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Farewell, Riversharks.

As many have read, the Camden Riversharks ceased all operations yesterday, thus ending their 15 year reign on the Camden Waterfront.

A part of me was really torn up by the folding of "South Jersey's Home Team" yesterday. Its not everyday a huge piece of who you are and where you are today goes away. As a 15 year old kid from Erial, NJ, I was excited when the Riversharks announced their arrival and debuted on the Camden Waterfront in 2001. Sure, it wasn't affiliated with any major league team, but it was a chance to see baseball in a fun environment. The Riversharks embraced that "fun" feel, hosting a number of family-friendly events ranging from a rock climbing wall, carousel, Firework Fridays, Kids Run the Bases and even free ice cream sundaes on the warning track (Sundae Sundays). You could bring friends and family and enjoy yourself regardless of the product on the field. Somehow, this simply wasn't enough. Some will cite the dangerous Camden surroundings, while others likely couldn't care about a non-affiliated team. Unfortunately in either case, the Riversharks were never really good either. They never won an Atlantic League title and didn't even make the playoffs their last 7 seasons. Like most independent teams, the roster was littered with failed prospects and journeymen players on their way out.

My first non-fan experience with the Riversharks was a paid internship with the team during it's 2006 season. I chose, of all departments, to learn Stadium Operations where I was one of 2-3 starry-eyed students figuring out their way in the "real world." The rest of the dozen interns worked in various other departments ranging from sales, marketing, ticketing, etc. Over the course of a 120+ game season you develop really close relationships with not only your fellow interns, but also the full-timers, game-day staff and the fans. You have to find ways to motivate yourself over the course of a season. Coming to the ballpark everyday offered many challenges other than even physical fatigue. I learned to get by in different ways whether it was the true fans putting a smile on your face, the extra pat on the back from a job well done or even knowing your fellow interns are struggling just as much as you were.

Working behind the scenes in sports you see as much good as you do bad. After various other stops including the Philadelphia Eagles and Comcast-Spectacor, I determined my time was well-spent in another field. Fast forward to 2011, I was still doing facility operation work (in another field) and was largely miserable. I had stayed connected with a number of fellow Rivershark interns via social media and reached out to one of them to get a drink one evening to catch up. We both lamented about our distaste for the sports world and our depressing non-existent relationships. I was propositioned if I would be willing to go on essentially a blind date with her friend who was described as "pretty, likes sports and is fun." I didn't have high hopes at the time, as I had already been online-dating for the better part of a year prior with no success. The date lead to another date, which then lead to a friendship, which then lead to a relationship, which then lead to this on December 27, 2014:

The Camden Riversharks led me to a career change, a wife, a house, a cat and a dog. They were directly responsible for my life as it is today. Life isn't always about those perceived "big moments", they could be as little as holding a door for someone, answering a phone call or making a new friend. The Riversharks have often been viewed as a punchline in the local baseball scene or through other socio-economic sentiments. Take this time to appreciate the impact they have made in their 15 years in the community. I don't think I'm alone with great Rivershark experiences.