Yankees Manager Joe Torre visited New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) yesterday to herald a new partnership between NJIT’s baseball team, the Highlanders, and the Newark Bears.
Torre, a friend of the Bears and of college baseball, was on hand as the Highlanders signed a ten-year contract to play their home games at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, Newark.
“I think this partnership is nothing but aces,” Torre said during a press conference at NJIT. “It's a partnership between two class organizations that will make for nothing but a lot of fun for everyone.”
For the past two years, the Highlanders have played their home games at the stadium. But the team’s longer-term commitment to play at the stadium comes as NJIT elevates its winning baseball program from NCAA Division II to Division I play. The Highlanders are expected to play a full Division I schedule in the spring of 2007.
“NJIT is bringing Division I baseball to this great stadium,” said NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch, “which will generate the highest level of excitement. It’s a great partnership that allows NJIT to play intercollegiate baseball in a great facility, maybe the best for college baseball in the country.”
Hundreds of festive fans filled the NJIT Campus Center Atrium to support the new collaborative partnership. The fans nibbled on hot dogs and popcorn as they took in the glory of the fabled pinstripes, for Torre was not the only Yankee to appear at the signing. He was introduced by the voice of the Yankees: broadcaster John Sterling. Also appearing on the dais were Yankees Bench Coach Lee Mazzilli; Yankee broadcaster Suzyn Waldman and Yankee scout Gene Michael. Torre signed autographs and baseballs for fans and talked to reporters before he spoke. Bears General Manager John Brandt, Field Manager Chris Jones and Pitching Coach Pete Filson were also on hand.
“I have watched up closely what this institute means to Newark and to New Jersey,” said Steve Kalafer, co-owner of the Bears. “The Newark Bears are important to the city and the county, so together we can show the state of New Jersey who we are.”
Marc Berson, the other Bears co-owner, said “this partnership is the foundation upon which the county and city developed the stadium, and upon which it will depend.”
The speakers noted that the greatest beneficiary of the partnership between NJIT and the Bears is the city of Newark. The Highlanders playing at the stadium will add vitality to the city as NJIT students and fans stream to see their team.
Torre bought 250 Bears tickets and donated them to the Newark Bears Corporate Care program, which helps underprivileged children attend summer games. In kind, the Newark Bears donated 250 Bears tickets to Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation, which works to mitigate domestic violence.
The Newark Bears gave Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo the First Annual Good Guy Award for his dedication to the team. Newark Mayor Sharpe James, who could not attend the event, will be honored with the same award. Altenkirch said it’s satisfying to help both the Bears and the surrounding communities.
"NJIT’s continuing and growing partnership with the Newark Bears is an integral part of our effort to be fully engaged with our host community in Newark and Essex County,” Altenkirch said. “Our students enjoy coming here to watch their team as well as the Bears play in this great stadium - a keystone of Newark’s renaissance. It’s satisfying to work with the Bears, a great partner, and to be a part of their effort to grow minor league baseball in Newark.”