Atlantic League CEO and founder Frank Boulton admits this is just the start. He isn’t in talks with city officials, or making declarations about bringing a team back to town.
He would like to bring baseball back to the Jersey shore for a weekend series this season, in big part to see if minor league baseball could work again at Sandcastle Stadium. But it’s just one series.
Boulton — in an interview Tuesday — said he had talks about shifting an Atlantic League series to Atlantic City last season, but it didn’t work out. The stadium could not be repaired and the field fixed in time. Now that Atlantic City officials appear willing to sink money into updating the Sandcastle and its playing surface, Boulton is prepared to move a three-game Labor Day series featuring the Camden Riversharks and Sugar Land Skeeters to the Jersey shore later this year.
The former Atlantic City Surf owner joked that most residents of Philadelphia and New Jersey make an annual trek to the beach each year, “Why not the Camden Riversharks?”
Boulton remains one of the biggest names in the Atlantic League. The owner of the Bridgeport Bluefish, he remains the CEO of the Long Island Ducks even after selling the controlling shares of the Ducks. Boulton also shares ownership of the Camden Riversharks — with Opening Day Partners operating the franchise — and he admitted another franchise could be in his future in Texas.
But he would also like to see a series in Atlantic City.
The series in question has not been etched in stone. Boulton wants to make sure stadium and field updates can be completed in time for the teams to take the field in August. He didn’t object to the series being called a dress rehearsal, but that might be too strong a phrase for what could happen. Dress rehearsal implies that it will eventually lead to pro baseball returning to Atlantic City.
And Boulton knows it is still early in the process.
He’s not talking about ownership or bringing a team to town — at least not yet.
This series is merely a first step.
Boulton said the series would help the Atlantic League gauge the city’s interest in a team returning to Atlantic City. He talked about “taking the temperature” or “checking the city’s appetite.”
If the three-game series happens, look for attendance to tell the story on what the Atlantic League will do for a follow up. If the city averages 5,000 fans per game, the league may move to return to the place where the Surf played from 1998-2008 (including the final two seasons in the short-season Can-Am League).
Now if an average gameday crowd of 1,500 fans show up for the series … well, Boulton said it best: “They haven’t really missed the Atlantic League.”