09/22/2019 3:29 PM -
Bridgewater, NJ – 2019 quickly became one of the most exciting times in Somerset Patriots history. Though the team did not sustain its normal level of success on the field, the organization continued to excel in many areas for fans, partners, and the community.
The season began with a groundbreaking announcement in February that the Atlantic League and Major League Baseball entered into a partnership to test new rules and equipment over a three-year period.
The two leagues had a working agreement in previous seasons for player transfers, but this partnership helped bring unprecedented exposure and coverage of the Atlantic League all season long.
“This landmark partnership between Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League shows the respect that MLB has for our league,” said Somerset Patriots Chairman Emeritus Steve Kalafer, a Founding Board Member of the Atlantic League. “We have the opportunity for the Somerset Patriots and the Atlantic League to advance the future of the game we love. This isn’t only looking at history, it’s about making history. We couldn’t be prouder and more excited to participate in this groundbreaking agreement with Major League Baseball.”
The Somerset Patriots took a leadership role in the partnership and were featured by some of the biggest media outlets in the world. In print, the Somerset Patriots appeared in The Wall Street Journal, CBS Sports, and The Sporting News. Fans could turn on the television and see the team covered on NBC’s Today Show, HBO Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, Fox 5 News, and Chasing News with Bill Spadea. The technology behind the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS) was even featured by CNET on their online platforms to millions of viewers.
In addition to the ALPB-MLB Partnership, the Somerset Patriots also received international exposure from a viral video of broadcaster Marc Schwartz catching a foul ball in his booth without missing a beat. His witty play-by-play of the catch landed him on media outlets all around the world including MLB broadcasts, CNN, Fox News, CBS, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and a live on-air interview on ESPN's SportsCenter. The video received millions of views on several media platforms.
On the field, the Somerset Patriots enjoyed a very successful start to the season. The team battled for first place in the Liberty Division all first half long, finishing just a game short of clinching a coveted early playoff berth. Eight players were selected to represent the team in the Atlantic League All-Star Game, the most of any team in the league.
The Somerset Patriots flirted with perfection on Friday, July 26th when star left-handed pitcher Rick Teasley was perfect for nine innings. He was replaced in the top of the tenth inning and the bullpen gave up the one hit and run in the game to end one of the most memorable moments of the 2019 season.
“It was a fun game out there definitely. When things are working that way, it’s obviously much more fun. It was a great team effort,” Teasley stated following the heart-breaking loss. “I mean, guys were making unreal plays out there and that was exciting. I just kept trying to remind myself to just throw relaxed and execute pitches.”
With players’ contracts being purchased early in the half, Somerset was never able to play at the same level as their earlier squad, ultimately leading to a disappointing second half. Ten players had opportunities to advance to Major League organizations or play overseas, most notably outfielder Ramon Flores joining the Minnesota Twins at Triple-A Rochester. Never a team that quit, the Somerset Patriots made the final weekend of the season exciting, as their playoff chances for a wild card spot were still alive until the very end. The team was eliminated on Friday, September 20th by the New Britain Bees, who were also battling for the one wild card spot.
However, there were many standout performances by the roster this year. Infielder/outfielder Will Kengor led the team and was among the top offensive players in the league all season long, which led to being voted Team MVP by the fans.
“It’s an honor. There are a lot of great guys on this team,” said Kengor. “We had a good group that stayed with us the whole year. I’m appreciative of all the fans that voted for me and [manager Brett Jodie] and [Director of Player Personnel Jon Hunton] for bringing me in. All the guys that had been here, and the entire Somerset Patriots family that made me feel welcome, made it very easy to play here.”
He finished among the league leaders with a .321 batting average (2nd), .399 on base percentage (5th), .492 slugging percentage (6th), 152 hits (tied for 2nd), 32 doubles (5th), 60 walks (8th), 49 extra base hits (5th), and 233 total bases (5th).
Right-handed starter Liam O’Sullivan was the unsung hero of the pitching rotation. Those his record did not reflect his success this season, he was among the top pitchers in the league. He finished among the league’s top hurlers with his 2.96 ERA (3rd), 113 strikeouts (8th), 25 games started (tied for 3rd), two complete games (tied for 3rd), 158.0 innings pitched (2nd), .252 opposing average against (tied for 6th), and 1.19 WHIP (4th).
There was buzz around the ballpark throughout the season as the Somerset Patriots welcomed several special guests. On June 9th, four members of the 1969 New York Mets appeared at TD Bank Ballpark for a 50th Anniversary Celebration of their miraculous World Series win. One of the largest crowds of the season cheered and lined up to “Meet The Mets” and thank them for one of the most historic wins in sports history.
The team hosted a 30th Anniversary Celebration of the classic sports film Major League with actor Corbin Bernsen. Bernsen was on site to meet fans and sign autographs at the event.
The Somerset Patriots also welcomed WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling legend “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Super Bowl XXV Champion New York Giants OJ Anderson and Stephen Baker, and the Elmora Troopers Little League World Series team.
In the final weekend of the season, as fans continued to show up in support of their hometown team, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was a guest at the ballpark and caught his father’s first pitch to the surprise of the 7,400+ fans in attendance.
All the excitement surrounding the Somerset Patriots led to the franchise once again leading the Atlantic League in total (344,641) and average (5,385) attendance for the third straight season.
As with the end of each year at the ballpark, the Somerset Patriots are thankful to those that have continued to make the team a success story for over two decades. The support the organization receives from fans, marketing partners, Season Ticket Holders, and group leaders helps the team provide the very best in affordable family and community entertainment.
With 2019 in the books, the Somerset Patriots will begin planning for the 2020 season. The Atlantic League schedule should be announced in the coming weeks and the team is excited to see what the future holds.
But until those details become clearer for next season, the Somerset Patriots simply want to say “Thank You.”
We’ll see you again in April 2020!