SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Like millions of other American boys, Zach Lipschitz dreamed of becoming a professional ballplayer, but unlike the vast majority of them, his dream came true last week when he signed a contract with the Somerset Patriots. In doing so, Lipschitz, a 2015 graduate of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, has become the first Raider to sign a professional baseball contract since Jeffrey Hammonds was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1992.

"I've dreamed of being a professional baseball player since I was five years old," Lipschitz said in an interview with TAPintoSPF at Hershey's Deli (221 South Ave., Westfield), his family's business. "I can say I fulfilled a dream."

It still hasn't set in for the Scotch Plains native, who went on to have a stellar career at Drew University.

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"Next Friday, I'll be filled with emotions, and then I will play baseball like I know I can," he said. "I want to show people that it doesn't matter if you went to a D-1 school or a D-3 school like Drew. People told me I wasn't good enough and no one would look at me. You can do it, if you work hard enough."

Related: Drew University's Zach Lipshitz Honored

Joe Higgins, Lipschitz's high school coach at Scotch Plains-Fanwood, is not surprised that his former shortstop's success.

"What makes Zach special is a unique combination of confidence and work ethic. He works as if he has major improvements to make, but once he is in a game, he believes he's the best player on the field and this attitude really works for him," Higgins said. "I'm very excited for Zach. He was a leader on a veteran team in my first year as head coach, and he personally made my transition to being a head coach a smooth one."

"I've never seen anyone work harder than Zach Lipschitz. He made varsity as a sophomore, and that wasn't enough for him. He wanted to be the varsity shortstop," said SPFHS athletic director Ryan Miller. "Zach worked on his lateral movement every day to improve and reach his goal. His work ethic still impresses me to this day."

The Somerset Patriots announced on Tuesday, July 7, that the team will bring baseball back to TD Bank Ballpark this summer with the newly created SOMERSET Professional Baseball Series. Starting on Friday, July 17, the Patriots will play games against the New Jersey Blasters, a team also run by the organization, exclusively at TD Bank Ballpark. Both teams consist of local players, such as Zach Lipschitz, to help control travel and limit the risk of individuals coming from other parts of the country.

“The most important aspect of our program is the safety, security, and the welfare of not only our fans, but the community, our players, and our staff,” said Somerset Patriots Chairman Emeritus Steve Kalafer. “This is a plan that has been vetted by health care professionals, meets the CDC guidelines, and New Jersey’s executive orders. We are going to have baseball for our community.”

On July 17, Lipschitz can expect to play before a "hometown crowd" of family, friends, and former teammates when he takes the field at TD Bank Ballpark. 

"It's a unique opportunity to play," Lipschitz said.  "I won't take it for granted. I will enjoy every minute."

The SOMERSET Professional Baseball Series will include 12 games to be played on Fridays and Saturdays from July 17 to August 22. Game times will be 7:05 p.m. Tickets for the games will be $10.00 and general admission only. The Patriots will only sell the number of tickets approved for outdoor gatherings by state and local government and health officials. That number is currently around 450 people with potential of increases over the next several weeks.

For more information about the Somerset Patriots and the SOMERSET Professional Baseball Series, visit www.somersetpatriots.com.