JerseyMan Magazine V13N3

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Volume 13 • Number 3 – $3.95 jerseymanmagazine com A TASTE OF THE SHORE George Anastasia’s MOB SCENE George Anastasia’s MOB SCENE South Jersey’s Growing Winery Scene ® THE COUNTRY’S FASTEST GROWING SPORT A DAUNTING TASK CAN THE FLYERS BE RELEVANT AGAIN?

Mary Jane

If you ask any student who walked the halls of Lenape High School in the past 61 years, they remember that name.

Much more than a secretary, Mary Jane Mullen was the essence and heart of Lenape. I can vividly remember walking past the glass windows of the main office and seeing her smiling face. She was the epitome of warmth, compassion and nurturing. She gave thousands of kids a safe place to go to, to be heard and to be loved. She was someone none of us could ever forget. Decades later, we never have.

On her way to school on May 5th she was in an automobile accident and succumbed to her injuries on May 14th, Mother’s Day. A heartbreaking day for the LHS community, for someone who was like a mother to so many.

I know Mary Jane is up there with her sidekick Phyllis (her secretary sister for decades), laughing, passing out candy and offering hugs.

Thank you for being you, MJ. You made more of a difference than you could have ever known.

Ken Dunek Publisher


Ashley Dunek


George Brinkerhoff


Steve Iannarelli


George Anastasia, Jan L. Apple, Michael Bradley, George Brinkerhoff, Sam Carchidi, Alexandra Dunek, Mark Eckel, Robert Kennedy, Dei Lynam, Anthony Mongeluzo, Kevin Reilly, Mike Shute, Kurt Smith

Event Coordinator & Administrative Assistant

Alexandra Dunek

Website & Digital Coordinator

Jamie Dunek


Advertising 856-912-4007

Printing Alcom Printing, Harleysville, Pa.


Rose M. Balcavage

Sales Associates

Ashley Dunek, Jamie Dunek, Terri Dunek, Allison Farcus, JP Lutz

JerseyMan/PhillyMan Advisory Board

Peter Cordua (Chairman) ........ HBK CPAs & Consultants

Don Eichman Alcom Printing

Bill Emerson .............................. Emerson Group

Jerry Flanagan J Dog Brands

Damien Ghee ..................................... TD Bank

Bob Hoey Janney Montgomery Scott

Kristi Howell Burlington Co. Chamber of Commerce

Ed Hutchinson Hutchinson

Robert Kennedy The Kennedy Companies

Doug MacGray Stonecrop Wealth Advisors

Anthony Mongeluzo PCS

Charlie Muracco ............................ CLM Advisors

Ryan Regina Big Sky Enterprises

Scott Tanker ....................Tanker Business Solutions

Joe Tredinnick Cornerstone Bank

Les Vail ................................... Workplace HCM

Jim Wujcik The Joseph Fund

JerseyMan Magazine VOLUME 13 • NUMBER 3
JerseyMan Magazine/PhillyMan Magazine products of a partnership between Ken Dunek, Anthony Mongeluzo, and Alcom Printing Group, are published by New Opportunity Publishing, LLC, with offices at 5 Perina Boulevard Cherry Hill, NJ 08003. Copyright 2023.
“I absorb summer’s deep array of color which adds beauty to my eyes.”
– Yvonne Martinez Ward, Ph.D.
The 130 miles of New Jersey’s coastline beckons every summer. Photo George Brinkerhoff

“Summer brings smiles, sandals and salads. Spirits are higher and weights are lower.”

– Lisa M. Evans


Yer Out!

IF THE STANDS in Deptford Township Little League are filled with a lot less vitriol, thank its President. A new rule has been implemented by Deptford Township Little League that made international headlines this spring. After two volunteer umpires quit because of confrontations with incessantly arguing spectators or parents, League President Don Bozuffi instituted the rule which gives the argumentative fans a choice. Simply put, if parents or spectators choose to be verbally abusive with an umpire, either they themselves will spend the next three games as an umpire or they’ll be banned from attending Deptford Township Little League games for a year.

After seeing too many confrontations between adult fans and umpires, and losing umpires as a result, Bozuffi had seen enough. The umps were graciously volunteering their time and then they were being abused from the stands. Bozuffi sees the new rule as a deterrent rather than a punishment. “I want to see them squirm. I want to see them make that call and maybe they’ll see it’s not as easy as it looks.”

Also, he believes in trying to facilitate a positive atmosphere for the kids during the games. “Cheer these kids on so it’s a positive experience for them because it’s all learned behavior. Anything they see is going to carry over.”

As a result, he’s reaped some immediate rewards. He’s already been contacted by five community members asking to help out as umpires. And in the interim, he’s been recognized by his own community. Deptford council proclaimed Bozuffi as its citizen of the month in May and he was presented with a certificate honoring his efforts in the community, including working for more than 50 years with the township youth programs.

Sources: •

If parents or spectators choose to be verbally abusive with an umpire, they themselves will spend the next three games as an umpire.
“Before you immerse yourself in the joys of summer, reflect for a moment on the passage through the past season and how it parallels your life.”
– Martha Karelius

If it’s good for Chuck, then…

FILM AND TELEVISION STAR, action hero extraordinaire, best-selling author and philanthropist Chuck Norris (who is now 83 years young!) has come up with a new way for you to do morning and you better listen up, tough guy! Through his Roundhouse Provisions brand, Chuck has developed a unique blend of natural ingredients and energy boosting power to start your day off with a bang. Or more precisely a swift kick:

“Morning Kick is a high-performance dietary supplement designed to give you the energy and focus to tackle the day head-on. Packed with powerful ingredients combined with the delicious taste of strawberry lemonade, it can aid in digestion, gut health, overall stress management and nutrient absorption, making it the perfect drink for anyone looking to get ahead in life. … Morning Kick is basically 10 different supplements in one drink.”

So go ahead and take life on just like Chuck does, with a swift, roundhouse kick in a glass. Just add to a glass of water and mix. As Chuck says (and when Chuck’s talking you better listen up!):

“Morning Kick has helped me look and feel better than I have in years. When it comes to healthy aging, I consider this to be the most powerful change anyone can add to their diet to transform their health.” And if it’s good for Chuck, just think what it will do for you.

Check out Morning Kick at

Chuck Norris

South Jersey’s Kingdom of Speed South Jersey’s Kingdom of Speed

Bridgeport Motorsports Park, the “Kingdom of Speed” on the western shore of South Jersey near the banks of the Delaware River, is a high banked three-eighths mile dirt oval located in Logan Township. The Kingdom offers weekly racing featuring DIRT modifieds, 602 Sportsman modifieds, Street Stocks and MASS sprint cars. And keep an eye out for visiting stars of NASCAR. Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Kasey Kahne and Christopher Bell all raced at Bridgeport last year! For more information go to

Photo Bridgeport Motorsports Park

Walter Rand Foundation Dinner honoring Ken Dunek & Ron Jaworski – The Mansion, Voorhees NJ

Infinity Club Spades Tournament


Rancocas Valley High School Scholarship Night

– Rancocas, NJ

Rancocas Valley Regional School

Proud! Ken Dunek, Chairman’s Club member Roy Plummer and JerseyMan Magazine helped honor seniors at their annual awards ceremony with a $1000 scholarship to one student for his academic and extracurricular excellence.

Winners, Mark West (left) & Sang Kim supporting Samaritan Hospice Club Summer Kick Off with Vantage Financial
Southampton, NJ Former Philadelphia Eagles Ken Dunek (left) and Vince Papale Above: Ken Dunek, Lucas Salazar Left: Chairman’s Club member Roy Plummer, Ashley McAfree, Steven West Mai Form left; Ken Dunek, Terri Dunek, Ashley Dunek, Jamie Dunek, Liz & Ron Jaworski, Alex Dunek.
17 Homers for Hope – FDR Park, Philadelphia, Pa.
Legacy Club member Soleiman Raie and volunteers from Homers for Hope vs the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association at FDR Park.


The Life We Chose

BACK IN 1994 when John Stanfa was under indictment and headed for a life prison sentence, he asked William “Big Billy” D’Elia to take over as boss of the Philadelphia mob.

Big Billy said no thank you.

“I didn’t want to put a target on my back,” D’Elia said by way of explanation.

It was the smart move. But then D’Elia was nothing if not smart. By that point, he had been schooled for more than 30 years in the ways of the underworld by one of the masters of that universe. It was an apprenticeship like no other and he came away much the wiser.

D’Elia has now put it all on the record in an intriguing and entertaining new book written by journalist Matt Birkbeck.

The Life We Chose comes out this month. It’s the story of D’Elia’s coming of age in an underworld that was coming undone. The situation in Philadelphia in the 1990s was a prime example and it was captured perfectly in one of the most succinct and telling lines written by Birkbeck… D’Elia watched the murder and mayhem that racked the Philadelphia crime family for years and that reached a crescendo during the war between old-world mob boss Stanfa and the young and precocious Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino.

D’Elia’s thoughts, according to Birkbeck: “The propensity for violence there reminded him of spoiled children with guns.”

But that’s getting ahead of the story.

The Life We Chose is as much about D’Elia’s mentor, the late Russell Bufalino, as it is about D’Elia. Operating out of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area, Bufalino was a major, but often underrated, mob boss who traveled in the highest circles of the American Cosa Nostra.

The mob’s foray into Cuba in the 1950s, the infamous Apalachin meeting (Bufalino was one of the organizers), the clash with Fidel Castro, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the CIA and the mob, the disappearance of Jimmy

Hoffa, the making of The Godfather movie (Bufalino coached Marlon Brando and helped smooth away opposition from Joe Colombo’s Italian-American Civil Rights League) all are part of Bufalino’s curriculum vitae.

The book describes Bufalino as “arguably the most powerful and important organized crime figure of the twentieth century” and backs that claim up with back-handed testimonials from some of the period’s top crime busters.

contacts as he rose up the underworld ladder. He started out as a “gofer” and driver for the much older Bufalino who eventually began to introduce him as “my boy.” Later it would be “my son.”

Bufalino and his wife were childless. D’Elia was estranged from his own father. The father-son relationship between them solidified D’Elia’s standing in the mob and offered him a chance to be an eyewitness to American underworld history.

And in that respect, The Life We Chose is a one-of-a-kind historical document.

D’Elia’s role as Bufalino’s heir apparent and successor takes up the second half of the book and provides a snapshot of Cosa Nostra’s demise. He was, in many ways, a throwback. An expediter and fixer, he embraced the role of Mafia problem solver, adopting the old school “make money, not headlines” philosophy as he traveled around the country wheeling and dealing.

Entertainers like Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra, pop stars like Fabio and movers and shakers like Donald Trump and Roy Cohn make appearances as the story unfolds. Violence, from D’Elia’s perspective, was a negotiating tool of last resort that often created more problems than it solved.

Robert F. Kennedy, while serving as counsel to a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating organized crime (Bufalino t ook the fifth dozens of times and refused to answer any questions at a committee hearing) would describe Bufalino as “one of the most ruthless and powerful leaders of the Mafia in the United States.”

Kennedy called Bufalino a “very important figure” who had “made the arrangements and appointments for the meeting at Apalachin” and had “great contacts throughout the United States and the underworld.”

Big Billy D’Elia maintained many of those

THE HIT ON JIMMY HOFFA was a prime example. And D’Elia got a clear view of the repercussions that in many ways marked the beginning of the end of the American Mafia. The high-profile elimination of the erstwhile Teamster boss remains one of the great unsolved underworld murders.

But if Hoffa had just listened to Bufalino, it never would have happened.

D’Elia was on hand when Bufalino tried to convince Hoffa to back down, to give up his attempt to reassert himself as boss of the union after a stint in prison. They met at a bar in South Philadelphia along with then mob boss


Angelo Bruno.

D’Elia said Bufalino tried to convince Hoffa to walk away.

“He says, ‘Jimmy, you have to stop this. There are some people who don’t want you to do nothin’. You have to watch your back,’” D’Elia explained in the book. “Jimmy isn’t having any of it, so Russell says, ‘We’ll give you a local, you’ll make three hundred thousand a year, you have your pension. Go relax and play with your grandkids.’”

It was an offer Hoffa refused.

And that led to his “disappearance.”

D’Elia, like many other underworld figures, puts the lie to the notion that Frank Sheeran, a long-time Hoffa ally and Bufalino associate, was the one who shot and killed Hoffa. He calls Sheeran’s account of the Hoffa murder “fiction” and relates a story of how he and Bufalino were with Sheeran at a meeting at Vesuvio’s in New York shortly after Hoffa went missing.

Sheeran, D’Elia said, was brought to meet with Fat Tony Salerno and Tony Provenzano, two Genovese crime family leaders who were behind the Hoffa hit.

“They wanted to meet with Frank to make sure that he doesn’t come after them for Hoffa,” D’Elia said. “They knew Frank was very close to Hoffa and was very angry, and that he knew that they were behind it and was going to kill them.”

Under pressure from Bufalino, D’Elia said, Sheeran agreed not to seek revenge. Later, D’Elia would note, Sheeran began to fabricate stories about the Hoffa hit while trying to promote a book. D’Elia said he read four or five different versions of the ending, including one in which Sheeran blamed CIA-backed Vietnamese hitmen and another in which he said the Nixon administration was behind Hoffa’s disappearance. Sheeran would eventually settle on a version in which he, himself, was the hitman, a version that D’Elia dismissed as “bulls---.”

But then it seems there was a lot of “BS” whenever D’Elia dealt with Philadelphia.

During the bloody Stanfa-Merlino war, D’Elia said he was able to maintain relationships with both factions. He called Stanfa “tough and sincere” and said the Sicilian-born mob boss blamed the media in general (and me in particular) for fomenting the animosity between him and Merlino. (Hundreds of secretly recorded FBI tapes would seem to indicate otherwise.)

D’Elia also had kind words for Merlino.

“I liked his style and the way he acted,” he said. “But his eyes would f---ing burn a hole in

you like the devil.”

D’Elia portrayed himself as an intermediary and expediter who would pop in and out of Philadelphia during that turbulent period. He solidified his standing with Stanfa by shaking down a record industry bigwig and sharing the $250,000 take with the Sicilian mob boss, he said.

But violence, not money, seemed to be the driving force in Philadelphia.

“It was like the f---ing wild, wild west,” he said. “Every week I was asked to solve a problem there and I met some sick people.”

One of his biggest problems might have been a contract on his own life that the FBI told him had been put out by Ralph Natale and Merlino after they had taken over the crime family.

D’Elia said he was told the plan was to shoot him as he left The Saloon, a popular South Philadelphia eatery that he frequented.

When he confronted Natale, D’Elia said, Natale denied the allegation.

“Are you crazy?” he said Natale told him “You’re my guy. I love you.”

Love, in Philadelphia, can be fickle.

Natale was soon to become a government witness.

D’Elia eventually became the target of federal and state investigators but like the threats of violence and the wheeling and dealing, being targeted by law enforcement came with the territory.

It was all, he readily acknowledges, part of the life he chose. n


Braden Shattuck Reaches Major Goal

BRADEN SHATTUCK was five years old the first time he swung a golf club. Shattuck was 10 years old the first time he played in a golf tournament. He was in his twenties when a car accident had him thinking he would never play competitive golf again. Yet on May 3rd of this year, the now 28-year-old, finished -9 in the PGA Professional Championship to win by one stroke in a field of plus 300 golfers.

When asked where winning this year’s PGA Pro Championship ranked in his life’s accomplishments Shattuck did not hesitate.

“Number one by far, just because of what it gets you,” Shattuck said on a recent day at his current place of employment, Rolling Green Golf Cub in Springfield, PA.

“It gets you into the major and you get six PGA Tour stops,” Shattuck explained. “And I get into the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament. So, I get to skip prequalifying and first stage and go right to the second stage. Of all those things, it’s by far the biggest one I’ve won. The value is great. The money is great, but more importantly what it gets you is really cool.”

Part of that cool was collecting $60K in prize money. Next was venturing a couple of hours north to participate in the PGA Championship, just ten days after his “by far number one win.”

Playing in one of golf’s four majors had the chance of being life-altering, and Braden knew it.

“I show up. I do registration,” he said. “They give me a bunch of stuff at registration. They give me a bunch of stuff in my locker. Then I registered for my courtesy car. They gave me a brand-new Escalade to drive around for the week, so I am driving a $120K car around. For winning the club pro out in New Mexico, they gave me a custom Rolex and did a Rolex presentation for me. I wear it all the time. I feel weird wearing it. I never owned something that nice.”

Photo courtesy Braden Shattuck

Braden shot a 79 in round one. He shot a 73 in round two and did not make the cut. Still, the experience was priceless, on and off the course.

“The course was super hard, obviously. I’ve never played in rough that was that nasty. I wasn’t really ready for it. But the good thing was after one day I dropped my score six

strokes. If I had more rounds out there, I would have figured it out and gotten it under par, but that’s experience.

“They invited me to the champions dinner. It is a dinner for all the past PGA Championship winners, and they are all at one table. So, Justin Thomas, Rory McElroy, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson were all sitting at the table and then me, and some PGA officials. I went and sat down next to Phil Mickelson, had dinner with him and talked for three hours. He was awesome. Super nice guy with great stories. Then in the practice round, I played with Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. The golf course was immaculate. You don’t really get to play courses that are conditioned that well. The fact that these guys get to play that all the time is crazy.”

THE GOAL FOR BRADEN is to one day be part of the craziness. The immediate plan is to continue being a teaching pro at Rolling Green through this season. In November he will go to his wheelearned stage two qualifying event for the Korn Ferry Tour. If all goes well, Rolling Green will be having a farewell party for Shattuck with the same enthusiasm they had a watch

party when he was vying for the championship in New Mexico on May 3rd.

“If I make it through the second stage, I am automatically in the final stage,” Shattuck said. “Once you are in the final stage you are automatically a conditional Korn Ferry Tour member; you are just competing for starts. Next year I could be on the Korn Ferry Tour and have six PGA Tour starts.

“The only reason I would leave Rolling Green is if I make it on tour which is a good reason to leave. I feel that would be acceptable.”

Acceptable is an understatement. Between now and then Shattuck does have another goal and that is to defend his Player of the Year for Philadelphia’s section of the PGA.

“It’s a point standing similar to what they do on the PGA Tour with the FedEx points standings,” Shattuck said. “So certain events are weighted differently depending on how important. Our section championship is weighted way higher than a normal one-day event. The more days the tournament is, the more value they place on it. So based on those points is how you get Player of the Year.”

Shattuck finished with the most points in 2022. When asked where he is currently in the standings, Shattuck smiled and said first.

I wasn’t surprised. n

“They invited me to the [PGA] champions dinner. I went and sat down next to Phil Mickelson, had dinner with him and talked for three hours. Then in the practice round, I played with Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.”


Wedge Busting in the Old NFL

ON TUESDAY, MAY 23RD, the NFL owners adopted another new rule affecting kickoffs. Following in the footsteps of the NCAA, the NFL now allows for a fair catch on kickoffs, intending to curb the threat of injury. This rule will be the final change to one of the most injury-prone plays in the NFL. Next will be the total elimination of kickoffs. How do I know this? From my experience playing Special Teams for the Miami Dolphins, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the New England Patriots. Throughout all my years on Special Teams, kickoffs were the plays I hated the most.

In 1974, I was on all of the Eagles’ Special Teams. Back then, an injury timeout cost you a team timeout. Dick LeBeau, who played 14 years as a defensive back for the Detroit Lions, was our Special Teams Coach. During training camp, Coach LeBeau said, “I admire and respect you guys on the Kickoff and Kickoff Return Teams, but if you get injured on any Special Teams play, you must find a way to get off the field and not cause us to use a timeout! Timeouts are only used by the Offense and

particularly the 2-minute drill! Crawl off if you must but get off the field!”

On October 20, 1974, the Eagles played the Dallas Cowboys in a shootout at the Texas Stadium. We played five kickoffs that day, and my job, and that of wide receiver Bobby Picard, was to knock down all four of the Dallas Cowboys’ four-man wedge. We were the Wedge Busters, a title which brings to mind the “Ghostbusters,” but our job was hazardous and no laughing matter. The four Dallas blockers, lined up shoulder to shoulder as steam rollers, stood from 6’3, 245 pounds at the smallest to 6’9, 271 pounds at the largest. Their lineup included the aptly named Ed “Too Tall” Jones,

Harvey Martin, Jethro Pugh, and Josh Niland. I was 6’2, 220 pounds, and Picard was 6’1, 195 pounds—a mismatch on paper and on the field. We could only cut 3-4 of those guys down by throwing a precision cross-body block at their legs. Our impact would be like a minor auto crash.

On the fifth kickoff of that day, Picard and I begged Tom Dempsey, our placekicker, to kick the ball out of the end zone. He tried, but in attempting to put more force into the ball, he hit the ball flat, turning the play into a line drive. Let me tell you, this was the worst-case scenario. Bob Newhouse, the Cowboy receiving back and kickoff receiver, got to the ball faster than usual. Now the four-man wedge has a 10yard running start at us. I closed my eyes as the wedge approached and threw a cross-body block. I got hit. Hard. I was blinded in my right eye and had tunnel vision in my left. My first thought was, “Get off the field.” Luckily, I knew which direction the Eagles’ sideline was. Aching, I stood and stumbled away. Then I heard Bill Bergey, our middle linebacker, yelling my name. He ran over to me and grabbed my face mask, straightening it, revealing that the previous play knocked my helmet sideways, blocking my vision. My left eye had been peering through the ear hole of my helmet, but I was too battered and full of adrenaline to notice. We lost that game 31-24, but I was glad not to be seriously injured.

Over the years that have passed, the fourman wedge became the two-man wedge, which then became no wedge at all. Now, we’re closing in on what may be the last years of NFL kickoffs. While past rule changes have mitigated injuries on the field, today’s NFL Players’ speed, size, and strength have offset the rules’ impact. As the league’s athletes continue to improve, we’ll see greater and more powerful clashes on the field. Therefore, despite any protective rule changes, there will be more injuries, concussions, and maybe worse. I will bet anyone that, within four years, there will be no more kickoffs. For the sake of our players, I hope they end even sooner. n

Kevin Reilly is an author, motivational speaker, and former Philadelphia Eagle. To contact Kevin Reilly, visit
I will bet anyone that, within four years, there will be no more kickoffs. For the sake of our players, I hope they end even sooner.

For more guidance, follow Alexandra, NASM Certified Personal Trainer on Instagram at @TipsfromAFitChick

Vitamin IV Therapy: Next Big Thing

VITAMIN IV THERAPY seems to be the next big thing in health & wellness. Former professional athlete turned entrepreneur, Jason Thompson thought so too. Thompson along with his business partner, Lanette Keaton, recently opened Hydrate IV Therapy & Wellness, located in Sewell, NJ and they offer a little bit more than a typical treatment center.

For those who don’t know, Vitamin IV therapy administers a high dose of vitamins and minerals intravenously by licensed Registered Nurses. Hydrate IV and their exclusive Vitamin IV Drips all have a different combination of nutrients that target just about any concern. You can choose between options such as anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, reduced stress, hangover relief and even something to recover from your intense workouts just to name a few on the menu. If you prefer a quicker option, their Vitamin Shots are just as effective. All of which are done in a safe, relaxing environment.

Even if you are unsure which vitamin solution is best for you, they’ve got you covered. You can book an appointment for Wellness Testing, which includes lab testing to help you learn more about your body and according to their website, “discover nutrient deficiencies, genetic predispositions, food sensitivities and hormonal imbalances.” Figuring

out the root issue is the true first step in kickstarting your wellness journey.

Another cool feature of Hydrate IV is that they offer aesthetic services. These services are non-surgical cosmetic injections such as Botox, Juvederm, Dysport, Voluma and even microneedling, making this place a one-stop shop for all you need to look and feel your best. n

Check out their website at to find out more information on the different services and membership options available. For your convenience, you can also book your appointment online.


508 Hurffville - Cross Keys Road, Unit 16, Sewell, NJ, 08080

Phone: 856-319-5316


Monday-Friday: 9:00am-6:00pm

Saturday: 9:00am-3:00pm

Hydrate IV Ribbon Cutting, Jason Thompson (middle) with Lanette Keaton (to his left).


Jennifer French and the Ronald McDonald House Southern New Jersey




, Jennifer French quickly learned the difference between a want and a need when she asked her mother for an Atari video game. The response came in the form of a strong suggestion that she take a volunteer job at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. French heeded her mother’s advice.

During that summer stint, French was a reader to the siblings of critically ill children who were receiving treatments in nearby hospitals. But her newfound passion for doing all she could to bring smiles to young faces evolved into a lifetime mission and calling. “That experience set the spark for philanthropy,” said French, one that continues

to fuel her today. Following that eye-opening endeavor, French launched a fashion show at her high school to raise money for the MakeA-Wish Foundation and later became a hugger for athletes participating in the Special Olympics.

Fast forward nearly four decades. French, the president and CEO of the Camden-based Ronald McDonald House Southern New Jersey since July 2020, described her position as a dream job and the culmination of decades of experiences with the corporation, nonprofit and an array of onstage performance venues. Suffice it to say, Ronald McDonald, in multiple forms, has been a consistent theme in French’s life. And she firmly believes that “being in the right place at the right time” has played a part.

The 53-year-old, who was raised in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia, attributes much of her inspiration to her late mother. “I was blessed with a wonderful mother who instilled in me the importance of creating a positive ripple effect,” said French who resides in Wilmington, Delaware with her 16-year-

Photo courtesy Jennifer French

old son, Giancarlo, whom she refers to as her greatest achievement and the light of her life.

French attended Gettysburg College where she majored in Theatre and English. Her passion for the stage led her to take bold chances. Before her senior year of college, while vacationing in California, she tested the waters in the entertainment world by auditioning for a part in a five-person play produced by the Los Angeles Children’s Theatre. Although she didn’t secure the part, she was offered a position as the assistant stage manager. She gladly accepted, grateful to learn as much as she could about the craft. The director also offered her a one-night gig as a hostess at an awards ceremony for actress Shelley Duval. French jumped at the opportunity and found herself immersed among big Hollywood names and talent galore.

When the lead actress in that same play didn’t want to perform for sick children at Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, French was asked if she’d take the role. Today, she looks back and finds that experience a valuable life lesson.

French later worked for five years for PhilAdMac (a McDonald’s owner/operators’ co-op) as Ronald McDonald’s assistant, per-

forming in a variety of venues including hospitals, school assemblies and Ronald McDonald Houses. Her vast experience also includes corporate marketing and public relations for a McDonald’s account and opening a Ronald

McDonald House (La Casa Ronald McDonald) in Madrid, Spain. In 2000, French traveled to Spain for a two-week language immersion course. A lot happened – personally and professionally – in the ensuing years that delayed

Mayor of Camden Victor Carstarphen and Jennifer French at the RMHSNJ Camden in 2023. Photo courtesy Jennifer French

her from returning home, including 9/11. She moved back to the States in 2014 to be near family. Eventually, she became the Director of Development at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington.

“Every road has led me to here,” said French, reflecting on her position overseeing all operations and development. In the three years since taking the job, she has done everything in her power to make enhancements and build a more cohesive community. “We celebrated seven capital projects since I joined the RMHSNJ family,” shared French. These include the addition of a cinema and game room, a caregiver’s gym with an adjacent KidZone, a self-service dry goods shop (free of charge), a closet filled with gadgets and toys called Dorothy’s Door of Surprises and an inclusive playground with hand-selected equipment tailored to the needs of the children.

French explained that after taking the helm, she met with every member of her staff. She discovered that the team members,

which now number eleven, had interests and talents that weren’t being utilized. So, she moved things around, adding and adjusting roles and responsibilities. “I believe that everyone on my team deserves the spotlight, and I look for opportunities that allow them to shine,” she said.

THE MISSION of the Ronald McDonald House Southern New Jersey, elaborated French, is to provide a home away from home for medically fragile children and their families. “We create a community,” she said.

The house in Camden was established in 1983 across the street from its present location. “We are celebrating our 40th anniversary,” said French. To commemorate the milestone, a 40th Ruby Anniversary Gala will take place at the Four Seasons Philadelphia on October 14.

French noted that the first Ronald McDonald House was founded in 1974 in Philadelphia. The co-founder was the late Dr. Audrey Evans, with the help of Jimmy Murray, a

former general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles. “Dr. Evans was a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and dreamed of a place that would offer free housing to the families of her patients,” said French. “Many of the families were sleeping on the floors of the hospital.” Today, there are more than 230 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide in over 60 countries.

The RMHSNJ includes 25-bedroom suites and has hosted families from all 50 states and over 50 countries. “Because our region has the best orthopedic and ocular hospitals, we see a lot of families from Central and South America and Asia where those issues are common,” said French. Since its inception, the house has served tens of thousands of families with children being treated for critical illnesses and traumatic injuries. They also operate 11 Family Rooms in area hospitals.

Children receive care at numerous locations including Cooper University Health Care, Inspira, Jefferson New Jersey, Virtua, AtlantiCare, Shore Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn Medicine, Wills Eye Hospital and Shriners Hospital.

French said that the culture has changed dramatically in the house since her arrival. It has become a more tightly bonded community, something of which she is particularly proud. “I have a different perspective from most on not just what the pediatric patients need, but also what the caregivers need,” explained French. She shared that when her son was just shy of two, he was rushed to the hospital in Italy. French didn’t speak the language and sat frantically in the waiting room trying to make sense of it all. Her son spent four weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit. Thankfully, she revealed, he made a full recovery.

“I get the most joy from helping others to achieve dreams and goals.”
Dr. Audrey Evans and Jennifer French at a fundraiser in Philadelphia in 2021 for the motion picture “Audrey’s Children.” The biographical drama is about Dr. Audrey Evans, a trailblazing physician who saved countless children and whose work has touched millions around the world. Photo courtesy Jennifer French

French has observed that children as well as caregivers in the house bond over a shared sense of trauma. “Friendships are forged and thanks to technology, families stay in touch and even schedule future appointments for the same dates,” she said.

FRENCH is also proud of her approach to fundraising, which she likens to her outlook on life. “I am always looking to get to know people, not just their titles,” she said. “I like to meet people of all different backgrounds.” French finds it most impactful to lead a tour of the house, which enables her to demonstrate why she loves the organization. “Then, I let each person get acquainted at their own pace and choose with their hearts how they would like to get involved,” she said.

Named by South Jersey Biz magazine as “One of 21 Executives Leading the Way in South Jersey,” French is the recipient of the 2022 Chairman’s Award from the Non-Profit Development Center of Southern New Jersey and was selected as a 2023 Philadelphia Titan 100. She also volunteers for AARP and serves on the boards of Theatre N and Safe Haven Healing, Inc., a nonprofit that supports victims of domestic abuse. “As a survivor, I will do anything in my power to help others see there are options and a healthy path to a new life, although seemingly impossible,” she said.

French continues to be driven by the ripple effect of a simple kindness or a smile. “I get the most joy from helping others to achieve dreams and goals,” she said. “When I leave there [the Ronald McDonald House] every day, I feel energized.”

Jennifer French, Ronald McDonald and David Trieglaff, program director at the RMHC Organization Leadership Conference in Fort Worth Texas in 2023. Photo courtesy Jennifer French

A Daunting Task

Can front-office rookies Keith Jones and Danny Briere make the Flyers relevant again?





, let alone two men who are rookies at their current positions.

Briere made a big splash with his first trade as a general manager in early June. In a three-way deal with Columbus and Los Angeles, he sent defenseman Ivan Provorov to the Blue Jackets. He also dealt two minor-leaguers, and his net gain was the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, two veterans, a promising defensive prospect, and two second-round draft picks.

On paper, Briere got off to an impressive start. Provorov never lived up to his expectations, though he did eat lots of minutes and was a good (but not great) player.

“Sometimes, you have to pay the price to get good assets back,” Briere said.

It was the kind of bold move that Briere’s predecessor, Chuck Fletcher,

never made.

Good for Briere.

On May 11, Briere was named the Flyers’ full-time general manager, while Jones was selected as the team’s president of hockey operations.

Briere’s hiring was expected. Jones’ wasn’t.

As the interim GM, Briere had already been making moves and was seemingly being groomed to take over duties on a full-time basis.

Jones was working for the Flyers and Turner Sports as a highly skilled TV hockey analyst. But few go from the media to such a key job.

Can two rookies in the front office work?

Jones, 54, believes it can.

He points to the contacts he and Briere have developed over their years in hockey. Those contacts will help them get acclimated and will be resources he and Briere can lean on if needed.

Photo Philadelphia Flyers (Left to right) Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella, Keith Jones, Comcast Spectacor Chairman Dan Hilferty, Danny Briere, and Valerie Camillo, President of Comcast Sports and Entertainment.

Using ‘every resource’

“Using all the relationships we have throughout the game” will be beneficial, Jones said. “We know a lot of very talented hockey people with great minds who are not just acquaintances, but in some cases are very good friends. We’re going to use every resource we have to do this well. We’re not going to stop working; I can guarantee you that.”

Briere, 45, has experience as an interim GM and as a special assistant to Fletcher. He paid his dues with Comcast Spectacor’s Maine Mariners – serving as the ECHL team’s president, and running the day-to-day operations -- and worked closely with Fletcher, who was fired on March 10.

“I love his mind. I love his spirit,” Jones said of Briere. “He’s a tough little guy. He’s a grinder at heart. I appreciate that about him, and I love his work ethic. I love that he’s excitable. I love the fact he’s calm under pressure. I love what he did as a player in the playoffs here in Philadelphia. I love that he chose to be here and that he stayed here.

“He’s doing it for all the right reasons,” Jones said. “He wants to do a great job for our fans and this organization.”

Briere is a student of hockey. During his 17-year playing career, no one was better at instantly analyzing a game than the high-scoring little forward.

“He does have the ability to see the game and simplify it for everybody because his hockey mind is so strong,” Jones said.

Briere said similar things about Jones, one of the NHL’s most respected hockey analysts.

“I’ve always admired his mind and the way he thinks the game,” Briere said.

Both know the Flyers’ strengths and weaknesses as well as anyone. Jones got an up-close look as a broadcaster, while Briere has been working in the Flyers’ front office.

“I was fortunate to have seen and been around the organization the last few years, and I know what areas we need to improve on,” Briere said, “So that makes me feel comfortable in the job.”

Some fans were upset that two former Flyers got the jobs, saying the organization needed outside voices. That said, Fletcher was an “outsider,” and the Flyers mostly struggled during his tenure.

Flyers coach John Tortorella was puzzled that some fans didn’t like the hires.

“Why do people think [former Flyers] are diseased?” he said. “… I’m proud that they’re ex-Flyers.”

Past opportunities

In the past, Jones said, he had a couple of opportunities from other teams to work in “different roles” in the front office. “But never at the same level as this job.”

At the time those opportunities arose, he wasn’t interested in working for another organization.

“But this one just came at the right time,” Jones said. “I thought about it for about 10 seconds, and then I said yes.”

It was expected that the Flyers would name a seasoned front-office person as their president – Ray Shero, who was interested in the job, was among the candidates – to help Briere ease into his position.

Jones’ vast knowledge of the organization, however, trumped Shero’s experience.

“If there’s one job I would take, it was this job,” Jones said. “It’s the only job [Jones wanted], because of my relationship with the fans here in Philadelphia.”

Jones has worked in the Philly media for 23 years, including time on


WIP’s popular morning radio show.

He is thrilled with “the opportunity to get this right. That’s what has me really excited about what’s in front of us. It’s challenging – there’s no question about that – but I think a big part of this is that our fans are ready for us to regroup and rebuild. They’re words you really don’t want to say. And it’s that type of timing that tells me we have a window to get the Flyers back on track and get the fans back who have left us.”

The Flyers are coming off a 31-38-13 season under their new coach, Tortorella. But several of the young players, such as Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, and Cam York, showed promise.

Jones knows the fans have become disenchanted. The Flyers have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, the first time that has happened since the early ‘90s. They have won one playoff series in the last 11 years.

“As you know, this city supports their teams when they give them something to support,” Jones said. “That’s what we want to do here.”

Briere was named the interim general manager on March 10. Just over two months later, he was promoted as the full-time GM. He called it an “incredible honor” to serve as an interim general manager, “and it’s only made me hungrier to turn this thing around.”

The June 28-29 draft was the first way the Flyers were trying to get better, but those selections will take time to develop. The Flyers aren’t expected to be big players in the free-agent market, but they hope to improve themselves with trades.

Briere says he will listen to all offers, and he caused a stir when he said no player was untouchable, even their MVP, goalie Carter Hart.

“Most likely, Carter will be our goalie for the future, but I’m not in a

position to turn down anything,” Briere said on WIP.

Jones agreed.

“We’re definitely open for business,” Jones said, “and we’re not in a position where we can look away from anything.”

The Provorov deal showed that.

At the press deadline, there were rumblings Hart would be dealt. But it seemed more likely the Flyers would try to move expensive players like Kevin Hayes and Tony DeAngelo.

“There’s no question we’re going to be looking to change the trajectory of where we’re going over time, and I wouldn’t rule out trades as being a part of that,” said Jones, while not referring to any specific players who could be moved.

Goals for season

As for the 2023-24 season, Jones has set some goals.

“We want to continue to have our younger players develop into more than what they’ve already demonstrated,” he said. “We want improvement. We want our player development to become a really high standard for where we want to go. Those are the type of things that are going to show our fan base that we mean what we say – that we’re going to do this the right way.”

Jones paused.

“And when it’s [our] time down the road, start to add the free agents,” he said. “We want to have the cap space to do that because we’ve managed things properly.”

For the upcoming season, Jones said there’s a chance the Flyers will add some inexpensive free agents who “can help us, but without locking up a bunch of money. Guys who can help with their style of play and their effort and accountability – and are great in the room. But we’re not going to throw money at players of a certain age with long-term contracts. This year is not about that.”

Jones says the Flyers need a sniper such as they’ve had in the past like former draft picks Simon Gagne or Jeff Carter.

“That’s the type of talent we need to acquire by whatever means we have,” he said. “We would prefer to draft them, obviously. It’s much better when you’re developing those players. Those are the type of players we need; guys who are skyrocketing on the way up. We need more skill. We had some players emerge and show us there’s a lot there, but we need more of those guys.”

Jones believes “We have a pretty good nucleus of guys who do the intangibles well; we need some players who can really do some incredible things out there, like 100-point guys. Those aren’t going to be easy to find, but we want to make sure we draft them and develop them well – to the point where they are those types of players.”

Let the rebuild begin.

A FUN rebuild. n

Photo Philadelphia Flyers Keith Jones, the Flyers’ new president of hockey operations, left his TV gig to help bring the organization back to relevance.
Jones knows the fans have become disenchanted. The Flyers have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, the first time that has happened since the early ‘90s.

Trophy Hunting

the 2023 philadelphia eagles begin their quest to return to the super bowl

las vegas odds say the Eagles are the favorites at +325 to win the NFC and go back to the Super Bowl. They’re the second choice at +800 to go back and win their second-ever Super Bowl. History tells a different story. The last time an NFC team lost a Super Bowl and went back the next year was the Minnesota Vikings in 1973-74, when they lost both Super Bowls VIII and IX. That was almost 50 years ago. The

last time an NFC team lost a Super Bowl then went back the next year and actually won the Super Bowl was the Dallas Cowboys in 197071, when they lost Super Bowl V and won Super Bowl VI. That was over 50 years ago.

Here’s another piece of history that doesn’t bode well for the Eagles in 2023. Of the last five NFC teams to lose a Super Bowl dating back over 10 years, three — the 49ers in 2020; the Rams in 2019 and the Panthers in 2016 — failed to even make the playoffs the following

year and the other two — Atlanta in 2017 and Seattle in 2015 — got knocked out of the playoffs before the conference final.

Why is it so hard for a team that loses the Super Bowl to bounce back?

Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who won a Super Bowl with the Rams and lost two, one with the Rams and one with the Cardinals, explained it as well as anyone in an interview with me in 2006.

“There is something to it,’’ Warner said of


the Super Bowl Loser Jinx. “It’s just a tough thing to get past. The one loss that bothers me more than anything is the game we lost to New England [in Super Bowl XXXVI]. It’s hard to forget. We were on the biggest stage and didn’t play our best game.

“And the thing is everybody watches the Super Bowl. Everybody. So everywhere you go that offseason you’re being asked about the game and, ‘What happened?’ It’s even worse when you’re supposed to win. It carries over. That’s why you see [Super Bowl losers] start the season slowly. And sometimes they never recover.’’

So, the Eagles, who in 2022 won the NFC for the second time in the last five years have a lot to overcome to make it back to the Super Bowl for the third time in six years. And they seem to be aware of it.

Despite being the betting favorites, veteran center Jason Kelce knows what lies ahead for his team in 2023 isn’t going to be easy.

“We‘re starting, in my mind, from ground one,” Kelce said before the team began its first OTA in May. “We’re starting from the very bottom again and we’re installing all the plays — this is what you have to do. You have to approach it like it’s a completely new team in a

completely new year. You keep trying to get better and you keep trying to improve. We’re going to have to earn it the same way we did last year. They don’t just hand it to you in this league. In some ways, it’s going to be harder. When you do win and have a successful year, all offseason, all the offenses are looking to steal things that you do well. All the defenses are looking to stop the innovative, creative things that you’re doing. So you have more eyes on you. You have more time being spent around the things that you do structurally. We have a lot to prove and it’s going to be even

harder to have a really, really good season.”

The bar has been set. Anything less than getting back to the Super Bowl will not be considered a “really, really good season.’’ To the tough, sometimes critical fans who packed Lincoln Financial Field eight Sundays a year, it might even be considered “a bad year.’’ And to some of those same fans even getting there won’t be enough. The Eagles will have to win the Super Bowl for 2023 to be a success.

Here’s a look at what can go right and what can go wrong for the Eagles as they open camp later this month.

Jalen Hurts

Nobody, including the Eagles brain trust, saw what was coming from the quarterback in 2022. If the Eagles knew what they had, there would not have been flirtations with Russell Wilson and DeShaun Watson last offseason. Sticking with Hurts proved to be the best decision the team made in years, just ahead of trading for A.J. Brown. Hurts had an MVP season, losing the award to Patrick Mahomes, but his play was more than worthy of consideration. And the fact the team went 0-2 in the games he missed and 13-2 in games he played showed

the eagles will have five new starters on defense, as the team’s top five tacklers all left as free agents.

his true “value’’. Hurts passed for 3,701 yards and ran for 760. He combined for 35 touchdowns (22 passing, 13 rushing). The team went as Hurts went. And that likely won’t change in 2023. One question is how the young QB will react to his new long-term contract, but a bigger one might be how the rest of the league reacts to him. He’s no longer a surprise.

The Rest of the Roster

There will be several changes on both sides of the ball for the 2023 Eagles. Offensively, the team lost running back Myles Sanders to free agency and will try to replace him and his 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns with some combination of free agent addition Rashad Penney, trade acquisition D’Andre Swift and holdovers Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Penney and Swift have both been bothered by injuries in their careers. Right guard Isaac Seumalo also left as a free agent and could be missed. He will be replaced by either secondyear man Cam Jurgens, a pure center, or rookie third-round pick Tyler Steen. The offense will again be paced by its passing game with Hurts, Brown, wide receiver Devonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert.

Defensively, there will be five new starters as the team’s top five tacklers all left as free agents. The biggest loss was defensive tackle Jason Hargrave, who had 11 sacks and 10 more tackles for a loss in 2022. Again, the team will count on young players, second-year man Jordan Davis, a first-round pick in 2022 and rookie Jalen Carter, their 2023 first-round pick, to fill the huge void. The defense also lost its top two linebackers — T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White. Two undersized players in second-year man Nakobe Dean (5-11, 230) and veteran Nicholas Morrow (6-0, 216) appear to be the replacements. Both starting safeties, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who led the team with six interceptions and Marcus Epps, are also gone. Veteran free agent Terrell Edmunds and

impressive rookie third-round pick Sydney Brown will get the chance to replace them.

Coaching Changes

Not only will the team have several players in new, key positions, the men coordinating both the offense and defense will be different as well. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen left to become head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and defensive coordinator Jon Gannon left to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. The team stayed in-house to replace Steichen, who some in the league think will be sorely missed. Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, who only has two years of NFL experience both with the Eagles, was promoted to replace Steichen. This will be the 36-year-old Johnson’s first time calling plays in the league as well. The team bypassed popular secondary coach Dennard Wilson to replace Gannon and instead hired one-time Temple assistant Sean Desai, who was Seattle’s associate head coach in 2022. Before that, the 40-year-old Desai spent 2013-2021 with the Chicago Bears.

The Schedule

On paper, the Eagles have one of the more daunting slates in the league. They will play 11 games – two against the Cowboys and Giants, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City, Buffalo and Miami – against teams that went to the playoffs in 2022. Of the six games against non-playoff teams, they face rival Washington twice, (who beat them once last season), Aaron Rodgers and the Jets, and Bill Belichick and New England. The Eagles are a perfect 12-0 against the Jets in their history. On the flip side, the Eagles have lost seven straight to Seattle and haven’t won in Seattle since 2008. The toughest stretch of the season comes just after their bye, Nov. 12. In order the team will play at KC, Buffalo, San Francisco, at Dallas and at Seattle. n



South Jersey’s Growing Winery Scene

WHEN Todd Wuerker assesses the burgeoning winery scene in Cape May County, he doesn’t view fellow vintners as competition. Okay, he does a little bit. But mostly, he understands the value of critical mass and how if current vineyards and those to come continue to grow and flourish, the entire area will gain attention and create opportunities for all to prosper.

The Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery he and his wife, Kenna, started in 2008 in Rio Grande has experienced considerable growth, while also helping to prove to skeptics that the area has tremendous potential.

“When we started, we would get custom-

Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery

ers who came in saying, ‘New Jersey can’t grow grapes and make wine,’” Wuerker says. “Now, people come in and say, ‘We’ve heard great things.’ It’s been a huge progression and perception of what’s happening here.”

Although no one will confuse New Jersey with Napa Valley, the last decade-plus has seen the development of a flourishing winery scene throughout Cape May County that has added another attraction to an area that has long been known primarily for beaches and boardwalks. Just as South Jersey has become a much more robust restaurant area, so too have wineries become more recognized for their products and the experiences they offer visitors.

In addition to Hawk Hill, there are Cape May Winery and Vineyard in North Cape

May, G&W Winery in Rio Grande, Jessie Creek Vineyard and Winery in Cape May Courthouse, Natali Vineyards and Winery, also in Cape May Courthouse, Southwind Vineyard in Deerfield Township, Turdo Vineyard and Winery in North Cape May and Willow Creek Vineyard and Winery in West Cape May.

While Wuerker understands that more wineries create more competition, he also knows that if there are several options available to people, they will more likely decide to experience what’s available at as many as possible, just as they don’t eat simply at one bistro.

“I don’t see it as competition,” Wuerker says. “Whatever is happening is forcing us to continue to make better wines and get notoriety. With more wineries comes more recognition. We can build a cottage industry so that there are more reasons to come to Cape May than just the beaches.”

The seven Cape May County wineries and several others throughout the southern part of the state offer various opportunities for tastings, tours, dining and special events. Some, like Willow Creek Winery in West Cape May, have developed a significant wedding business. Others can offer opportunities to host smaller gatherings, particularly bachelorette parties. But the main focus of each

is producing the best wine possible thanks to maturing growth processes and the experience gained by winemakers.

Michael Mitchell has been at Cape May Winery and Vineyard for 15 years and worked his way to chief winemaker after beginning as a worker in the vineyard. He says “60 percent” of the property’s output is “estate wine,” or from grapes grown on the premises. The goal is to expand that share to make even more wine from what is grown on the land it owns. As the individual wineries work to produce better vintages, they are happy to be part of a growing scene that is making the area a destination for oenophiles and casual wine fans.

“That’s huge,” Mitchell says. “One reason is for the economy. People can come down to do a wine tasting and hit five or six wineries in a weekend. Second, if you want to be taken more seriously in the world of wine, it’s about having a region. You hear about Napa and other growing areas. If we want to take wine here to the next level, we have to develop the area and the brand.”


as two centuries ago, farms in West Cape May used to provide all of the produce for the Cape May peninsula. One of those properties, which used to grow

Photo courtesy Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery Photo courtesy Cape May Winery and Vineyard Dining room at Cape May Winery and Vineyard

soybeans, is now the Willow Creek Winery, which sits on a 50-acre property. In 2000, Barbara Bray-Wilde purchased the farm and

converted it into a winery. She planted grape vines in 2004, and five years later the first vintage debuted.

Today, Willow Creek is a thriving concern with a main tasting area/restaurant and cottages which visitors can rent throughout the year. Hamilton Wilde, the winery’s Director of Events, says that while some areas of the country are trying to replicate what’s being done in Napa, the Cape May wineries have more of an “old world” European style.

“The sandy soil here is wonderful for drainage, and we get fantastic cross breezes from the bay and the ocean,” she says. “The water doesn’t sit on the grapes, and there is a lack of mold. It’s a climate similar to Bordeaux, France.”

Mitchell agrees. He says having water on both sides of the peninsula creates a “microclimate” that is more temperate than the rest of the states. That makes for a longer growing season, because the winter isn’t too harsh, and the summer doesn’t feature long stretches of beastly heat.

The result is a menagerie of wines that offers products for casual drinkers to full-on enthusiasts. Richard Kaplan, who bought Natali two years ago from founder Al Natali, reports his winery has accumulated 125 medals during its 20-year existence. It has 15 varieties, including a bold chardonnay and the dry, three-red blend Nonno’s Cellar, which Kaplan

The patio at Cape May Winery and Vineyard Photo courtesy Cape May Winery and Vineyard

says is “extraordinarily popular.”

Kaplan’s long-term plan for the winery is to increase production. To that end, he purchased a farm in Brotmanville, Salem County just off Route 55 and has planted five acres of grapes, to go with the nine active acres on the vineyard’s premises. Natali produces about 100 cases of wine each year, which Kaplan does not deem enough for profitability – or for the state’s liquor stores to carry the winery’s product. He hopes within three years to expand production and distribute the wines more widely throughout the state.

Natali does sponsor events and has been the site of weddings. Since radio and TV personality Mike Missanelli is a part owner, he was at the property during Memorial Day weekend to meet and interact with guests. While Kaplan understands the value of welcoming visitors – and plans to double the tasting area – he is more interested in making better wines and considers selling the experience secondary. For him to do that, increasing the amount Natali makes is paramount.

“We have the potential to make world-class wine in substantial quantities if we can grow enough grapes,” he says.


has been a priority at Cape May Winery, too. Since Mitchell started, he has seen what he describes as “crazy growth,” with production increasing and the physical plant expanding. Although the winery is at capacity now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to improve.

“We have to focus now on continuing to develop our estate wines and getting better at growing fruit and making wine,” Mitchell says.

That goal is repeated by winery owners and vineyard workers throughout the area. It is important to have a great experience for visitors, and the growing number of properties in Cape May County has created a destination for those who love wine, as well as people who simply want something more to do when they head to the Shore. The growing community and options – along with the dozens of wines to be sampled and purchased – have brought a new personality to the area, largely in under two decades. The future is bright, and there is little doubt the area’s wine scene will continue to thrive.

“There is California wine country, and we have created our own South Jersey wine country,” Wilde says. “People are coming here just for the wineries.” n

Photo courtesy Willow Creek Winery Willow Creek Winery sits on 50 acres in South Jersey.


The Fastest Growing Sport in the Country!
Photo courtesy

Asport created by three dads who were trying to entertain bored kids while vacationing in the summer of 1965 has blossomed into the fastest-growing sport in the United States. In fact, pickleball is not just growing, it’s exploding. According to the Association of Pickleball Professionals at the end of 2022, more than 36.5 million Americans have played the game. It’s become big fun for players of all ages and big business for entrepreneurs.


Yes, this simple game played on a hard court that’s both narrower and shorter than a standard tennis court (less than one-third the size) combines elements of tennis, badmin-

ton and ping pong and is booming nationwide. Here in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the game has burst into a super popular way for people to stay active, lose weight, in-

crease social interactions and maybe even do some networking.

The game can be played indoors or outdoors and the Philly region is home to what’s been promoted as the largest indoor pickleball tournament in the Mid-Atlantic – The Atlantic City Pickleball Open. The event debuted last September with 775 players and is set for its second annual run this year, Sept. 19-23, at the Atlantic City Convention Center. As many as 1,500 players are expected this year.

“When I started playing this game back in 2016, I had so much fun,” said Randy Sussman, one of the three owners/organizers of the Atlantic City Pickleball Open. “I said this is a sport for every age. It’s the only sport where a grandfather can play with his granddaughter and be very competitive. This sport is here to stay.”

But there’s more proof of the growth in the region and the nation.

In March, what has been described as the region’s first fully dedicated indoor pickleball facility – Proshot Pickleball – opened in Egg Harbor Township, NJ. In May, Bounce Pickleball opened at the site of the former Great Valley Racquet Club in Malvern, PA, with 16 courts, a teaching pro, instructors and lessons available. Bounce plans on opening six facilities in the region in the next couple of

Those waiting for a game put their pickleball paddles in place and when a game ends, the owners of the first two paddles on the left are next up. This is the way a typical round of open play pickleball is organized. It adds to the social aspect of the game where you are randomly set up with a new partner nearly every game you play.

years. This summer, Pickle Juice, another indoor pickleball facility that combines highend courts, a juice bar and a pro shop, opened its first location in Ventnor, NJ. Its second is set to open in 2024 in the Blackwood section of Gloucester Township, NJ. All totaled, Pickle Juice plans to open as many as 15 locations in the next five years.

On Sunday, April 2, nearly 800,000 viewers tuned in to watch Pickleball Slam, an exhibition doubles pickleball match featuring four tennis legends – John McEnroe and Michael Chang competed against Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick on ESPN with $1 million going to the winning team (Agassi and Roddick). The event, held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FL, was considered a huge win for the sport and its future as a potential TV property. CBS Sports Network has a contract with the Professional Pickleball Association Tour to air 30 hours of coverage this year.

“The Pickleball Slam was awesome,” said Brandon Mackie, a former tennis player who is one of the three founders of the website,, which helps pickleball players find locations to play, nationwide. “That day was one of our highest days of traffic ever on the website. The event definitely created a lot of buzz and interest in the sport.”

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce and left tackle Jordan Mailata play the game as do Kelce’s tight end brother Travis and his Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, as the Kelce brothers discussed on their podcast, New Heights.

The Sports and Fitness Industry Association reports that pickleball’s average growth rate over the last three years is 158.6 percent.

Pickleball USA, the sport’s national governing body says that Pennsylvania ranks ninth in total places to play in the country and New Jersey is 20th.

You can even celebrate National Pickleball Day on August 8 every year, marking the anniversary of the game’s invention. And there’s even a push to make pickleball an Olympic sport as early as 2028 when the Summer Games return to the United States in Los Angeles.

Pickleball is everywhere, for everyone

According to Mackie’s website – which includes one of the largest databases of pickleball courts in the country – from the northern reaches of Bucks County, PA, to the southern parts of the Jersey shore, there are more than 125 public facilities to play. At many of these spots, dozens of folks appear for open play sessions usually coordinated via various smartphone apps such as Meetup. On, you can find a place to play near you by simply typing your town, state or facility’s name and clicking search. Mackie says some of the busiest places to play in the region are Venella Memorial Park in Runnemede, NJ, the Garden State Rotary Complex in Cherry Hill, NJ, and Paddock Park in Haverford Township, PA.

And yes, adults are out there playing on evenings, on weekends, in organized leagues or in open play. But kids are also getting in on the act, not only out in the community but also many teens are getting introduced to the sport by playing the game in gym class. Over-

all, pickleball is truly a game for anyone.

“The 18-34-year-old age group is the largest percentage of pickleball players and more specifically, within that, the 18-24 segment, that youngest segment, is the fastest growing segment,” says Mackie, a 34-year-old entrepreneur based in Arizona. “The sport has really gone from something for the senior community to showing up in high school “phys ed” classes and college campuses.”

“All you need are a pair of sneakers and a paddle,” says Sussman, who after starting to play the game seven years ago, started a pickleball-exclusive apparel company, PB1965 –the name an homage to the founding fathers of pickleball (Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum and Bill Bell) who created the game at Bainbridge Island, Washington in 1965.

Both Mackie and Sussman are not surprised at the way the game has taken off in the past few years and broken into the mainstream to the point where you can find equipment in stores like J.C. Penney’s, Target and BJ’s Wholesale Club as well as the expected sporting goods stores.

“With more than 36.5 million pickleball players in America, it’s just shy of running and biking – which are both at about 50 million participants – as the most popular activities in the country, said Mackie. “It’s pretty unbelievable to see that happen just in the last few years. So, seeing equipment in retail department stores, you go to local parks you’re going to see 30-40 people out there waiting for courts. It’s everywhere and it’s awesome to watch.”

“I’ve seen the growth and the spurts and we’re in the middle of another explosion right now,” said Sussman, 61, who calls Naples, FL, home but after graduating college spent time living with his parents Seymour and Gloria in Ventnor, NJ, and working at the family’s Bookbinders Seafood House in the food court at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City in the late 1980s. His parents still live in Ventnor and you can find Seymour, 90, on the pickleball courts seven days a week during the summer months.

A sense of community

“I’m not surprised at the explosion of the game,” Sussman said. “It’s changed people’s lives. I know people who lost their spouses and they were in bed for a year, a year and a half, just depressed. And they picked up a paddle with a friend and now, all of a sudden, they can hardly wait to get to the courts and be with their friends and it’s completely changed their lives. There’s a huge sense of community.”

Paul Petruccelli a resident of Moorestown,


NJ, is a diehard player and uses South Jersey Pickleball’s portal on the Meetup app to schedule his pickleball activities. He is one of nearly 5,900 people registered in the South Jersey Pickleball group. In fact, the 56-yearold can be found at the River Road Pickleball Complex in Pennsauken, NJ, as frequently as six times a week. He too agrees that the sense of community and social values are a big part of the sport. He has seen the life-changing nature of the sport too.

“You don’t have to be an advanced athlete to play,” said Petruccelli, who started playing in early 2021 after seeing his amount of physical activity severely cut down during the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. He connected with an old college friend from his days at Rowan University, (then Glassboro State) and got started. “For some people, it’s purely recreational. For some people, they’re doing it because they want to get good, and put themselves in a place for individual achievement.

“And look at it economically,” said Petruccelli, who most recently worked as the plant manager at a digital large format print house but is in the process of seeking new opportunities. “People are buying apparel and shoes and paddles and other attire. Now you have a whole slew of people who are teaching the game too, so you have instructors, and you have to get certified as an instructor. People

are willing to pay $80 an hour to learn the game. It’s reaching out with so many different tentacles, there’s almost a new one every day.”

It not only helped Petruccelli increase his physical activity, but it also helped him decrease his weight.

“I realized, it’s not only a good activity but if I couple this with a change in lifestyle and diet, as a type 2 diabetic, I’d really be able to

do something serious about my condition. Combine all of that and I’ve lost 55 pounds, so it really served to help me from a health and wellness standpoint as much as it did to give me social interactions and activity.”

Likewise, Petruccelli’s wife, Diane Plumley, 68, has also found the game to be a boost to her physical well-being. “It’s been beneficial to me in terms of losing weight. I really lost a lot,” said Plumley who started joining her husband on the courts late in 2021. “This activity and changing my eating habits helped too. The people are super nice and very friendly and you really can have fun. In the beginning, I was only going once a week but, if you really want to get better, you have to play more than that. But I’m really here for the exercise.”

Petruccelli added: “There’s whole lines of attire and a shoe culture happening, but I think the difference between this sport and other activities is that this offers that big social component and a networking component. I’ve met people here, everyone from lawyers to doctors to working professionals to auto mechanics and consultants… they’re all part of this community. So, why wouldn’t you take your car to the guy you play pickleball with because you got to know him and you have this rapport now. Those are subconscious things but they matter. It encompasses so much and I think it gives back a lot to the community.” n

Photo courtesy
Paul Petruccelli



S VIVID AN IMAGINATION as he’s always had, as eager as he’s been to try just about anything, Andrew Carber admits he never could’ve seen this coming. Then again, the kid from Ambler, Pa. who played three sports at Upper Dublin High a decade ago, has never gone the conventional route. “His story in 27 short years goes beyond words,” laughed his mother, Maggie, a retired former elementary school language teacher, now living with her husband, Bob, in Pawley’s Island, SC. “It’s just ridiculous.”

“Andrew has always been my child who did things outside the box. He’s always been very creative and business savvy. He just knows how to make things click.”

Yet not even this 6’ 9” hulk whose brief pitching career in the Boston Red Sox’ organization had fizzled out… whose hopes of a golf career hadn’t materialized… and who’d finally moved basketball from the back burner towards the front could have possibly fantasized this: that one day he’d be hobnobbing on a movie set in Mallorca, Spain with Adam Sandler.

54 A
Andrew Carber poses with Adam Sandler on the set of “Hustle.” Photo courtesy the Carber family

That’s where they were filming “Hustle,” Sandler’s story

unsuccessfully – to convince his skeptical boss to draft him. The part of Cruz was played by Juancho Hernangomez, a veteran of six NBA teams since 2016. But since they needed someone to fill in for him as a body double, that’s where Carber fit in.

It all started a couple of years ago while the pandemic was beginning to wind down and Carber was playing pickup ball at the Sixers’ G League training facility in Wilmington, DE. Andrew picks up the story there.

“One morning a guy chases me down the hall and introduces himself as being with the Sixers’ G League team,” said Carber, who averaged nearly 18 points his senior year at Upper Dublin, but never really pursued basketball after that. “His first line is ‘Would you want to be in a movie with Adam Sandler and Queen Latifah?’

“I thought he was trying to sell me something.”

AFTER FINDING OUT what it entailed and what “Hustle” was all about, Carber decided to buy. “I had never heard of the movie and didn’t know they were filming in Philadelphia at the time,” said Carber, who splits his time between Glen Mills, Delaware County and Charleston, SC. “I met with the Happy Madi-

about a Philadelphia 76ers’ scout who discovers a potential prospect named Bo Cruz while in Europe and tries – Carber with “Hustle” star Queen Latifah Photo courtesy the Carber family

son team (Sandler’s Production Company) and Spring Hill Entertainment (Lebron James’ company, which produced the film).

“They said ‘Yes, he looks like Juancho. He can dunk and shoot.’ They gave me the role. They said ‘Congratulations. you’re Bo Cruz’ stunt double.’

“The next thing I know I’m on a first-class flight to Spain to film a movie with Adam Sandler and Kenny Smith. The week before Juancho had dislocated his shoulder playing for the Spanish national team and could barely pick up a glass to drink, let alone shoot a ball.

“They flew me to Spain where I spent 2 ½ weeks filming over there. I got to meet Adam Sandler for the first time and from that point wound up spending every day on set with him for 2 ½ months, which was pretty surreal.

Things have been busy for Carber ever since. He’s done another movie, “Fantasy Football,” as a stunt receiver and backup quarterback which was filmed in Atlanta. He’s done some script writing and helped direct a “gift of the game” commercial for Under Armor. And recently he’s gone back to his first love, golf, hoping to compete in the World Long Drive Tour.

In the process, he’s learned some valuable lessons. First, how fleeting success can be, but also, not to let whatever success you achieve change who you are.

“The difference between me and you and Queen Latifah and Adam Sandler is literally nothing other than they had the courage to pursue what they love,” said Carber, who also got to know Jalil White (best known as Urkel) during production. “They wake up ev-

“They flew me to Spain where I spent 2½ weeks filming over there. I got to meet Adam Sandler for the first time and from that point wound up spending every day on set with him for 2 ½ months, which was pretty surreal.

ery day thinking about their craft and how to either better themselves or create value for the world through another movie or standup comedy session.

“You’d never know what their bank account figures would be. They just want to be treated like regular people.

“The most important thing it’s given me is perspective learning how humble these individuals are, so if I ever do get to that point of status they have, I have a blueprint for how to act around people.”

Maybe that’s why Andrew would come around to Upper Dublin periodically to encourage the guys on Ed Wall’s baseball team. “He came in and spoke with our high school guys,” said Wall, UD’s longtime coach, who still wonders what the season might have been had Andrew decided to skip baseball to concentrate on hoops and golf. “Andrew’s always been the nicest guy in the room.

“Working with Sandler I congratulate him. It’s definitely an exciting lifestyle he’s been able to create and take advantage of. Love the kid.”

TO APPRECIATE how far Andrew Carber, or Daddy Carbs as some call him, has come, it helps to understand how he got there. You’d think being the son of 6’ 7” Bob Carver, who played with longtime Iowa coach Fran McCaffery at LaSalle High, then briefly for Pete Carril at Princeton before becoming a dentist, basketball would be his first love.

Nope. “He’s a golf guy and loves baseball

Carber was drafted by the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher in 2017. Photo courtesy Andrew Carber (@daddycarbs)

too,” said Maggie, herself a 5-11 basketball player from Wilmington, DE. “Basketball was never a passion sport.”

So, after graduating in 2013, Carber elected to go to Clemson where he hoped to play on the golf team. Just one problem. They didn’t accept walk-ons.

“My heart was set on golf at the time,” said Carber, who played locally mostly at LuLu Country Club, where a few years back he got tips while caddying for Hall of Famer Gary Player. “Unfortunately Clemson doesn’t take walk-ons so my dream of playing there got derailed.

“I thought I definitely had the talent and would’ve blossomed there had they given me the opportunity. But I’m also a firm believer everything happens for a reason.”

That led to Carber changing course and turning his focus back to baseball. He transferred from Clemson first to Harford Community College in Bel Air, MD, then to baseball haven Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fl. near the Panhandle, which has produced future major leaguers, Jose Bautista, Adam Duvall, and Patrick Corbin among others over the years.

“They were the number one ranked JC in the country,” revealed Carber, who would go on to help Chipola win a national championship while developing his skills enough to eventually become a 2017 Red Sox’ 30thround draft choice. “I had always wanted to play baseball growing up.

“I was inspired by those Phillies teams with Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. I met Hamels at Maple Zone Sports Institute (in Aston, PA.). Sometimes we trained together, and I used to pick his brain.”


Carber’s time with the Red Sox didn’t last for long. By 2018 he’d been released, which he feels was as much due to improper training techniques

as lack of performance. “I was 21 at the time and they tried to change me a little bit as far as mechanics go,” said Carber, whose teammates at the time included current Sox Tanner Houck and Kutter Crawford. “I really needed someone who could give me tutelage on how to properly use my legs.

“Everyone had their own two cents what would be the right answer. I had so many different mechanical changes in my mind at the time I didn’t know who I was as a pitcher anymore and what had gotten me there. I tweaked my elbow because they tried to change me and make me an over-the-top guy instead of an arm slot guy.”

A bit dismayed, Carber took some time off to re-energize before heading back to the fray in 2019. “I got picked up by some independent teams,” he said, referring to his time with the Westside Wooly Mammoths and Utica Unicorns in the United Shore League, followed by the Atlantic League’s York Revolution. “In the Atlantic League we were actually part of the inaugural rule changes—the lab rats for Major League testing grounds.

“We were the first ones to test the time clock, the bigger bases, the robot umpires. I got an early glimpse of what it would do to baseball.”

Physically and mentally healthy and throwing harder than ever, Carber was thinking of playing for a team in Detroit when the pandemic ground everything to a halt in March 2020. Over the ensuing year to stay in shape, Carber would make the 90-minute trek from his home in Blue Bell to Wilmington, where he would often go against players like Villanova NCAA championship game hero, Kris Jenkins, and former NBA players Ronde Hollis-Jefferson, Jason Thompson, among others.

He did well enough to reach the point where he was seriously considering heading overseas to play in Germany when the man from the Sixers’ G League team approached

him that fateful July 2021 day. “He told me they were looking for a 6’ 9” highly skilled ballplayer, 225 pounds, Caucasian,” recalled Carber, who was skeptical at first that he’d simply be an extra before learning more details. “The next thing I know I was sending videos of me dunking and shooting to Happy Madison and the directors and the casting team of Netflix.

“Then I heard back from Mike Fisher, the guy in the sports film industry, who’s done “Remember the Titans,” “The Longest Yard,” “Blindside,” and “Moneyball.”

Before he knew it an “acting” career was born, where the money keeps coming in for the man who’s become somewhat of an expert in investing. “I’m entitled to residuals,” revealed Andrew. “I get paid for my work up front and I’ve been grandfathered into the SAG union.

“I never did anything like this before in my life. I used to do school plays growing up but had no real aspirations to get into entertainment. Doing ‘Hustle’ I learned the perks of show business. Every time the movie’s streamed I get a cut of the steaming revenue.”

Now, even though the writers’ strike has temporarily slowed things down, Andrew Carber has some projects in the works, including possibly being a stunt doubling for the Kurt Rambis character in HBO’s “Winning Time” series about the 1980s Lakers. The kid from Ambler, who never let a detour prevent him from making the next trip around the corner turn out even more worthwhile, would be the first to tell you to never say never and always pursue your dreams.

His story is reminiscent of a different Hollywood movie: the one where the cop who wins the lottery shares his winnings with the waitress after he forgets to leave her a tip.

They called that one – as Andrew Carber could certainly relate – “It Could Happen to You.” n

“Doing ‘Hustle’ I learned the perks of show business. Every time the movie’s streamed I get a cut of the steaming revenue.”

Invasion in the ‘Burgh

A Phillies Fan’s Guide to PNC Park

Photo Kurt Smith

The Phillies will be in Pittsburgh taking on the Bucs at the end of July…it’s a perfect opportunity for a road trip to one of the best ballparks in baseball.

Mark it on your calendar, dear readers: your Phillies will be in Pittsburgh July 28-30, for a weekend of cross-state rival baseball.

Don’t miss this bucket list opportunity. From its location in the heart of a beautiful city to its intimacy and small capacity, and a ballpark backdrop that is unrivaled anywhere, PNC Park is a baseball experience like no other. It’s truly a must-visit destination for baseball fans.

JerseyMan is here to help.

Your first task, of course, is getting tickets.

The Pirates haven’t played in a World Series since the Carter administration, so even in this beautiful ballpark, most games don’t sell out. That said, a July weekend against the Phillies is about as high demand as it gets, so plan ahead.

There are several methods of scoring pasteboards:

Buying from the Pirates’ website or the Ballpark app is probably best…but do it soon, while there’s still a good seat selection to be had. The website has an excellent 3-D seating map that shows panoramic views from each section, so you have a good idea of what you’re getting.

If you want to compare the team’s prices and selection with StubHub or SeatGeek, remember that each vendor (including the Pirates) charges a fee, which can be sizable. Go all the way to the checkout screen to see what you’re actually going to pay, as opposed to the advertised price.

Even for Phillies games, there should be ample seats available on third-party sites, but there will likely be a markup. If you wait until a few hours before game time, you might see prices drop, but I wouldn’t count on that.

I also wouldn’t recommend buying at the box office on game day. Again, consider demand…for Phillies games on a July weekend, chances are you’ll have a limited selection.

Finally, regarding scalpers, the only legal place to sell extras is a designated spot on Tony Dorsett Drive, under the Fort Duquesne Bridge. I’ve never seen any fans with extras in my visits, and scalpers are always hit or miss.

Now for the fun part…choosing a seat.

You’ll have a hard time finding a bad seat at PNC Park. From just about anywhere, there’s a superb view of not just the action on the field, but also the stunning Pittsburgh skyline, with the gold-painted Roberto Clemente Bridge as the centerpiece. Even in the outfield, where you don’t have a direct view of it all, you can still take in a ballpark that was stupendously designed and blends perfectly with its surroundings.

If you have the means, in late July it’s wise to find a ticket with access to clubs. There are the high-end club seats behind home plate, which are large and padded, and include access to a swanky lounge, a pregame meal, a private entrance, and a full-service bar. You’ll pay a nice chunk of change for the privileges though.

For much less dinero, try the Pittsburgh Baseball Club on the mezzanine. PBC seats are wider and cushioned and include access to a club concourse with specialty drinks, ample food selection with shorter lines, and of course, air conditioning.

One reason you might prefer PBC seats, in addition to the price, is the view…the seats of-

Photo Kurt Smith

fer a bird’s eye view of the field, and the city background is actually better seen from a higher vantage point.

If you just want a decent seat to enjoy the game, there is great seating and views throughout the ballpark, and you’ll get good bang for your buck. The Pittsburgh backdrop is definitely best between home plate and third base, but third base and left field are the last spots to see shade, so that’s something of a tradeoff.

Incidentally, lower rows of upper-level seats work great. Not only do they cost about half as much as lower-level seats, they’re also closer to the field than in most ballparks (including ours), and upper-level seats make the best of the spectacular view.

Maybe you won’t be heard shouting Phillystyle encouragement to Pirates players; just saying that upper-level seats are worth a try and can save you a few bucks.

Now for how to get there,

after your pleasant ride through the western Pennsylvania mountains.

There’s ample parking for baseball right at the ballpark, especially with Acrisure Stadium (Steelers) next door. You can book your parking in advance on the Pirates website, which I highly recommend. It’s fine if you want to be close to the ballpark, especially if you’re bringing the kids.

But I have always preferred the Fort Duquesne and Sixth garage, at the foot of the Clemente Bridge, for a delightful approach to and from the ballpark among musicians and peanuts vendors. Unfortunately, the bridge is under construction for 2023 but pack that tip away for next time.

You can park farther away and take advantage of Pittsburgh Port Authority rail lines that run through the city…the ride is free through most of downtown, and plenty cheap from other points. Park at the Rivers Casino or very cheaply at the First Avenue garage and grab a free ride that drops you off at PNC’s front door. SpotHero is a great app to book your parking.

If you’d like to add to your ‘Burgh experience, take a boat to the game…the Gateway Clipper folks run baseball shuttles on game

Statues of Pittsburgh Baseball Greatness

There are four statues outside of PNC Park, each in a different corner of the venue. The statues honor, arguably, the four greatest Pirates in history, with each player in a classic pose:

Honus Wagner (home plate): “The Flying Dutchman” was a shortstop who could do it all on the field…especially hit. He had a lifetime average of .329, with 3,430 hits and 101 home runs (before Babe Ruth made home runs a thing). Wagner is also, of course, the subject of a fascinating baseball conversation…his T206 baseball card is the most valuable ever.

Roberto Clemente (center field): Clemente may have been the greatest Pirate ever…he collected exactly 3,000 hits, 240 home runs, and a lifetime batting average of .317. He could beat you with his glove too…he was a 12-time Gold Glove winner. As all fans know, Clemente tragically died in a plane crash, in a mission to aid earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The statue depicts Clemente in a classic pose, watching a home run leave the ballpark. Willie Stargell (left field): “Pops” was one of the most feared hitters of his day, and the MVP of the “We Are Family” 1979 champions. Stargell put up very impressive numbers in his brilliant career: 475 home runs, 1,540 runs batted in, and a .282 lifetime batting average. Pops, unfortunately, passed away on April 9, 2001, the day of the first home opener at PNC Park.

Bill Mazeroski (right field): Maz is, of course, known for probably the most memorable home run in baseball history…his walk-off in Game Seven of the 1960 Series, sinking the Yankees in a Fall Classic where the Pirates were outscored 55-27. The statue depicts his famous pose of crossing home plate after the home run. He was also a star defensively, with eight Gold Gloves in ten seasons. Maz’s statue wasn’t erected until 2010, but that was fitting timing…the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Series that made his name famous forever in baseball.

days from Station Square. Park at a garage across the Monongahela and hop on the ferry, which starts running 1.5 hours before game time if weather permits. Station Square is a happening spot, and if you have time before or after the game, take a rail car up the Monongahela Incline for a magnificent view of Pittsburgh.

You could also park in the Strip District and use one of the Pittsburgh Pontoons ferries. The Strip is another popular destination, and DeLuca’s is a favorite for breakfast before a day game.

Finally, there’s the menu at the ballpark. Unfortunately, while concessions at PNC are passable, there isn’t much that reflects the city…but one major exception is Primanti Bros.

Primanti is a ‘Burgh tradition from 1933; their sandwiches are steak, capicola, or roast beef with cheese on airy Italian bread, with slaw and fries piled into the sandwich. As grub goes, it’s as iconic as it gets in Pittsburgh.

That’s not quite the only Pittsburgh-exclusive food…there’s also Manny’s BBQ, named

for Pirates great Manny Sanguillen, catcher for the great 1970s teams. Manny is 79, but he still may be there to shake hands, even with Phillies fans. If he’s not, you can still order an excellent BBQ platter there.

Quaker Steak & Lube is a popular choice for wings…the logo is similar to Quaker State motor oil. They have several flavor choices and heat levels, including “Louisiana Lickers” and “Arizona Ranch” last I looked.

If you’re homesick for Philly food, the Pirates did a very nice thing for you…they’ve added a Chickie’s and Pete’s crab fries stand, and yes, they’re the ones you know. C&P even offers a cheesesteak here, but it’s no Uncle Charlie’s.

Elsewhere you can find the standard hot

Photos Kurt Smith

The Pirates #1 Fan – Baseball Joe

When you’re in PNC Park, visit the cove under the right field seats and see if you can find the Pirates’ biggest fan, Baseball Joe Vogel. I promise you, you’ve never met a fan like him.

Baseball Joe has had three strokes that left him deaf and mute, but nothing stops him from walking across the bridge from his apartment downtown for every Pirates home game. He has attended over 3,400 baseball games. Vogel is a fourth-generation Pirates fan: his father, his grandfather, and great grandfather have been following the team since 1882. The four have attended over 10,000 baseball games between them.

PNC Park vs. Citizens Bank Park – Battle of the PA Banks!

PNC Park is called the best ballpark in America a lot, and it’s definitely not a statement that inspires derision. But our own venue is a swell ballpark too, and even if you want to say PNC is better, it isn’t a blowout by any means.

Permit me to name a few things Citizens Bank Park does better than PNC Park, in case any Burgh fans bring the subject up:

1) Team Success. Wherever you’re playing, baseball is just better with a contending team and large, noisy crowds. The Pirates, sadly, have yet to make even a deep playoff run since opening PNC, while the Phillies have already hosted three Fall Classics at the Bank.

2) Food Selection. No one loves a sloppy Primanti Bros. sandwich more than I do, and Manny’s is adequate as ballpark BBQ goes, but this one isn’t even close. CBP is one of the better ballparks for grub: Campo’s cheesesteaks, Bull Dogs, Manco & Manco’s pizza, Federal Donuts…PNC just doesn’t match up. That PNC sells Chickie’s and Pete’s crab fries says it all.

3) Home Run Celebration. The Pirates, to my knowledge, don’t do anything special for home-team dingers that could only be in Pittsburgh. They’re offering cutlass swords to any Pirate who hits one in 2023, but that doesn’t touch the neon Liberty Bell and its loud bong at the Bank.

4) Mascot. The Pirate Parrot is fun for the kids, but you can’t look at him without thinking, “another Phanatic knock-off.” The Parrot isn’t even in the conversation of best mascot in baseball, much less in all of sports. Easy win for Philly.

5) Kids Zone. The Pirates have a decent play area that can keep the kids occupied, but it doesn’t compare to the Phanatic Phun Zone and the Yard. (Although the Bucs deserve props for the Sunday setup on Federal Street.)

There you go…now you’re armed for Pittsburgh fans that tell you they have a better ballpark. I can’t help you with hockey though.

He spends each game interacting with other fans and Pirates employees. He communicates through hand gestures, a well-worn piece of paper featuring letters that he points to, or a keyboard that he types on. During games, you can find him tossing a baseball with ushers, sharing souvenir cups with fans (and advising them on how to score a free soda), and quizzing them with baseball trivia. If there was a Baseball Jeopardy, Baseball Joe would be Ken Jennings. Sitting with Baseball Joe is always entertaining. He asks fans questions like who their favorite players are, what their favorite ballparks are, and of course, whether they like other sports. If you mention that you like NASCAR or hockey, expect him to chastise you for it. He’s baseball, 24/7/365, and he will let you know that no other sport matters. Although the Pirates organization knows Baseball Joe very well, they have yet to honor him in the Pirates Hall of Fame, even though other teams have similarly honored their biggest fans, like Wild Bill Hagy in Baltimore. They should give the idea some thought.

dogs, including footlongs, and local favorite Caliente pizza. The left field food court and “Smorgasburgh” on the first base side offer the best selection…new in 2023 is a Nashville hot chicken sandwich. If you’re going healthy, you have choices at the Market behind home plate, like Papa Duke’s gyros.

If none of this “wows” you, wait until after the game…there are plenty of spots near the park, including a steakhouse, several breweries, and even a McFadden’s (!). There’s also a wide selection of eateries at the aforementioned Station Square and Strip.

Just a couple more notes for you…

If you’re bringing the kids, Sunday is the best day. Arrive early…they’ll have a Fun Zone on Federal Street, with inflatable rides, face painting and other activities. Kids can also run the bases after Sunday games—this is very popular, so you may want to get in line during the 8th inning.

The Pirates are big on giveaways, and this particular weekend there’s one for each day: Free Shirt Friday, a David Bednar bobblehead on Saturday, and a Kids Pierogy Plush on Sunday.

There are four hotels right at the ballpark. All are three-star hotels that get favorable reviews, but they charge a lot for their proximity

to the #1 attraction in the city. You can save a lot just by looking elsewhere on Hotwire. While you’re in Pittsburgh, take the trip up the incline and take in an incredible view of the city from 400 feet high…rivers, bridges, skyscrapers, and of course a world-class baseball facility.

There’s nothing like a baseball road trip… and showing your dedication in a hostile environment. Wherever your Fightins’ are in the standings this July, plan a visit to Pittsburgh and back them against their cross-state rivals…in a baseball atmosphere that is second to none..” n

Photos Kurt Smith

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Top 5 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Cyber Threats

IN TODAY’S DIGITAL AGE, the importance of protecting ourselves and our families from cyber threats cannot be overstated. With the increasing prevalence of online attacks, it’s crucial to adopt proactive measures to safeguard our personal information and ensure a secure online environment. Here are the top five ways to keep yourself and your loved ones protected from cyber threats:

1. Strengthen Your Passwords and Enable Two-Factor Authentication

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to enhance your online security is by using strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts. Avoid using easily guessable information such as birthdays or pet names. Instead, create complex passwords with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Additionally, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a

second form of verification, such as a fingerprint or a unique code sent to your mobile device, to access your accounts.

2. Keep Your Software and Devices Updated

Regularly updating your software, operating systems, and devices is crucial for maintaining strong security. Software updates often include important security patches that address vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Enable automatic updates whenever possible to ensure that you’re always running the latest, most secure versions of your applications and operating systems.

3. Be Mindful of Phishing Attempts

Phishing is a common method used by cybercriminals to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information. Be cautious of unsolicited emails, messages, or phone calls asking for personal or financial details. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading

attachments from unknown sources. When in doubt, verify the authenticity of the communication through a separate and trusted channel, such as contacting the organization directly.

4. Practice Safe Browsing Habits

While browsing the internet, it’s important to exercise caution. Stick to secure websites (look for the padlock icon in the URL bar) when entering personal information or conducting online transactions. Be wary of downloading files or software from untrustworthy sources, as they may contain malware. Invest in reputable antivirus software that can detect and block malicious websites and files, adding an extra layer of protection.

5. Educate Yourself and Your Family

Promote a culture of cybersecurity awareness within your family. Educate yourself and your loved ones about common cyber threats and safe online practices. Teach children about the importance of not sharing personal information with strangers online and being cautious when interacting on social media platforms. Encourage open communication about any concerning online experiences and create a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable seeking guidance if they encounter suspicious activities.

By implementing these top five measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to cyber threats and protect yourself and your family’s digital lives. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and make cybersecurity a priority in your household. Together, we can create a safer online world for everyone. n

Have any tech ideas you want to talk about?

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@PCS_AnthonyM) or email me any time at

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Don’t Judge a Wine By Its Label

IN NUMEROUS COLUMNS of mine, you have undoubtedly read “Drink what you like, no matter the label or price point,” which is why I seldom recommend one wine or winery over the next. We all have different palates, and we enjoy what we enjoy, so what one may find extremely interesting, another may not appreciate at all. That said, with full disclosure, there was a time when I became intimidated by a winery’s label if I could not pronounce or understand it, regardless of how delightful its contents might have been. It could have been the most delectable fruit juice in the world waiting inside to be appreciated, but I shied away since I was confused by what I read or couldn’t read on the outside, a very unwise choice.

Today, we find some high-end wines in remote regions of the world. Some of these are available on the open market, but others may be small producers, never having reached the outer walls of their respective countries. One that comes to mind is Croatia. Many may know this incredibly beautiful republic is perched just across the Adriatic Sea from the northern part of Italy. Most of the Croatian nation is contiguous to the sea and thus is exposed to the natural elements that create a perfect climate for grape growing. So why don’t many wine collectors, enthusiasts, and wine lovers alike recognize Croatia as a top-notch wine-producing seaside country which would be worth a visit, or at the very least, a deeper dive?

There are many wine experts that do hold in high regard the many different indigenous grape varietals that are grown in the Croatian region. These grape varieties, however, are not well known throughout the world. One of the major reasons? Believe it or not, it may partly be due to the long, confusing, and hard-topronounce names of the labels, bottles, and winery walls.

Croatia has many special characters and rows of consonants in their alphabet. These become very baffling and extremely hard to artic-

ulate. For example, the Croatian “c” sounds like a “ch” as in “chocolate” and “s” pronounces like a “sh” as in “shout.” Furthermore, the country’s “dz” sounds more like a “j” as in “jug.” You get the picture. Many are intimidated. I was when I began collecting, and perhaps as a result, stayed away from some of the best wines that are produced in the world. Hard to believe, right?

There are some excellent varietals/wines that are produced in Croatia. Two come to mind: Posip and Grk. (Do not ask me to properly pronounce them!) Posip is a delicious white wine made from the Dalmatian grape. And, if you are a California wine lover as I am, then you invariably recognize the winery, Grgich Hills. Well, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich was one of the winning wine producers at the Judgement of Paris back in 1976, and as importantly, Mike founded a winery in Croatia in 1996, so he could produce Posip wines. Grgich,

as you guessed, is a Croatian-American winemaker who was born into a winemaking family in the town of Desne, located in Croatia’s Dalmatia region. Grk produces dry whites, the varietal is indigenous to Croatia and can be found in the sandy soils there.

So, the next time you’re at a Michelin Star restaurant staring down the pages of a very robust and comprehensive wine list, and there is an opportunity to drink an undetectable varietal from a remote region of the world such as Croatia, do not let yourself be intimidated, as I was, just because the label is full of consonants and special characters that are completely indiscernible. Go beyond your comfort zone, and choose a wine solely based on your palate tastes and notes of the juice. Certainly, do not judge by label alone. What you may discover inside that bottle is much more important than what it says on the outside.

Go beyond your comfort zone, and choose a wine solely based on your palate tastes and notes of the juice. Certainly, do not judge by label alone.