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Batter Up! Finally! Here we go!

It has been more than 600 days and counting since we've heard the crack of the bat, roar of the crowd and smells of hot dogs and funnel cakes at professional baseball parks around the Jersey Shore and New Jersey.

While delayed in 2021, baseball is back beginning next week and you'll be able to once again enjoy a day or night watching one great minor-league action.

After a long drought of not playing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Jersey Shore BlueClaws are among those teams ready to take the field again with everyone in the clubhouse, front office and around First Energy Park breathing easier that baseball is here again and that you'll be able to join in on the fun.

"We're super excited to have folks coming back," BlueClaws Team President Joe Ricciutti tells Shore Sports Network. "Our commitment has always been to provide family entertainment and good affordable fun to fans and business and folks of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and this year is no different."

What is different this season, are some new rules and regulations stemming from the pandemic.

You'll still be able to go enjoy a game but outside of sitting in your chair eating or drinking, the masks will have to be worn and social distancing will need to be adhered to at First Energy Park.

"It's a little bit of an inconvenience but it's also a momentary snapshot in time, this is for a short period and then before you know it things go back to normal again and the masks can go away and then we don't have to worry about them again, but for this season we will ask fans to make sure they do have their masks on," Ricciutti said.

Much of what you'll be able to see and do this season, will remain the same or close to it, like watching the ballgame and cheering on the team, having fun with family and friends, group outings and so forth but due to Covid restrictions, some things will be different with other activities remaining on ice in 2021.

You can still play mini-golf, you and the kids won't be able to hop in the bouncy house or other inflatable set-ups but boardwalk games will be set-up for you to play and try and win  a prize.

"We'll be doing fireworks throughout the summer, the boardwalk games and mini-golf will be open, there's plenty of food and beer throughout the concourse, the mascot Buster will be out doing what Buster does and keeping fans entertained and there's going to be tremendous baseball," Ricciutti said. "It's going to feel very much like a regular BlueClaws baseball game and the difference is largely going to be the capacity with the seating being spaced out in pods of 2's, 4's and 6's, so there'll be less capacity in seating but we will have added some additional capacity to the ballpark with table and chairs around the concourse."

Seating for a single game to start the season will be about 3,500 and with seats all spread out, there will be less, but it also means you won't be able to freely sit on the berms behind the outfield walls and have the kids roll down the hill like in the past, they will be assigned seats.

"We've actually segmented the berms into 8x8 and 6x6 squares so a family or a group can actually buy a 6x6 square which is great for up to 4 people and up to 6 people you get an 8x8," Ricciutti said.

Lines will be a little shorter getting into the ballpark by people buying tickets ahead of time and even inside the ballpark with people ordering their food and drinks on their mobile device.

"We encourage fans to get tickets in advance because of limited capacity," Ricciutti said. "We've spread out a lot of the food and beverage along the concourse so that we can minimize any opportunities for lines to build up at concession stands. We're also implementing mobile ordering this year, which is new, and that's so if a fan decides that 'I'm sitting in my seat and I want to get a hot dog and a soda, I don't actually have to go stand on the line to do it, I can just order from my phone and go to a mobile ordering pick-up station."

Here are some other rules, restrictions and protocols in place for the upcoming season the BlueClaws have implemented for health and safety.

  • Entrance Procedures: Gates will open 95 minutes prior to first pitch, 30 minutes earlier than in previous years. For example, gates will open to the general public at 5:30 pm for a 7:05 pm game. This will help spread out entry times for fans and limit time spent on lines. Season ticket holders with early entrance can still enter 30 minutes before the general public (5:00 pm for a 7:05 pm game).
  • Plaza and Gate Procedures: Fans will be spread out for entry at both the OceanFirst Bank Third Base Gate and the Toyota World of Lakewood First Base Gate with the appropriate signage and markers. Fans without tickets will flow through to the Box Office via a separate line from fans with tickets.
  • Seating Options: Fans with tickets in the seating bowl will be spread out in socially-distant pods in groups of two through six (each pod size at each game is subject to availability). Each pod will be at least six feet from any other seating pods. Additionally, fans will be able to purchase private picnic tables, high-top tables, and lawn pods that will be located around the expansive 360-degree concourse.
  • Mask Policy: Per Major League Baseball rules, masks are required for fans ages two and up at all times while in the facility except when eating or drinking in the fan’s assigned seating location.
  • Mobile Ticketing: Fans will be able to access their tickets on their mobile device by logging into their TicketReturn account at any time. Tickets can be shared via email and text as well.
  • Mobile Concession Ordering: Fans will have the option of ordering concession food via their mobile device. Additional details will be shared when available.
  • Concession Footprint: The BlueClaws will utilize the 360-degrees of the stadium concourse to best serve a variety of food and drink options for fan convenience and minimizing lines at the concession stands.
  • Vendors: Masked ballpark vendors will bring concession options to fans to limit the need to roam the stadium for food and drink.
  • General Sanitation: The ballpark will undergo a significant clean after each game, at the conclusion of each homestand, and again before the next homestand begins.
  • In-Game Procedures: The Clean Team will roam the ballpark throughout the game to sanitize areas that have been left vacant.
  • Restrooms: Restrooms will be consistently sanitized by the cleaning crew throughout each game. Every-other urinal in men’s rooms will be blocked off to ensure social distancing.
  • Hand Sanitizing Stations: Hand sanitizing stations will be set up throughout the concourse for fans.
  • Boardwalk Games and Mini Golf: Game pieces (such as rings for Ring Toss, darts from Balloon Darts, and clubs from the mini golf course) will be sanitized between uses.
  • Catch of the Day Game Program: The game program will go digital this year and fans will be able to read from their mobile devices.
  • Merchandise Options: The Claws Cove will be limited to 15 shoppers at any time. Fans will be able to arrange pick-up of items within the store of items ordered before the game if desired.

You can purchase tickets for all 2021 home games are now available online by clicking here.

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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