Knowing your South (Jersey) from your Central (Jersey)

At first I blamed it on Scott Schoeneweis, figuring that the town listed as his birthplace might be technically true, but that doesn’t mean he grew up there. But that’s not the case.

It’s the Star-Ledger‘s fault.

OK, here’s the backstory: The Mets last week signed Schoeneweis — a New Jersey native, that’s clear — as a free agent to bolster the bullpen. When I read that he was a native of Long Branch, I was reminded that I already knew this information. It’s not too often that you are surprised to hear of a professional athlete who was born 15 minutes away from where you came into the world.

The Associated Press story about the signing mentioned Long Branch and Schoeneweis’ youthful allegiance to the Phillies. That seemed a little odd, but there is often an explanation. But when I got upset was when I read Schoeneweis’ comment in the Star-Ledger‘s story:

Schoeneweis, the Long Branch native who signed a three-year, $10.8 million deal, has starting pitching experience but appears ticketed for the Mets’ bullpen. He and Pedro Feliciano will serve as left-handed setup men for closer Billy Wagner, and having two lefty options late in games should help manager Willie Randolph strategically.

I’m from South Jersey, so to come back and play here is a dream come true,” Schoeneweis said. “Playing in New York is an opportunity that I think all athletes look forward to having.”

Hang on a second, dude. Long Branch — Monmouth County — is not South Jersey. I don’t understand why this state tends to see itself as north and south. Sure, the differences are clear, but to me it’s always been a three-tiered state: north, central and south. Growing up in Monmouth County, I didn’t see what I had in common with the northern part or the southern part.

But it wasn’t his fault. As his MLB.com bio explains, he graduated from Lenape High School in Medford — which is decidedly south. It’s a suburb not far from Philadelphia. That makes sense. How the Star-Ledger missed this — or felt that mentioning his birthplace, Long Branch, was sufficient — perplexes me. There are two explanations that I can think of: 1.) They don’t care, or 2.) Those Ledgerites take a biased view and consider anything south of I-287 (where it passes the Driscoll Bridge at the Parkway) is South Jersey.

Unfortunately, it could easily be either one.

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