daffodils in front of the Feliciano School of Business

At Yogi Berra Stadium, It’s a Brand New Ball Game

Posted in: Feliciano School of Business, Marketing

Red Hawk baseball is off to a hot start this season at Yogi Berra Stadium, but as Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell was warming up to throw a ceremonial first pitch, temperatures were quickly dropping. Fans bundled in blankets as Koppell and the team emerged from the bullpen onto their field of dreams – the upgraded turf that’s part of a $5.3 million renovation that was being celebrated on Friday, March 22 as a new era for baseball at Yogi Berra Stadium.

The stadium is now home field for both Montclair and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), which partnered on the stadium upgrades. Built just over 25 years ago along with the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, the complex honors the legendary New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who called Montclair home.

“I worked at Yogi Berra Stadium for a decade and it has been such a special place for so many and a ballpark where many of my core memories have been created,” says Billy Pinckney ’24, who started a career in sports communications as a batboy for the New Jersey Jackals, the minor league team that played there for years before their move to Paterson in 2023.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see the renovations at Yogi Berra Stadium and understand the kind of impact it will have on the players,” adds Pinckney, who was among the alumni and students in the stands on the unseasonably cold Friday afternoon to see the Red Hawks split a doubleheader with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the bullpen, Matt Shuhet played a game of catch, tossing the ball and chatting with President Koppell, who was warming up before the ceremonial first pitch.

“The renovations at Yogi are beyond our expectations,” says Shuhet, a junior Business major. “The new playing surface as well as professional-level bullpens and cages, and all the new additions, truly make the stadium feel like a professional ballpark.”

Montclair’s Capital Planning and Project Management team brought the vision for improvements to life. During spring break, while the Red Hawk players were away on a winning-streak trip to California, Project Manager Adam McGuire provided a behind-the-scenes tour, pointing out the upgrades in electric and technology, the new energy-saving LED lights that make a significant impact on the stadium’s environmental footprint while meeting the high standards for Division I NJIT to broadcast on ESPN+.

In addition to the new turf, McGuire’s list of upgrades continues: pitch counter, dugout to bullpen phone, outfield wall replacement, new storage building, new bullpens and batting cages, new scoreboard and signage celebrating Montclair’s three National Champion teams (1987, 1993, 2000).

“What we have now is one of the nicest facilities on the East Coast and in college baseball,” says Head Coach Dave Lorber. “We’re very fortunate every day to call it our home.”

“The beautiful enhancements and upgrades throughout this iconic stadium would not have been possible without the contributions of NJIT,” Koppell says. “We are grateful for their partnership, and are so excited about the opportunities that exist for both schools to use this space in a wide variety of ways that benefit everyone.”

Feliciano School of Business students are helping run The Hill, a newly renovated concession area this season at Yogi Berra Stadium, as a capstone project for the Hospitality and Tourism department senior seminar course. The name, the result of market research conducted by Feliciano students, makes the connection between Yogi Berra’s boyhood neighborhood in St. Louis and the elevated Red Hawks perch for the stadium and campus.

Stadium food and drink at The Hill will feature a rotating roster of local businesses – the first weekend featuring Montclair Brewery and Señor Tacos of Bridgewater – to provide students experiences in community engagement, operating and promoting community partnerships through stadium concessions, says Associate Hospitality and Tourism Professor Josh Lupinek.

All the stadium enhancements will position the facility as a location capable of hosting conference and NCAA baseball tournaments as well as other high-profile events, making it a year-round facility that will serve the baseball teams, all students and the community at large.

The Red Hawks won two more games over the weekend, bolstering their record to 16-3. “These incredible facilities encourage us all to play at an equally high level. As a team we hold ourselves to very high standards and this new field feels as though it matches the caliber of play we are capable of,” says pitcher Mike Timberlake, a sophomore Biochemistry major.

“We’re finding ways to win, it’s not always easy but the team plays the game hard, they care, they care about each other and they’re fun to be around,” Lorber says.

“I’m hopeful that we can continue playing good baseball and we’ll see where it goes. I know that the surrounding community is hungry to be back at Yogi Berra Stadium … We’re not the Yankees, but we can pretend,” Lorber jokes. “You know, we’ve got great pinstripes.”