The Lakewood BlueClaws open their 2020 home schedule on April 16 at FirstEnergy Park and while I will likely be there it will mark the end of what’s been an opening day tradition for me.

Usually after checking in at the press box I would walk the concourse and find Vice President of Community Relations Jim DeAngelis, one of just a couple of employees who has been with the team since the beginning.  Jim and I would spend about 10-15 minutes talking although he would stop about two dozen times to greet fans who connect him to the team as much as their mascot Buster.

Eventually I would say good-bye knowing opening day was a busy one and promise to catch up on my next trip back to the ballpark.

I learned yesterday that Jim is retiring at the end of the year, in large part to help take care of his father but also because he’s spent a virtual lifetime in baseball and like players there comes a time when you simply need to move on.  As much as any single individual DeAngelis has contributed not only to the success of the franchise but the way it’s viewed in the community because he has been their “off the field” face since the beginning.

Jim has been front and center with BlueClaws charities and most if not all the philanthropic efforts of the team but that’s just the start.  Time will not allow me to list all the organizations he has served on in his more than 19 years with the team but to name a few: the Salvation Army, Girls Scouts of the Jersey Shore, American Cancer Society, ALS Association, Monmouth-Ocean Development Council and Ocean County Tourism Advisory Council.

He has also served for many years on the Board of Directors for the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce and its there that I really got to know him.

I think it was in 2007 then Jim served as Chairman of the Chamber and I was his Vice-Chairman so clearly we worked closely together.  More than anything else he set an example of leadership that would be nearly impossible for me to follow because he was simply amazing.

Jim DeAngelis (Michael Dill)

Jim cared little about getting credit. All he wanted was to make a positive contribution which he clearly has done.  When I replaced him as chairman I can’t tell you how many times I reached out to him for advice and he was always honest and helpful.

I wish my friend all the best in his well-deserved retirement and I’ll miss seeing him on opening day.  So will many others.