Tarp Skunks open season tonight
From September 2019 through July 2020, Jacob Kindberg was living in Spain, teaching English to students through the country’s Ministry of Education.
It was an experience he found to be equal parts challenging and rewarding.
Now back in his hometown, Kindberg feels much the same way about his current job as he prepares for the Jamestown Tarp Skunks’ 2021 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League season.
“Overall, things are good,” the team’s director of sales and business operations said as he sat in his office at Diethrick Park last week. “I think people are excited to get back out. … I think we’re in a good spot.”
The Tarp Skunks open their season today at the Niagara Power, the beginning of a six-game road trip. Their first home game will be June 10 against Batavia.
“Ticket interest has been very strong, season-ticket numbers are very strong and we’ve surpassed projections for this year based on previous seasons,” said Kindberg, a 2017 Robert Morris University graduate. “I think that points back to the itch for people to start doing things again.”
The last time Jamestown fielded a team in the PGCBL was in 2018 when it was known as the Jammers. Despite the franchise’s on-the-field success — it won the league championship that season — the city didn’t field a team in 2019. Instead, the previous owners, ROC Enterprises, donated the team to Jamestown Community Baseball LLC. An aggressive rebranding effort was immediately launched and ultimately unveiled in January 2020, including a new name — Tarp Skunks — but the PGCBL season was shuttered due to COVID-19.
Kindberg, who was hired last September to succeed Frank Fanning, wasn’t sure what to expect given the uncertainty of operating a sports franchise in the midst of a pandemic, but he believes “we’ve started to turn the corner.”
“I’m very pleasantly surprised with the degree people have shown their support,” he said.
The community will get to show that in a tangible way next Thursday when the Tarp Skunks play their first home game. The day will kick off with a tailgate festival in the stadium parking lot from 5-6:30 p.m. With Pepsi serving as the presenting sponsor, the event will also include music by the local band, “For the People” and a 3 C’s Catering food truck. Admission to the tailgate is free.
“It’s kind of like a celebration. It’s the 80th birthday party of the stadium is really what it is,” Kindberg said. “We’re happy that Pepsi was on board and shared our vision of what Opening Night would look like.”
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. Vaccinated fans will be able to sit with other vaccinated fans without social distancing, Kindberg said. Unvaccinated fans will be required to maintain social distancing.
“What’s better than being outside on a nice day with your family,” Kindberg said, “letting the kids run around and knowing this has to be one of the least expensive entertainment options in the county.”
On the field, Manager Jordan Basile is anxious to get the season started tonight.
“I’ve been excited about it for a year and half, so I’ve had time to work on (the roster),” said the Jamestown native and Fredonia State Hall-of-Famer, who was named the Tarp Skunks manager in August 2019. “So far, I like the guys here and I’m excited about what we can do.”
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While a few of the players are still competing in regional college tournaments, and a couple more are participating in the NJCAA World Series, Basile already likes his team’s defense and speed.
“The goal is to have a bunch of guys that are going to compete, going to play hard and going to leave it all on the field,” he said. “That’s how we tried to make this roster. You can have all the talent in the world and not be successful if you don’t have the right mindset. We want guys to have the right mindset and have an appreciation for coming to Jamestown where (baseball) has been for 80 years now. I think that’s what the fans deserve to see.”
At the time of this writing, Basile was still evaluating who his starting pitcher will be for tonight’s opener. On the staff, among others, are Frewsburg native Aaron Hair and Warren, Pennsylvania native Ryan Rafalski. Both play collegiately at Division II Mercyhurst University. The remaining roster includes talent from all levels, including Division I programs like Michigan, New Mexico State, George Mason and Youngstown State to name a few.
“They’re going to learn how to be a professional, and we have everything around them that a professional would see,” Basile said. ” … They have everything they need to succeed. It’s a credit to all the people that made this locally owned and what it is right now.”
NOTES: Basile’s assistant coach is Joe Winkelsas, a Buffalo native, who played 14 years of professional baseball, including Major League stops as a pitcher with Atlanta, Milwaukee and the Chicago White Sox. … A Jamestown Community Baseball/Tarp Skunks 50-page program will be published in Saturday’s Post-Journal.