By Ryan Papaserge
My brother and I rarely got the daily breakfast served at Clinton V. Bush Elementary School before class, but I remember one morning when our mother took us to school early.
Diethrick Park has been the home of professional, collegiate, high school, oldtimers and youth baseball for decades, including numerous Babe Ruth World Series like the one above in 2008.
J.J. Jammer, then-mascot of the Jamestown Jammers, entertained youngsters at breakfast in an attempt to draw them to what was then known as College Stadium for the upcoming season - with parental supervision, of course. I remember a trivia portion with a question regarding the Jammers' major-league affiliate. I think I was 8 at the time, but I answered the question correctly and got a baseball signed by J.J. Jammer.
Mascots are magical for kids inundated with cartoons and the like, fictional characters come to life. Fans are supposed to grow out of enjoying them. I'm not afraid to say I still had that baseball signed by some guy in a suit displayed prominently in my bedroom into my late teens.
The Jammers are leaving town at the end of the season, Rich Entertainment Group announced Monday.
The franchise, along with its short-season Class A affiliate status as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system, is heading to Morgantown, W.Va. and the campus of West Virginia University. A fancy new baseball complex is waiting for them there. They'll share it with the school's baseball team.
J.J. Jammer - now known in his dying days as Bubba Grape, a purple ape - won't visit school children anymore.
Despite dwindling attendance figures over the years (yours truly hasn't attended a game since 2012), there was always a sense of community ownership with the Jammers. They were our team and those were our players, even though those players weren't supposed to be here for long.
Will there be that sense of ownership when the team comes to Morgantown?
I'm 11 years old and I'm at the Jammers' home opener with my family. They're playing the Brooklyn Cyclones in that franchise's inaugural game. Carl Erskine, a former Brooklyn Dodgers hurler, throws out the first pitch to recognize the occasion. No. 8 at shortstop for Jamestown dazzles everyone with diving plays in the field and looks like a future star in the making.
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From Page B1
Tony Pena Jr., the man in the jersey and the son of a former major leaguer, is mobbed by kids looking for his autograph after the game. My brother and I were both successful in our pursuits. Pena's autograph - along with several others obtained that night - shares space with J.J.'s on the baseball.
It took Pena another five years after that game to actually reach the major leagues and he eventually wound up becoming a pitcher. But to the Diethrick Park crowd, he might as well have been Derek Jeter that night.
Several major leaguers - some of them future Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson - played in Jamestown on their way to the big time.
Jamestown is well represented on the Miami Marlins roster, the parent club of the Jammers until 2012.
Mike Stanton had a brief stint in Jamestown in 2010, a few years before becoming star slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Marcell Ozuna showed power at Diethrick Park - complete with a cheering section known as the "Jamestown Freaks" chanting his last name at times - before he called Marlins Park home. Jose Fernandez had a cup of coffee here, just one start, before he became one of the league's top aces.
That fruitful pipeline will be cut off come Labor Day.
It's July 2008 and my sports journalism teacher reaches out to me regarding a summer job working for a local radio station covering Jammers games.
It becomes abundantly clear that I should stick to print or online journalism.
I'm a failure behind the mic, always nervous and stumbling with my words. There's one night in the control room downtown, however, in which I stop a song that starts playing over the live broadcast of a game. The station manager was overjoyed.
There won't be any Jammers games to broadcast on the radio next year.
I wouldn't be around to listen to them anyway.
I'm moving this weekend to Hornell to continue the path towards my career goals. I'd like to reach my major league, much like the guys I grew up watching on the Diethrick Park diamond tried to do.
But I think I'll give my old ticket stubs and programs one more view before I leave.
It's been real, old friend. Hope this isn't truly the end.
Ryan Papaserge is a Jamestown native and copy editor at The Post-Journal