Mascot Jack the Jackal helps keep young fans entertained at the New Jersey Jackals home games.
Courtesy of Brandon Koodish

by Andrew Garda

You don’t have to go New York to have a good time at the ballpark. Baseball fans in Montclair and surrounding towns have their own baseball team right in their backyard. That team, the New Jersey Jackals, beat the Dominican Republic in a wild 8-5 game on Thursday, June 16, at Yogi Berra Stadium.

The win, which featured nine runs in two and a half innings and multiple home runs by both teams, was a back and forth affair with both teams taking the lead several times.

The Jackals play in the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball, which consists of eight teams from the United States, Canada, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. While the league is unaffiliated with Major League baseball, some Jackals have either left to head to the majors — such as former reliever Craig Breslow who played for the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, among other teams — or were MLP players who played for a time after an injury, as former Washington Nationals pitcher Matt Chico did in 2012.

Even players who never get a chance in the big leagues still put on some fireworks, as evidenced during the series against the Dominican Republic team, which saw 54 runs scored over three games.

New Jersey came down on the winning side of that series, sweeping a struggling Dominican Republic team before heading to Canada to face the Quebec Capitales over the weekend. The Jackals won two out of three during that series and if the 34 runs scored didn’t quite reach the heights of the previous series, it was still plenty of scoring.

Jackals games are a family-friendly affair, with a bouncy castle and other entertainment for kids in right field. The food is good, but cheap, and at $12 to $14 each, tickets won’t break your family budget.

Spending that little at a major league ballpark would put you pretty far away from the field, while the money you spend to get into a Jackals game will let you hear the chatter on the field no matter where you sit.

That intimacy is a big part of why minor league baseball is a draw for families and baseball fans alike. Yogi Berra Stadium definitely has that, and the players are happy to linger and give fans — especially younger ones — a handshake, picture or autograph. There are also things like T-shirt cannons, footraces and trivia games to provide a little extra something for the fans. Their mascot, Jack the Jackal, constantly makes his way through the stands, high-fiving college students, kids and parents alike and trying to get the crowd fired up.

This week sees the Jackals back home in Yogi Berra Stadium for a three-game series against the Rockland Boulders before welcoming Cuba for a four-game series beginning on Thursday, June 22.

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