At Yogi Berra Stadium, It’s A Brand New Ball Game – Press Room - ϲʿ¼ State University

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At Yogi Berra Stadium, It’s a Brand New Ball Game

Ceremonial first pitch ushers in new era for Red Hawk Athletics and partnership between ϲʿ¼ and NJIT

Posted in: Homepage News, University

Men in black-and-red ϲʿ¼ baseball uniforms walk onto a field.
Red Hawk baseball players walk out onto the field at Yogi Berra Stadium with ϲʿ¼ State President Jonathan Koppell, a scene reminiscent of the classic baseball movie, “Field of Dreams.” (Photo by John J. LaRosa)

Red Hawk baseball is off to a this season at Yogi Berra Stadium, but as ϲʿ¼ State University President Jonathan Koppell was warming up to throw a ceremonial first pitch, temperatures were quickly dropping. Fans bundled in blankets as Koppell and the team emerged from the bullpen onto their field of dreams – the upgraded turf that’s part of a $5.3 million renovation that was being celebrated on Friday, March 22 as a .

The stadium is now home field for both ϲʿ¼ and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), which partnered on the stadium upgrades. Built just over 25 years ago along with the , the complex honors the legendary New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who called ϲʿ¼ home. 

“I worked at Yogi Berra Stadium for a decade and it has been such a special place for so many and a ballpark where many of my core memories have been created,” says Billy Pinckney ’24, who started a career in sports communications as a batboy for the New Jersey Jackals, the minor league team that played there for years before their move to Paterson in 2023.

An aerial view of the new turf field at Yogi Berra Stadium.
An aerial view of the new turf field at Yogi Berra Stadium. (Photo by Paul McGroarty).

“It’s incredibly exciting to see the renovations at Yogi Berra Stadium and understand the kind of impact it will have on the players,” adds Pinckney, who was among the alumni and students in the stands on the unseasonably cold Friday afternoon to see the with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the bullpen, Matt Shuhet played a game of catch, tossing the ball and chatting with President Koppell, who was warming up before the ceremonial first pitch. 

“The renovations at Yogi are beyond our expectations,” says Shuhet, a junior Business major. “The new playing surface as well as professional-level bullpens and cages, and all the new additions, truly make the stadium feel like a professional ballpark.” 

ѴDzԳٳ’s Capital Planning and Project Management team brought the vision for improvements to life. During spring break, while the Red Hawk players were away on a winning-streak trip to California, Project Manager Adam McGuire provided a behind-the-scenes tour, pointing out the upgrades in electric and technology, the new energy-saving LED lights that make a significant impact on the stadium’s environmental footprint while meeting the high standards for Division I NJIT to broadcast on ESPN+.

In addition to the new turf, McGuire’s list of upgrades continues: pitch counter, dugout to bullpen phone, outfield wall replacement, new storage building, new bullpens and batting cages, new scoreboard and signage celebrating ѴDzԳٳ’s three National Champion teams (1987, 1993, 2000). 

“What we have now is one of the nicest facilities on the East Coast and in college baseball,” says Head Coach Dave Lorber. “We’re very fortunate every day to call it our home.”

Players tour a locker room.
At the locker room reveal, Head Coach Dave Lorber, far left, welcomes the team as they enter for the first time ahead of the 2024 season. Lorber had a hand in its design, wanting to ensure that the student athletes have a comfortable place to bond, to do homework and have fun.  (Photo by Mike Peters)
Players smile and talk in the dugout.
Players relax in the upgraded dugout between games of the March 22 double-header. According to Coach Lorber, the renovations enhance recruiting efforts in-state and nationally for players seeking an excellent student-athlete experience. (Photo by John J. LaRosa)

 

 

“The beautiful enhancements and upgrades throughout this iconic stadium would not have been possible without the contributions of NJIT,” Koppell says. “We are grateful for their partnership, and are so excited about the opportunities that exist for both schools to use this space in a wide variety of ways that benefit everyone.”

Feliciano School of Business students are helping run The Hill, a newly renovated concession area this season at Yogi Berra Stadium, as a capstone project for the Hospitality and Tourism department senior seminar course. The name, the result of market research conducted by Feliciano students, makes the connection between Yogi Berra’s boyhood neighborhood in St. Louis and the elevated Red Hawks perch for the stadium and campus.

The red, black and gray logo for The Hill at Yogi Berra Stadium shaped like home plate.
Stadium food and drink at The Hill will feature a rotating roster of local businesses – the first weekend featuring ϲʿ¼ Brewery and Señor Tacos of Bridgewater – to provide students experiences in community engagement, operating and promoting community partnerships through stadium concessions, says Associate Hospitality and Tourism Professor Josh Lupinek.

All the stadium enhancements will position the facility as a location capable of hosting conference and NCAA baseball tournaments as well as other high-profile events, making it a year-round facility that will serve the baseball teams, all students and the community at large.

The Red Hawks won two more games over the weekend, bolstering their record to 16-3. “These incredible facilities encourage us all to play at an equally high level. As a team we hold ourselves to very high standards and this new field feels as though it matches the caliber of play we are capable of,” says pitcher Mike Timberlake, a sophomore Biochemistry major. 

“We’re finding ways to win, it’s not always easy but the team plays the game hard, they care, they care about each other and they’re fun to be around,” Lorber says. 

“I’m hopeful that we can continue playing good baseball and we’ll see where it goes. I know that the surrounding community is hungry to be back at Yogi Berra Stadium … We’re not the Yankees, but we can pretend,” Lorber jokes. “You know, we’ve got great pinstripes.”

Photo Gallery:

An autographed baseball with the field in the background.
Players autographed the 2024 Presidential First Pitch baseball.
Three people sit in the stands with blankets.
It felt more like football weather than spring baseball, with fans bundled in blankets, hats and gloves for the stadium renovation celebration. Pitcher Christian Addotta’s parents and grandfather were in the stands, from left, Allison and Michael Addotta and Frank Colonna.
A man with a baseball mitt and cap as he pitches the ball..
ϲʿ¼ President Jonathan Koppell throws the ceremonial first pitch.

 

Jonathan Koppell and Sam Angelo
Red Hawk Sam Angelo, right, has extended his year-long on-base streak to 44 consecutive games. A team leader, he caught the ceremonial first pitch from President Koppell.

 

Men shake hands in the stands.
Alumni and former players with President Koppell, from left, John Szabo ’88, James Downing ’68, Buddy VanPelt ’67, and Anthony Abrantes ’04. Szabo and Abrantes continue to give back to the University. Abrantes serves as a University trustee and Szabo sits on the advisory board of the College of Science and Mathematics.

 

A group of five people in coats hold cans of beer.
Hospitality, Sports, Events and Tourism majors are learning how to run the concessions, assisting on March 22 with a local microbrew in a pop-up taproom. From left are senior Luis Torres; Associate Professor Josh Lupinek; senior Jenna Antonucci; Denise Ford Sawadogo, general manager of ϲʿ¼ Brewery; and senior Dante Christoforatos.

 

Three men inside the Señor Tacos food truck
Traditional street style tacos were on the menu of the Señor Tacos food truck, which will return for several  weekend home games. Additional community partners scheduled this spring at The Hill are Double Tap Brewing, Four City Brewing Company, Newark Local Beer, and Seven Tribesman Brewery for beverage as well as Ann’s Catering, Chick-fil-A, JJ’s Hotdogs, Mezoco Catering, Silantro Lime Tacos, Tony Boy’s Sandwich House and Viva Birria Tacos for food. Students from the Feliciano School of Business will facilitate their visits to campus and assist with cross-promotional activities.

 

 

 

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photo Gallery by John J. LaRosa.

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