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New Jersey Jackals Gearing Up For Bounce-Back 2019 Season

Summertime is almost here and that means another season of Canadian-American Associate of Professional Baseball is here. Which also means the start of the 2019 season for the New Jersey Jackals is here.

The Jackals are motivated to make this season a successful one, as last season they fell short of the success they desired. In 2018, New Jersey finished with a record of 50-52, second to last place in the Can-Am League, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and only the second time since 2006. Going into the season, the Jackals will definitely be motivated to not only get back to the playoffs, but bring a championship to New Jersey for the first time since 2004 and their first title in the Can-Am League.

“From first meeting on, Brooks really talked about the goal and expectations. That’s to bring a championship back to New Jersey,” said Jackals first-baseman Conrad Gregor. “Last year’s in the past and I think with this core group we have that chance not only to make the playoffs but win the whole thing. Every-time we go up there, every-time we’re on the field, that’s our mindset. It’s to just do the little things that win baseball games and let the cards fall at the end of the season where they may. But I think we’ve got a good team here with a chance to win it all.”

One of the problems last year for the Jackals was their pitching; they allowed a total of 497 runs last year and had a team ERA of 4.46, both the second worst in the league. This was obviously a big issue that New Jersey would look to address in the offseason, as they signed many pitchers to help bulk up their staff, including former MLB veteran Lendy Castillo. Castilla pitched one season in the big leagues in 2012 for the Chicago Cubs. In 2018 he pitched 13 games for three different teams, two of those games for the New Jersey Jackals, and pitched to a 2.92 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 24.2 innings pitched.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Jackals boasted a solid offense last season, ranking third in runs scored with 513 as well as home runs with 95. They boasted a team batting average of .280 as well. The Jackals lineup was one of the highlights from 2018 and will look to continue to be a highlight in 2019. In fact, one of the biggest splashes the Jackals made this offseason was in the offensive deparment, as they landed infielder Santiago Chirino.

Chirino played six seasons with the Normal CornBelters of the Frontier League. In those six years, he hit for a .327 BA, .356 OBP,  .415 SLG, for a .771 OPS.  He ended up setting the record for the most hits by one player in the league with 725. In 2018, his last season with the CornBelters, he led the league in batting average (.367) and hits with 137.

Another big move by the Jackals was the resigning of first baseman Conrad Gregor, who was with the team in 2017, playing 69 games for New Jersey. In those 69 games, Gregor posted a .303 BA, .429 OBP, .510 SLG, for a .939 OPS to go along with 12 home runs and 74 RBI. In 2018, he played for two independent league teams, one of those being the Jackals Can-Am League rivals, the Rockland Boulders. In 103 games he posted a .306 BA, .410 OBP, .471 SLG, for a .881 OPS. Most of all, he is very happy to be back in a New Jersey Jackals uniform.

“It feels good,” says the 27-year old infielder. “There’s not a whole lot of great places to play independent ball, but one of the reasons why I wanted to come back was the good experience I had with the Jackals. Everywhere from the front office, the fans, just the whole league itself. Really very good reputations it felt over here. Happy to be a part of it and excited to get going.”

The New Jersey Jackals will kick off their 2019 season Friday, May 17 when they go on the road to face the Ottawa Champions in the first game of a four game series. They will then begin a three game series on the road against the Quebec Capitales on Tuesday, May 21 before they return to Yogi Berra Stadium for their home opener against the Trois-Rivieres Aigles on Friday, May 24.

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New York & New Jersey Sports Staff Writer, New Jersey Jackals Beat Writer
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