Today is the 11th anniversary of the very first game played by the Lakewood BlueClaws and I was among those who was in Kannapolis, North Carolina for that historic occasion covering the opener for WOBM.

I don’t remember a lot of details as I flew to Charlotte, rented a car and drove to Kannapolis, which is best known as the home of NASCAR’s Earnhardt Family. As a matter of fact Dale Earnhardt had died at Daytona just a couple of months before the BlueClaws opener. He was a part owner of the Intimidators and I remember that there was a #3 car on display at the entrance to the ballpark.

The only other real memory I have of that game (BlueClaws lost 5-1) was a foul ball went into the stands by first base and hit a child (I believe) directly in the head.

The game was held up for about a half-hour as a helicopter landed beyond right field and the youngster was airlifted to a nearby hospital. I remember watching the TV news the next day and the injury was not serious.

It was really exciting and I called in live reports before the game and then did a recap the following morning before returning to New Jersey.

Who would have thought then that the BlueClaws would become one of minor league baseball’s most successful franchises, on and off the field?

Credit has to go to the ownership group headed up by Joe Finley and General Manager Geoff Brown, who has been in place since before ground was broken on FirstEnergy Park (which was originally GPU Energy Park).

The BlueClaws have won three South Atlantic League titles and sent some 40 players to the major leagues…or as they like to call it, “from the Shore to the show.”

It’s been a great show and let season number 12 begin!