July 18, 2008 July 18, 2008Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.
Somer-Spectacular: It would be like R. Kelly not doing something creepy, or Rachael Ray not driving you up a wall with her nails on a chalkboard voice.
But I had absolutely, positively nothing to complain about during the 2008 Atlantic League All-Star Game.
I know, I can’t believe it either.
Somerset did an absolutely fantastic job putting on the event, and it would be impossible to detail what every single member of the staff did in working months to put it all together.
I was fortunate enough to cover the Futures Game on Sunday — which had very obvious and clear benefits — and you could certainly argue that the Patriots did a better job with this All-Star Game than how some aspects of the event over the weekend were handled.
The day started off with both teams taking batting practice in their regular jerseys. It was a very strange sight to see guys in four different uniforms taking the same batting practice session.
After that, the players changed into their All-Star jerseys — which looked pretty nice and actually had…gasp, names on the back — and came out for a well-attended and organized autograph session with the fans.
League CEO Frank Boulton then held somewhat of an impromptu press conference in the press box, which actually attracted a larger gathering than Donald Trump’s later that night.
Several big announcements were made, all of which Scott has discussed here, but I’d like to add my takes as well…
– The Division Series will go from a three game series to a five game series starting next year.
I like this move. Three games isn’t enough to truly determine who the better team is, so this was a wise choice. It also gets playoff teams and extra gate or two, which I’m sure is something they won’t be upset about. The league will utilize a 2-3 format…which, not that it particularly matters, but I’d like to see a 2-2-1 format used.
– The Atlantic League will have their All-Star Game take place in Newark in 2009 and Long Island in 2010.
I have no issues here, either. Hopefully, next year’s event will go a long way to revitalizing the Bears franchise in Newark. And Long Island puts on a great show and packs the house every night…you can’t say they didn’t deserve it.
I’m curious to see where York and Southern Maryland will end up in the rotation, though.
– From Opening Day to May 31st, Atlantic League teams will be allowed to carry an extra two players, meaning they can have 27 as opposed to the normal 25. After May 31st, the teams must get down to 25 players, and the two players who don’t make the cut will be offered to the other teams in the league in a draft format, with the team with the worst record at that time essentially getting the first pick of the rest of the league’s collective trash.
This, I don’t like for two reasons. One, it defeats the purpose of spring training…and maybe this is a step toward eliminating spring training all together, because truth be told, a lot of the guys on AL rosters have already had spring training before being released.
Two, there are teams who struggle to field a 23 or 24 man roster. Paying 27 guys could be a challenge for some teams, however it is worth noting that it is optional and teams don’t have to carry 27 guys. I’d imagine the ones that do will carry some “crap pitchers,” essentially 7-11 guys who can save the arms they intend on using on a regular basis in blowout situations.
OK, so enough about all that. After the press conference was over, I was chatting with Boulton when the media was alerted to an opportunity in the owner’s suite with Jim Frey and Don Zimmer.
Frey and Zimmer both held court for about 10 minutes each, and were very gracious with the media. Zimmer in particular told a funny story about how he originally didn’t want to come to the game, but called Somerset owner Steve Kalafer back about an hour later and told him he would because he just couldn’t say no to him.
Shortly thereafter, the Home Run Derby got underway, and it was kind of flatlining until Josh Pressley came up and put on a display.
He would eventually win the thing, but I didn’t get to see much of the final round because the media opportunity with Donald Trump was taking place on the field at the same time.
I asked him about whether he’d ever consider owning a team at this level, and he said…
“Well, you know the minors are doing great. I have friends that are very successful at this level that have teams, and this is an example of it. They sell out every night. Part of it is the area, it’s a very vibrant area. I know not all teams can say that, but a big part of it is the area. Another big part is they do a good job with the game, and the stadium is beautful.”
So, he answered a question. Just not my question.
Both before and after Trump’s session with reporters, players from both sides were lining up to meet the mogul and get their picture taken with not only him, but his beautiful wife, Melania.
I did manage to escape and ask the always friendly first baseman about winning in his home park, and I posted one of those quotes yesterday.
As game time approached, Patriots long-time PA man Paul Spychala introduced coaches and players from the Freedom and Liberty Divisions, and the game got underway.
As I wrote last night — and I did the live updates, I know there was some confusion about who was writing what…and maybe I shouldn’t take credit for the updates, because they sucked — the game itself served as a bit of a microcosm for where things are at with the level of play in this league right now.
The hitting is miles ahead of the pitching right now, as affiliated baseball has plucked away so many good arms already this year. There were maybe three or four pitchers in the game that I think you could see signed in the near future, and a lot of those guys showed why during the game. Derek Ellison, Matt Schweitzer and Pat Stanley all performed well.
Joe Valentine hit 97 on the stadium gun…but again, nobody knows either where the gun actually is or how legit it is.
After the game, Newark’s Ramon Castro was named MVP after a stellar performance in which he hit two home runs and drove in four runs.
After all that, Somerset put on a rather entertaining post-game party in a tent outside the stadium. What happened in the tent stays in the tent, and considering how I was apparently rather entertaining, that’s probably for the best. It was nice to see so many familiar faces all in the same place, though. A lot of front office members and players all showed up for the event.
As someone who had never even been to an All-Star Game, no less covered one, I was rather impressed. Congratulations are in order for everyone associated with the Patriots and the Atlantic League, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Bears have in store in 2009.
Somerset’s Jason Belcher captures a memory
Long Island’s Randy Leek got the start
Sparky Lyle watches from his perch in the dugout
Southern Maryland’s “Super” Pat Osborn
Newark’s Keith Reed, the only player selected who did not play
Newark’s Pat Stanley gets the All-Star start
Brewers Ink Ellison: It’s pretty amazing how things work out. If Eric Dubose didn’t want to skip the game and stay home with his family, Bridgeport’s Derek Ellison might not have ever even played in the All-Star Game.
Because he did, the Milwaukee Brewers saw him play. And they liked him. So they signed him.
The Brewers, who had at least three scouts at the game, have added the 29-year-old lefty reliever to their organization.
He was 1-1 with one save and a 1.42 ERA in 22 appearances this year. Of his 179 career games, only seven of them took place in affiliated baseball.
He spent five years in the Frontier League and two in the Northern League before coming to the Atlantic League this year, where he finally got picked up.
New Patriots pitcher Kip Bouknight (Photo: Ashmore)
Pats Add Bouknight: The Somerset Patriots have added P Kip Bouknight to the roster. No official release has been sent out just yet, but I’m at the ballpark and he’s on the official roster…so you can put two and two together there.
I recently saw Bouknight pitch with Double-A Reading, and he struggled pretty mightily there.
Also, the club will be without 3B Brandon Larson for a few days, as he’s left the club to “take care of personal business.”
Sharks Replenish Roster With Two: Camden has added former Bridgeport OF Shaun Boyd and ex-Indians prospect P Jake Dittler.
Bridgeport Adds Doetsch: Remember former Road Warriors OF Steve Doetsch? So do the Bluefish, because they just added him today…
Bears Add Mateo, Gonzalez: (PR) The 2007 Atlantic League Champion Newark Bears have announced the signing of outfielders Ruben Mateo and Raul Gonzalez.
Mateo returns to the Bears after joining the team during their stretch run towards the championship last year. He appeared in 15 games during the regular season, batting .288 with 5 home runs and 10 RBI.
Before joining the Bears, Mateo played six seasons of major league baseball from 1999 to 2004 with the Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Kansas City Royals.
Joining Mateo will be Gonzalez, who also brings a wealth of professional experience to Newark. Gonzalez started his pro career in 1991 in the Kansas City Royals organization and made his major league debut in 2000 with the Chicago Cubs. After the Cubs, Gonzalez also appeared with the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, and the Cleveland Indians in a major league career that spans from 2000 to 2004.
Gonzalez was most recently in the Mets organization playing for Triple-A New Orleans, where he had been batting .279 in 17 games. Last season, Gonzalez played for Oaxaca, where he hit for a .327 average with 12 home runs and 83 RBI.
Bladergroen Returning: Jason Guarente is reporting that Lancaster is expected to finally welcome back INF Ian Bladergroen. The former Mets and Red Sox farmhand, out since mid-May with a hand injury, was hitting .319 in 26 games before going down.
Lewis, Sack, Buttenfield All Out: This was mentioned in the comments, but is worth writing about here as well…Camden deactivated INF Richard Lewis, P Darren Sack and P Nate Buttenfield. As for Lewis, word on the street about him was that he had become discouraged that other infielders were getting picked up and that he hadn’t considering the outstanding numbers he’d been putting up. Can’t say I blame him. – Mike Ashmore