Nature facts, high tides and phases of the moon, including, of course, full moons. When this 2023 baseball season is done, will we look back and see any kind of pattern?  

June 3, Full Strawberry Moon: Saturday night in Florence, Ky., playing second of three-game series against the Y’Alls.

July 3, Full Buck Moon: Rare Monday night game at home hosting Sussex County Miners.

Aug. 1, Full Sturgeon Moon: Tuesday night, again at home, again hosting the Miners.

Aug. 30, Blue Moon: Yes, like the old saying “once in a blue moon.” This occurs when there are two full moons within a month, which happens roughly once every 2-3 years. So, technically speaking, if you do something “once in a blue moon,” you do it once every two or three years. In this case, under this Blue Moon, the Jackals will be playing a Wednesday night home game against the Empire State Greys… Recent Blue Moons occurred Nov. 21, 2010; Aug. 20, 2013; May 21, 2016; May 18, 2019; and Aug. 22, 2021.

Sept. 29, Full Harvest Moon: No baseball tonight. Last home game of the year was Aug. 31; regular season ended Sept. 3 on the road against New York Boulders. League playoffs began Sept. 5 and concluded Sept. 17 at the latest.

IRISH EYES: On Saturday night, June 17, the Jackals will be 12 hours away from home at Ozinga Field, 40 miles southwest of Chicago in Crestwood, Ill., for a fireworks-night second game of a three-game series against the Windy City ThunderBolts. Earlier that week, they’ll be in Sauget, Ill., nearly 300 miles south of America’s Second City, for a three-game stand with the Gateway Grizzlies.

     There are two other Frontier League teams in the immediate Chicago area – the Schaumburg Boomers and the Joliet Slammers. The Jackals will travel to Joliet for a midweek series May 30-June 1, while the Boomers will come to visit Paterson July14-16, right after the league’s four-day all-star break.

     But, back to June 17: With the Jackals out of town, it might be the perfect night for a unique trip to Clover Stadium in Pomona, N.Y. The home of the New York Boulders, the ballpark that night will host a game between a team of NYPD officers known as the NY Finest Baseball Club and the Irish Wolfhounds, a team representing the Irish American Baseball Society. The game will take place before the regular-season Frontier League game between the Boulders and the Lake Erie Crushers on Irish Heritage Night at Clover Stadium.

By Carl Barbati, former sports editor of the New Jersey Herald, Daily Record and The Daily Trentonian.