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December 5, 2007 December 5, 2007

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.

Somerset Staying Up North For Spring Training: And the big announcement is…

The Somerset Patriots, after ten consecutive seasons of joining the rest of the league in Florida for Spring Training, will be staying up north this season. Where will they play? What do some of the key people involved have to say? Read a shorter version of the story that will appear in the Democrat and find out…

Congratulations, Hunterdon County, you finally have a professional sports team you can call your own.

Well, sort of.

The Somerset Patriots are expected to announce today that the team is moving their spring training site from Lakeland, Fla. to the Jack Cust Baseball Academy in Flemington.

“Staying in New Jersey will allow us to create excitement and get the community involved during the pre-season process,” said Patriots General Manager Patrick McVerry.

“The Jack Cust Baseball Academy has tremendous facilities that will help our players get ready for the start of the baseball season.”

The Patriots, three-time champions of the independent Atlantic League, will hold spring training at the academy from Monday, April 14th through the Tuesday, April 22nd. They are expected to play the Newark Bears, who defeated Somerset in the championship series earlier this year, as well as several local college teams.

“This is very exciting, we’re really looking forward to it,” said Jack Cust, Sr., who owns the academy and also serves as Chief Financial Officer for the Patriots.

“Kids in Hunterdon County have an opportunity to come out and see professionals up close right in their own backyard.”

Details on what portions of spring training — which consists of various drills and some exhibition games — will be made available to the public are expected to be finalized at a later date, although fans are expected to be able to watch all of the drills and games.

This will be the first time in the team’s ten year history that the Patriots will not travel south to Florida for spring training. Newark stayed up north prior to the start of the 2007 season, and was able to carry more players and keep costs down as a result.

“The biggest benefit is you don’t have to share your facility with the other teams,” said Bears assistant GM Jim Cerny, referring to how all eight teams shared the fields in Florida.

“Plus, the players can get accustomed to the ballpark and the city,” Cerny said.

According to Cerny, the Bears will travel to the Cust Academy for one game, while the Patriots will return the favor and travel to Newark’s Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium for an exhibition game.

“To play Atlantic League competition at this point of the year is invaluable,” Cerny said.

“While we get a lot out of playing teams like Rutgers and NJIT, and we still will play them this year, hitters and pitchers facing guys at their own level is really beneficial.”

This idea had been in the works for several seasons, but according to Cust the logistics of the idea made it too appealing to pass up.

“We’ve been kicking this around for a few years now, and it looks like it will be a good way for the fans and people of Hunterdon County to come out and get closer to the team,” Cust said.

The Patriots have played their regular season games in Bridgewater, NJ at Commerce Bank Ballpark since 1999, and there are no plans to hold any regular season games in Flemington in the near future.

The other six teams in the league are tentatively expected to travel down to Florida for Spring Training, leaving only Newark and Somerset as the teams staying up north.

Jeremy Booth (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Booth Accepts Scouting Position With Twins: Jeremy Booth, who most recently played for the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League, has accepted a position as an area scout for the Minnesota Twins.

Booth, who also played for the Surf, Bluefish and Bears, finished the 2006 season with the Sussex Skyhawks of the Can-Am League, and then spent the following season as a hitting coach, while also playing a large role in putting together the team’s roster with now former manager Brian Drahman.

“I loved being on the field in Sussex, and I loved watching guys get better and knowing I had a hand in it,” Booth said by phone today.

“It was almost more gratifying than being a player.”

But all that was well in Sussex didn’t necessarily end well, as Booth and Drahman weren’t asked back for the 2008 season. Both have since moved on to affiliated ball, as Drahman will serve as a pitching coach in the White Sox organization. The fact that neither were asked to return didn’t sit well with Booth.

“I had no interest in returning to indy ball next season,” he said.

“Outside of the Atlantic League, there aren’t necessarily baseball people in position to make baseball decisions. Brian Drahman and myself moved onto Major League organizations and neither one of us was asked back by the Skyhawks. That’s a classic example of non-baseball people making baseball decisions. That would never happen in the Atlantic League.”

Booth’s transition from a player and coach to a scout started in March, when he ran into a scouting supervisor while at the World Free Agent Spring Training event. He now joins Minnesota’s 27-man scouting department, and will be in charge of scouting in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Booth said that the Twins focus on amateur scouting through the draft, and then switch their attention to professional scouting after that. Booth will also be attending various amateur showcases during the winter.

Booth, who is based in Boston, will be relocating closer to the areas he’ll be in charge of, but still plans on maintaining his business ventures back home.

Speaking Of Boston: Ben Crockett, who also spent time with the Somerset Patriots, has been named as an Advance Scouting Coordinator by the Boston Red Sox.

Crockett, who spent the 2006 season as one of the more consistent starters the Patriots had, interned for the Red Sox last season in the baseball operations department. The Harvard grad was drafted by the defending World Series champs in 2002 as well. – Mike Ashmore


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