Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Opening Day.....Again? the Atlantic League

That's right.  It's Opening Day....Again!

of Professional Baseball
(rated comparative to AAA ball)

These guys are entering the League's 14th year. 
The Atlantic League was established in 1996 here in the NorthEast bringing baseball to areas under-served by Major and Minor League Baseball.  One of the main of many forces behind it's establishment was former Met Bud Harrelson.  Buddy has been with one of the league's most successful franchises, the Long Island Ducks, who play roughly 50 miles outside the city limits.

It's an eight team league:
Newark (N.J.) Bears 
Long Island (N.Y.) Ducks
Somerset (N.J.) Patriots 
Camden (N.J.) RiverSharks
Bridgeport (Conn.) BlueFish 
South Maryland BlueCrabs
York (Penn.) Revolution
Lancaster (Penn.) Barnstormers

Opening Day is Thursday April 22.
This league is a great opportunity to see former major leaguers manage and coach.  Sparky Lyle is the manager of Somerset.  Von Hayse was the manager of Lancaster when I visited last year.  HOF'r Gary Carter managed the Long Island Ducks last year.  Tommy John was managing Bridgeport.  HOF'r  Ricky Henderson was probably the biggest name to come through the league lately.  He managed the Newark Bears a couple of years ago. 

Many players who find themselves out of MLB for various reasons come here to work on their game or to gain some exposure in front of scouts for last chances to sign on with a big club.  Some sign on for just pure love of the game.  Carl Everette and Edgardo Alfonzo both former Mets spent time playing
for Long Island recently.  If you remember pitcher John Halama, he just signed with Southern Maryland's Blue Crabs.  Sidney Ponson?  He's here too.  That are a many more players with MLB experience here.

Then there are the kids. 
Pete Rose Jr., Charlie Hustle's son, was a perennial batting champ
playing most of his career in the A.L. with Long Island. 
The son of Craig Nettles plays as a big fan favorite in Somerset for the Patriots.

I root for the Newark Bears. 
They do a great job of keeping the old Newark Eagles Negro League team's memory alive.

The Somerset Patriots are the consummate winners of the league winning five titles.  In 2009 they captured their second consecutive championship.

I've driven to see all the teams and their parks with the exception of York and South Maryland.  I plan on tacking on those stops to a couple of road trips I have planned for this season.

I average about ten A.L. games a year not including the playoffs..  Between going to see the Mets, going to Coney Island and seeing my Cyclones (A), Yankee games, road trippin' and my own softball season,  I like to fill in the gaps in my season with Atlantic League games.  Newark and Somerset are too easy for me to get to.  It's just that much more baseball I have to keep me occupied all summer long.  The price, intimacy, relative closeness and over all relaxation I get at these games is worth every cent.  The every-so-often Big Name comes through and the opportunity to just be real and talk to these guys is one of the biggest unknown secrets of this league.  If you just take things at face value and keep sensible expectations; and if you like getting a litter closer to the game on a humanistic level, this is a very cool way to do it.

This league's rosters are manned by players with  minimum 6 years major and/or minor league experience.  They operate in full compliance with the National Agreement and are mandated to provide fields of no less than AAA requirements.

Here's a list of prior Champions:
2009  Somerset
2008  Somerset
2007    Newark
 2006  Lancaster
2005  Somerset
    2004  Long Island
2003  Somerset
2002    Newark
2001  Somerset
        2000  Nashua Pride (currently play in Can/Am League)
  1999  Bridgeport
             1998  Atlantic City Surf (switched to Can/Am league, then folded)

I went downstairs to "the Vault" (my basement)!  I pulled down a redFile marked Atlantic League and the date on the front was 2007.  So here goes folks; a couple of things I have from the 2007 season
and some other stuff.

The above trophy is what they play for.

The parks are very nice also.
I happen to think Camden's park is pretty darn nice indeed. 
It sits right at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge.  During night games Philadelphia's skyline lights reflect off the river over the left field fence and the Bridge dominates the center to left field view.
When I figure out what box those pictures are in I'll be sure to post them.
I have more shoe boxes than FootLocker with pictures in them and each box is numbered.  Now that I want some pics I can't find the notebook I use to keep note of the contents there-in.
...hate when that happens.

While I dig those out, these pics of the Newark Bears' digs were in with the programs above.
Newark, N.J. folks. 
After the game with zero traffic, I'm home in 25 minutes.

That's Manhattan in the background.

Newark's Baseball History

And that's all she wrote.
Consider yourself updated on the
Atlantic League of Professional Baseball...(for now).


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