TRENTON- Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes proudly announced today that Rider University and Mercer County's Waterfront Park will host the 2008 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Baseball Championship Tournament in May 2008.
At a news conference at Waterfront Park, County Executive Hughes was joined by Mika Ryan, president/CEO, Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission; Rider baseball head coach Barry Davis; Rider Athletic Director Don Harnum; Brad Taylor, Trenton Thunder general manager/Chief Operating Officer; and Kevin Bannon, executive director of Mercer County Parks Commission.
"This event is a perfect example of a public-private partnership and how, through cooperative effort, we can bring exciting sports and entertainment events here to Mercer County," Hughes said. "As exhibited by last year's NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, we have proven that Mercer County has the capacity to serve our visitors. We have hotels, restaurants and public transportation in place to host events such as the MAAC baseball tournament," Hughes added.
The four-team double-elimination tournament, set for May 22-24, 2008, at Waterfront Park, home of the Thunder, is expected to draw many out-of-state families, fans and visitors to Mercer County, Hughes said. "This is an important economic opportunity for Mercer County,'' Hughes added.
Rider University was awarded the opportunity to host the event through a competitive bidding process, Rider Athletic Director Don Harnum said. The private university's proposal was attractive because of the partnership with the Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission, Harnum said.
Ryan also credited the bid's success to the efforts of all groups involved. "This is a quality event coming to our community as a result of cooperative efforts between Mercer County, the Park Commission, the Trenton Thunder, the MAAC and Rider University," Ryan said. "We look forward to hosting a highly competitive tournament for baseball fans of all ages, and I, on behalf of the Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission, would like to thank County Executive Brian Hughes and Park Commission Executive Director Kevin Bannon for leading the way in bringing the 2008 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) baseball tournament to Waterfront Park."
Playing on the beautifully groomed field at Waterfront Park will be a great opportunity for the college players, Athletic Director Harnum said. "Waterfront Park will be an outstanding venue for the top baseball teams in the MAAC to compete for a championship. Rider Athletics is very grateful to Mercer County, the MCSEC, and the Trenton Thunder for enthusiastically working with us to put together a successful bid."
Added Rider head coach Davis, "It is exciting to have the opportunity to host the MAAC's top four teams. Waterfront Park is a great place to watch a game and with some good fortune, we will have a chance to play in front of the home crowd."
Thunder Manager Taylor promised the field would be in top condition then as it is now, and said the organization welcomes this event at the facility. "The Trenton Thunder is pleased to continue and enhance the partnership we have long had with County Executive Brian Hughes and Mercer County, as well as Kevin Bannon and his staff at the Parks Department. By joining our efforts with Don Harnum and Rider University and the Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission, we are all thrilled to bring yet one more quality event to Mercer County Waterfront Park in the form of the 2008 MAAC Baseball tournament hosted by Rider University," Taylor said. The 2007 MAAC Baseball Tournament will be hosted by Marist College for the 10th straight year.
Rider University President Mordechai Rozanski also said he is pleased the tournament will play out in Mercer County in 2008.
"We are excited to once again partner with Mercer County, the Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission, the Trenton Thunder, and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to bring quality Division 1 championship athletics to the area," Rozanski said. "This is a terrific opportunity for our baseball team to build on a 64-year tradition of success."
Rider finished in third place in the MAAC in 2006, qualifying for the MAAC tournament for the first time since 2002. Rider has played in three MAAC Championship Title Games and is seeking its first MAAC baseball championship. Rider won the MAAC South in 1998, when the league played in two divisions.
Rider won conference baseball titles in 1996, 1995, 1994, 1992, 1989, 1987, 1986, 1985 and 1984. Rider last hosted a conference baseball tournament in 1996 at Moody Park in Ewing.