Rivalries Carry On In 2023 - Sussex County Miners
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Rivalries Carry On In 2023

Rivalries Carry On In 2023


 Last year, the Miners did not face their biggest rival, the New Jersey Jackals, until the 40th game of the season on July 1. This year, they’ll meet in Game 7 on May 19. That’s just one of this year’s scheduling twists to look forward to as Sussex County’s season opener on May 12 draws closer and closer.

     When the Miners 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 the Miners were travelling to new, exotic sites like Avon, Ohio and Crestwood, Illinois and Florence, Kentucky.

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

     Last year, the Miners and Jackals 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 the Jackals new home at Hinchliffe Stadium, in Paterson, and three at Skylands. Last year, the Miners went 5-6 against the Miners, including the nine-inning no-hitter tossed by New Jersey’s Jorge Tavarez to knock Sussex out of playoff contention on the final weekend of the season.

     There are only three games on the league’s “early” opening night this year 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. 

The Miners open the season the following night 12 hours out of town in the Chicago suburb of Joliet facing the Slammers. After a three-game series there, the locals turn around and come right back to Augusta for their home opener on Tuesday night, May 16, hosting the Tri-City ValleyCats.

     — Much of last year’s schedule against West Division opponents is directly reversed: Last year, the Miners played three away games at Windy City and at Gateway; this year those are both home series. Last year, Schaumburg and Evansville came to Skylands, this year, the Miners go to them.

— The Miners will play 48 games at home and 48 away. Last year, they played 12 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 nine games, including the last three games on the schedule. Overall, Sussex County will play 69 games against fellow East Division rivals and 27 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 to Miners games played under a full moon?  

June 3, Full Strawberry Moon: Saturday night in Pomona, NY, playing second of three-game series against the New York Boulders.

July 3, Full Buck Moon: Rare Monday night game visiting the New Jersey Jackals at Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson. The following night – the Fourth of July – the two Garden State teams will face off on a fireworks night back at Skylands.

Aug. 1, Full Sturgeon Moon: Tuesday night, again in Paterson, again playing the Jackals.

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 Miners will be playing a Wednesday night road game against the Tri-City ValleyCats in Troy, NY … 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. The regular season ended Sept. 3 with a Sunday afternoon game hosting the Empire State Greys. League playoffs began Sept. 5 and concluded Sept. 17 at the latest.

FAMILIAR FACES: When the Miners play their first home game of the year on Tuesday night, May 16, they’ll see two familiar faces in the visitors’ dugout. 

     That night’s guests, the ValleyCats, recently signed 27-year-old free agent Trey Hair, the power-hitting second baseman who played 94 games for the Miners in 2019 and another 15 games for Sussex in 2021, when he signed a midseason contract with the big-league Texas Rangers and headed for the High-A Hickory Crawdads.

     Last year, Hair appeared in 64 games for the Rangers’ Double-A Frisco RoughRiders in the Texas League, batting .244 with 17 home runs, 14 doubles and 51 RBI. He turns 28 on April 21 and he’ll be reuniting in the infield with shortstop Cito Culver, another former Miner.

     And, speaking of birthdays, the Valley Cats’ new pitching coach, Brooks Carey, just celebrated his 67th this past Sunday, joining the Tri-City staff of manager Pete Incaviglia after managing the Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium for the past four seasons. Always popular with players and fans, Carey had been a lefty pitcher selected out of Florida State by the Baltimore Orioles in the 10th round of the 1978 draft.


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