Professional baseball is returning to Sussex County for the first time since the Sussex Skyhawks suspended operations after the 2010 season.
The new team, which will be known as the Sussex County Miners, announced today that Steve Shirley will be its first manager.
“I wanted someone who had experience in the dugout, who had a good track record and who’d won a championship,” Miners General Manager Dave Chase told New Jersey Herald reporter Carl Barbati.
Shirley has managed the Sioux Falls Canaries in the independent American Association for the last eight years, winning a championship in 2008 and twice earning honors as the league’s manager of the year. In 2014, the Canaries finished with a 33-67 record, the worst in franchise history, and he was let go after the season on Sept. 4.
The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Shirley in the second round of the 1974 amateur draft. He spent 15 years in professional baseball, appearing out of the bullpen in 11 games for the 1982 Dodgers and pitching for the Lotte Orions in Japan’s Pacific League in 1983 and 1984.
(A note for baseball card collectors and autograph seekers: while Shirley has appeared on a number of minor league cards as a player and manager, his only major league card is in the 1990 Target Dodgers regional set – card #732.)
The Miners will play at Skylands Stadium, which had been known as Skylands Park until last year. Located in Augusta, New Jersey, off of US Route 206, the field was originally home to the New Jersey Cardinals, an affiliated team that played in the New York – Penn League from 1994-2005. The Skyhawks, a member of the independent Can-Am League, called the field home from 2006-2010.
The Miners are also members of the Can-Am League, which currently includes five other teams: the New Jersey Jackals, the Rockland Boulders, and three teams based in Canada. League rules require at least a quarter of the roster to be filled by players with less than one year of professional experience and limit teams to no more than four “veterans” (players with six or more years of professional experience.)
Few players with major league experience are attracted to the league, which features play that’s roughly on-par with what you’d see in a short-season Single-A league in affiliated baseball. If you enjoy spending your summer nights watching baseball and live near Skylands Stadium (or another Can-Am League ballpark), I’d recommend looking into season tickets or a ticket plan.
I’d like to go see the Miners or the Jackals sometime this summer, since I’ve never been to Yogi Berra Stadium and last went to Skylands Park in 1994 when some features – like the visiting team’s radio booth – were still under construction. But the trip to Yogi Berra Stadium has been on my “wouldn’t it be nice to…” list for several years, and I would not be surprised if these two Can-Am League parks fail to make it into my summer plans again in 2015.
Are you excited about the Sussex County Miners?
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