Other NJ News

Somerset Patriots Help Atlantic League Celebrate 20th Anniversary

d7fb78e76d9a663f569e_sompixpatskalafer_lyle.jpg
Somerset Patriots owner Steve Kalafer, left, confers with Sparky Lyle at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. After 15 years of managing the team and 5 championships, Lyle is now Manager Emeritus. Credits: Courtesy Somerset Patriots
d7fb78e76d9a663f569e_sompixpatskalafer_lyle.jpg

On May 20, 1998, the first ever Atlantic League of Professional Baseball game was played at the Sandcastle in Atlantic City, New Jersey between the Atlantic City Surf and the Somerset Patriots. The newly founded six-team independent league had come to fruition after a three-year process that began when founder Frank Boulton was looking to move one of his minor league teams to the Long Island area. During that time, he began to see a shift in the baseball industry.

“The need for our league was really twofold,” said Boulton. “There was a need on the players’ side that still had the skills to play at a very high level, but were exceeded out of major league organizations. At the same time there was a growing number of cities looking to provide baseball to their communities that were told no by Major League Baseball because of territorial rights covering many miles away. After reviewing the opportunities on both fronts, we decided to give it a go.”

Twenty years later, things are going very well.

Sign Up for E-News

Boulton modeled the Atlantic League to be at a Double-A/ Triple-A level of play on the field and ballparks that were comparable to Double-A sized facilities. He also focused on bringing in veteran players, including former major leaguers, to set the Atlantic League apart from other independent leagues around the country.

Surrounding himself with baseball veterans instantly gave legitimacy to the fledgling league. Baseball operations were developed by respected baseball veterans, led by Executive Director Joe Klein, a former General Manager for the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, and Cleveland Indians. 

“When I was the GM of the Tigers, I was also on the Baseball Operations Committee for Major League Baseball. As a whole in the player development system, we were approaching the problem of adequate talented players to fill roles when guys got hurt,” said Klein. “The depth in organizations wasn’t good. If guys weren’t staying in shape by playing at a high level somewhere, they had a much higher chance of coming in and getting hurt. Our league gave players a place to go and allowed Major League Baseball to keep an eye on them for when opportunities became available.”

Championship-caliber names followed that brought attention to the brand when New York Yankees legend Sparky Lyle, the 1977 Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series Champion, was named as the manager of the Somerset Patriots. Team chairman Steve Kalafer, a founding member of the Board of Directors of the league, brought Lyle into the fold when the former “Bronx Bomber” was looking to buy a Ford F-150. Lyle not only left with the truck from Flemington Car & Truck Country, but also got a life-long contract to manage Kalafer’s team.  

“I was doing everything I could to help get the league to where we all wanted it to be,” said Lyle. “I would go with Joe to spring training camps and talk to players. We would talk to coaches and agents and ask if a player is released to send them our way. I can’t remember the year it clicked, but things started to turn where people were calling us. MLB scouts started taking the league seriously and signing guys for their teams.”

Less than one month into the 2017 season, the Patriots have sold the contracts of six pitchers, all with Major League experience, to Triple-A ballclubs.

Lyle managed the Somerset Patriots for 15 seasons, where he went on to win 1,025 games and a league record five championships. He was named Atlantic League Manager of the Year on three occasions and guided his teams to nine Division Championships and 11 Half Titles before moving into his current role as Manager Emeritus.

Lyle was joined by fellow Major Leaguers Willie Upshaw (Bridgeport Bluefish) and Wayne Krenchicki (Newburgh Black Diamonds) as managers in 1998. The owner of the Newark Bears, Rick Cerone, was also well-known for his time in pinstripes. Through the years Mitch Williams, Tommy John, Von Hayes, Bill Madlock, Tommy Herr, and Darrell Evans served in managerial roles.

In 2000 Butch Hobson, a former Major League manager of the Boston Red Sox, took over as skipper for the Nashua Pride. It began his long road to becoming the winningest manager in league history with service over 16 seasons with Nashua (2000-2005), the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (2007-2009), and the Lancaster Barnstormers (2010-2016).  Before being replaced this season, Hobson went on to accrue 1,105 wins and won two championships.

The Long Island Ducks entered the league in 2000 and brought with them an owner/manager that was perfect for their market. Bud Harrelson, a World Series Champion player and coach with the New York Mets, continued to show the Atlantic League was for real and the proof came in not just the level of play, but in the number of fans showing up to the ballpark. In their first year, the Ducks welcomed over 436,000 people to start a span of 11 straight seasons over the 400,000-fan plateau. 

Through expansions a few years later, Hall of Famer and 16-time Gold Glove winner Brooks Robinson entered the league as an owner of the Barnstormers and York Revolution. 

When the Sugar Land Skeeters joined in 2012, they added their manager Gary Gaetti, a two-time All-Star and World Series Champion to the Atlantic League’s roster of major league stars. In their first season, the Skeeters set a new league record with 465,511 total fans. 

The Bluefish and the Patriots- the only two original league franchises from 1998- have been joined over the years by the Ducks (2000), Barnstormers (2005), Revolution (2007), Blue Crabs (2008), Sugar Land Skeeters (2012), and the New Britain Bees (2016) to complete the now eight-team league.

Level of Play

The Atlantic League offers an open classification of play, the highest level of professional baseball other than Major League Baseball. Players are highly experienced professionals, having progressed through baseball developmental levels (A, AA, AAA), with over 40% having prior MLB service. 

“I always told players that unless you played in the big leagues, this was going to be the toughest place you ever played,” Lyleremarked. “You’ll be up against a guy you played with or opposed the past five seasons in the minors or major leagues. The high level of play is a real feather in everybody’s cap that helped make this league work. It certainly isn’t your run of the mill league.” 

Over its first 19 seasons of play, over 800 of the league's players have signed contracts with big league organizations and over 100 players have been promoted to Major League Baseball. Over 50 former Atlantic League players and coaches are managers or coaches in MLB organizations.

The league has attracted some impressive names so far. Baseball Hall of Famers Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson made stops in Somerset and Newark respectively on their way back to major leagues. Raines would return to the league as manager of the Bears in 2009 and 2010. Another Cooperstown inductee, Gary Carter, managed the Ducks in 2009.

Other notable Major Leaguers to spend time in the Atlantic League include Dante Bichette, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Juan Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Jose Lima, Curtis Pride, John Rocker, Ruben Sierra, and Dontrelle Willis. Rich Hill’s recent rise to the top came with a brief stay in Long Island in 2015.

MLB Ties

In 2016, the Atlantic League became the first independent professional baseball league to sign a working agreement with Major League Baseball. The signed formal agreement with Major League Baseball put into writing the rules in which the Atlantic League would follow in selling its players' contracts to MLB clubs. 

“Having this historic agreement in place with Major League Baseball is important to our players, teams, and fans,” said Kalafer. “It is the ultimate seal of approval in professional baseball and reaffirms that the Atlantic League has the highest standards that helps players get back to major league organizations.” 

Innovation

The Atlantic League has been at the forefront of reviewing ways to reduce the average time and enliven the pace of baseball games in order to enhance overall fan experience.  One adopted rule of eliminating the four pitch intentional walk by Major League Baseball has been in place the past two seasons in the Atlantic League.

“MLB has mimicked our ground breaking work in pace of play ranging from the intentional walk rule, limits on time outs, time limits on conferences, countdown clocks, among other rules originated in the Atlantic League,” said league President Rick White, who began his position in 2015. “We exert tremendous influence among all of professional baseball. We will continue to try pace of play ideas and other innovations to make the game more topical.”

Success

Entering its 20th season, the Atlantic League prides itself on creating fun and affordable family entertainment. Since the league's inception, more than 36,000,000 fans have attended Atlantic League games in one of the league's state-of-the-art ballparks. The Atlantic League is the only professional baseball league in an active expansion mode, with the Bees becoming the latest member last season.

“The 36 million-plus fans shows that the league has a proven track record,” Boulton added. “The goal is always to make the league better and stronger. We have to continue to do what we’ve been doing and have it work for everybody. We need smart growth in terms of expansion. Eight teams works, but I think 12 would also be a great number. It needs to make sense and the level of play can’t be diluted at all by the expansion for it to work.”

Due to the endless efforts of league officials, ownership, front office staffs, managers, coaches and players, the Atlantic League has earned the reputation as the premier independent minor league in the country. The league looks to continue to grow and make its mark in the world of professional baseball.

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Bloomfield

Bloomfield Kicks off Summer of Fun with Memorial Day Parade Monday

May 24, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ -- The Bloomfield Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department is kicking off the Summer of Fun with the Memorial Day parade this Monday, May 28. The parade will march south on Broad street to the reviewing stand on the Town Green in front of the Civic Center.

“I would like to thank all of the parade participants, and especially the Bloomfield Joint Memorial ...

Braun's Tavern Offer's Special Discount for Active US Military and Veterans This Weekend

BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- Memorial Day Weekend:  As a thank you to our troops, Braun’s Tavern  will offer a 10% discount to all US Military - simply present your armed service ID.  Regular hours Friday-Sunday 5/25-5/27 - Closed Monday 5/28, Memorial Day. Braun’s Tavern & Dining Room 289 Glenwood Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ (973) 743-1097 ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_99142f7b5a1dd8d2792d_into_the_woods

Tue, May 29, 7:00 PM

Studio Playhouse, Upper Montclair

Into the Woods Auditions

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_31f0fb5680ff8a91069d_narcan_nasal_spray

Thu, May 31, 11:00 AM

The Learning Center, Belleville

Narcan Information and Training Session

Education Health & Wellness Police & Fire

Carousel_image_152cd1e12fd6847dc295_mini_magick20180508-122722-1fpva9h

Fri, June 1, 7:00 PM

Montclair Women's Club, Montclair

Benefit Concert with Christian McBride and Friends

Arts & Entertainment

Fri, June 1, 7:00 PM

Wilshire Grand Hotel, West Orange

AAngelsNJ 7th Annual High School Scholarship and ...

Education Giving Back Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_4d22c3637cf4bfb8ae4b_mountainside_logo_meridian

Mon, June 4, 7:00 PM

Hospital Auditorium, Glen Ridge

Tour of the Birthing Center

Health & Wellness

Bloomfield Police Blotter May 14 to 20, 2018

May 24, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The following police blotter has been issued by Lt. Anthony Sisco of the Bloomfield Police Department.

Shoplifting: 5/14/18- Officers were dispatched to 250 Glenwood Avenue (CVS) on a report of a shoplifting. The complainant reported that an unknown Hispanic male entered the establishment and headed towards the cosmetic aisle. He proceeded to fill a blue bag with ...

Senator Nia H. Gill and Lawrence Hamm to Speak at Father's Day Breakfast

May 25, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - Senator Nia H. Gill and Activist Lawrence Hamm will both speak at the Brother to Brother Mentoring Program's 10th Annual Father's Day Breakfast Celebration and Awards Ceremony on Saturday, June 16.

Held at the Montclair 9th Grade Academy Atrium, located at 141 Park Street, Montclair, NJ (please use the North Fullerton Avenue entrance) at 9:00 AM. 

The ...

Original Pancake House of West Caldwell Evacuated in Possible Pepper Spray Incident

WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The Original Pancake House in West Caldwell was evacuated early Saturday afternoon due to a possible pepper spray incident that caused ambulances from the West Essex, Verona and Bloomfield First Aid Squads to assist at the scene.

Bianca Pietro, a West Orange mother of two, said she was seated inside the glass atrium on the south side of the building that faces ...

Parsippany Septuagenarian becomes NJIT's Oldest Engineering Grad

May 23, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - It was about five minutes after Robert Dresnack’s Water Resources Engineering class had begun when a septuagenarian poked his head into the room at NJIT. Puzzled, the professor inquired, “May I help you?”

In fact, he could. “I’m a student in this class,” replied Chris Antholis, then 72, who was six years into his quest to earn a Bachelor of ...

Buy a Vet... Program Helps Formerly Homeless Veterans

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ - It started with a collection to help fund a Memorial Day barbecue at the Valley Brook Village veterans facility in Lyons, NJ. When the bucket collection raised $7,000 at John's Meat Market in downtown Scotch Plains, they decided to keep it going and had barbecues all summer. The program has grown ever since.

Steve Hackenberg, a Scotch Plains ...

With Dredging Done, Little Egg Inlet Sees Return of Channel Markers to Aid Boaters

May 25, 2018

LONG BEACH, NJ — After a 14-month absence, the channel markers are back in place in the Little Egg Inlet.

A U.S. Coast Guard team successfully installed eight lighted buoys on May 21 after they were removed in March 2017 when the buildup of sand reduced the depth of the inlet, making it impassable for most boats.

The shoaling triggered the need for a major dredging project, which was ...

Memorial Day Weekend Kicks off Summer 2018 in the Long Beach Island Region

LONG BEACH ISLAND, NJ - With much anticipation for warmer weather, longer days and salty seas, visitors flock back each year to the Long Beach Island Region to enjoy the many pleasures this resort area brings.

The Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce operates a fully staffed visitor center, who always sees demand for customer inquiries rise either through their digital platforms, ...

Letter to the Editor: Gum Litter and what YOU can do about it

May 15, 2018

Gum is non-biodegradable, meaning it doesn't’t break down ever….

Today, the unlikely problem surfaces. The average person chews 275 sticks of gum per year. With the amount of people in daily society, it’s no mystery why chewing gum is the second most littered item after cigarette butts.  Did you know that gum is banned in Singapore?

In addition to littering human ...

To the Editor: Notes for Mr. and Mrs. Webber On How to Complain About Stuff

Well, it looks like I have at least three things in common with Jay and Johanna Webber: (a) We live in the 11th District; (b) We believe family is important; (c) We have experienced life in big families -- I'm the third of seven kids myself. So of course I noticed the statements the Webbers recently shared on Facebook – which took something one person said about Jay’s ...

Bloomfield Bengals Sports Update May 21, 2018

Volleyball advanced to the County final with wins over Science Park and Montclair. Unfortunately, Livingston got the better of the Bengals in the County Championship Match.   

At the County Track and Field Championship Meet the Girls Team had a fine showing placing 5th overall. Leading the way was Kaela Edwards-2nd in high hurdles and Aicha Naouai- 2nd in javelin. The best ...

Bloomfield Bengals Athletic Update May 14 2018

 At the SEC Championship Meet La’Shan White equaled his school record in winning the 400-meter hurdles. He also won the 110- meter High Hurdles and anchored the winning 4x400 relay team. Aicha Naouai won the Javelin with a throw of 126’6.5(#9 NJ) and the Discus with a mark of 95’5”. Warlys Lizardo won the Boys Discus at 120’.

Kristina Collins reached ...

The Jaffe Briefing - May 23, 2018




The Jaffe Briefing will not publish from Thursday through Monday. A great Memorial Day to all!


OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

SEASIDE HEIGHTS - Sex can be an almost-religious experience, but it seems a bit excessive to copulate under a statue of the Virgin Mary in a Catholic church's outdoor prayer garden. Yet, that's where ...

School’s Out: Your Exclusive Summer Getaway Guide

May 20, 2018

Summer... a time to do whatever you please without having the stress of school or work.

But like many others, you may find yourself unsure of how to spend your summer days. So, if you’re looking for something cool to do when it’s hot, consider these ideas:

Get Cultured: Metropolitan Museum of Art: If you’re fascinated with art of all sorts from classic to modern, then this ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.

 

Q. When did you join TAPinto.net?

I joined TAPinto.net in September, ...

The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2005)

            The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times best selling author, was recommended to me by a young woman who actually came from the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, the place where the novel is set. “The author did such a wonderful job of describing how the town actually is,” said the young lady.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

            What is the “final frontier” on the Earth's surface? Many people would say Alaska, the 49th state, which was added to the United States fifty years ago. Once one has traveled to that remote land, it is impossible to forget the magnificence of the terrain and beasts. Floating by ship in Glacier Bay, surrounded by ...

The Man in Room 306 at the Luna Stage, West Orange, NJ

            The Luna Stage, a Jersey theater gem, chose to revive its 1995 world premiere drama, The Man in Room 306, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Starring Jamil A.C. Mangan as Dr. King, this 90 minute production portrays Dr. King in the last hours of his life as he struggles to write a speech for the Poor ...

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead Books, 2017)

 

I wanted to like Into the Water by Paula Hawkins because I had enjoyed her previous novel, The Girl on the Train, which was a suspenseful thriller. However, when I finished reading the first part of the Into the Water, I realized that I had not absorbed anything that was happening in the story. I blamed myself for not paying ...

WALK THE MORRIS CANAL GREENWAY CENTRAL TRAIL

May 25, 2018

  

We’ve Walked the South End. We’ve Walked the North End.  Now We Have Two Opportunities to Walk the Central Trail of the Morris Canal Greenway.

JOIN US!

Sunday, May 27, 2018 at 9:00 AM 

Saturday, June 2, 2018 at 9:00 AM

The walk will begin at the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center, 240 Belleville Ave, Bloomfield, ...

Moriarty, Caputo & Downey Bill to Strengthen Anti-Nepotism Rules in School Districts Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Paul Moriarty, Ralph Caputo and Joann Downey to extend anti-nepotism rules to the state’s public and charter schools was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.

“Property taxpayers deserve every assurance that the people charged with educating their children attained their positions because of what they ...

Clara Maass Medical Center offers Life-Saving Narcan Training Sessions

Belleville, NJ – In response to a national call from the Surgeon General of the United States emphasizing the importance of Narcan, a life-saving medication that can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, the Center of Excellence for Latino Health at Clara Maass Medical Center will host training sessions in May and June to educate the community on the use of Opioids. The ...

Bloomfield Community Member Sworn in as Advocate for Foster Youth

Elizabeth Alva Freyre of Bloomfield was sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) by Essex County Superior Court Judge Grimbergen on May 18, 2018.  Elizabeth recently completed 33 hours of training to become an advocate for Essex County's abused, neglected or abandoned children who were removed from their homes ...

Obituaries

Jul 4, 1933 - May 18, 2018
Maria A. Probst (nee: Geiger), 84 of Bloomfield passed away on May 18. Her final days were spent ...
Read more
Jul 21, 1966 - Apr 6, 2018
Sheila Rossi (nee Borges) 51, of Nutley, NJ died peacefully on April 6, 2018. Visitation will be ...
Read more