Yes, there will be professional baseball in New jersey this season, as the Somerset Patriots have announced the rosters for the Somerset Professional Baseball Series.
The brand new, 12-game series is scheduled to begin on Friday, July 17th and will feature two teams: the Somerset Patriots and the New Jersey Blasters. The two clubs will play against each other every Friday and Saturday night at TD Bank Ballpark from July 17th through Saturday, August 22nd.
The team with the best overall record at the end of the series will be presented with the Joe Torre Championship Trophy, while the circuit’s top pitcher will be awarded with the Sparky Lyle Award and the top hitter with the Willie Randolph Award.
Brett Jodie will return as the Patriots’ manager for the Somerset Professional Baseball Series. Jodie has been the team’s skipper since 2013, when he took over for longtime manager Sparky Lyle.
2020 was supposed to mark the Jodie’s eighth year as manager and 17th overall season with the team. The former New York Yankee carries a 556-405 (.579) record in his first seven seasons as manager, including a 2015 Atlantic League Championship. That same year, the Atlantic League dubbed Jodie as the Manager of the Year.
There will be numerous recognizable names on this season’s Somerset roster. Six players on the club have spent time at TD Bank Ballpark, including right-handed pitchers David Kubiak, James Pugliese, Nate Roe and Taylor Wright, along with infielder Scott Kelly and outfielder Justin Pacchio.
Local names include former Major Leaguer Mark Leiter Jr. and Garden State standouts Billy Layne Jr. and Max Herrmann, who will join the four returning hurlers.
Leiter Jr. earned three wins and struck out 84 batters over 27 appearances (11 starts) with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017 and split 20 appearances between the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays in 2018.
The rest of the Patriots’ position players are composed primarily of New Jersey natives. Jordan Jackson – who spent a brief amount of time with the Long Island Ducks in 2019 – and Matt O’Neill – a New York Mets 20th round draft pick in the 2019 MLB draft – will split time as the team’s two primary backstops.
Joey Rose, a Arizona Diamondbacks 5th round draft pick out of Toms River North High School in 2016, will be featured in an impressive infield that includes former Lancaster Barnstormer Carlos Garcia and West Windsor native Sid Kumar.
Outfield and Summit native Sean Guida and Piscataway local Adam Tricarico will play alongside Pacchioli. Brick resident Dan Valerio will serve as a utilityman for the squad.
The New Jersey Blasters
Current Somerset Patriots Pitching Coach / Director of Baseball Operations Jon Hunton will manage the Blasters.
The Blasters’ roster features one player with service at the Major League level, two New Jersey natives with experience at the Triple-A level, two more with service time in Double-A and overall 14 players that call the Garden State home.
The Blasters plucked infielder Martin Figueroa as their first overall pick. “Figgy” was named as a New York Penn League All-Star in 2019 after he slashed .282 with four home runs and 27 RBI over 35 games with the short-season State College Spikes (St. Louis Cardinals).
The previous year, the 24 year-old hit .328 with five home runs, 50 RBI, 20 stolen bases and a .444 on-base percentage over 96 games with the Sussex County Miners (Can-Am League) and was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
Former Somerset outfielder Zac Racusin leads the Blaster outfield. The Mendham native made his professional baseball debut with Somerset in 2017 after finishing his college career at Georgetown.
Racusin knocked in four RBI and stole three bases over 17 games with the team before splitting his 2018 campaign between the Lake Erie Crushers (Frontier League) and Chicago Dogs (American Association).
Racusin returned to Lake Erie in 2019 and hit .274 with 33 RBI and six steals over 93 games.
Luis Roman, who has experience in Triple-A with the San Diego Padres organization, will work as the team’s primary catcher. He split last year between Single-A Fort Wayne and a pair of teams in the Frontier League, where he combined to hit .285 with two long balls across 48 games.
Infielder Sam Dexter spent two campaigns in the Chicago White Sox organization and has enjoyed success in both the Can-Am League and the American Association in the last two seasons.
Dexter hit .287 over 101 tilts with Trois-Rivieres in 2018 and played in 98 games with the Milwaukee Milkmen last year.
New Jersey natives Zach Lipshitz, Louie Martini, Tommy McCarthy and Derek Romberg round out the rest of the team’s infield. Two New Jersey products, Liam McArthur and Mark Shenloogian, will join Racusin in the outfield.
Vin Mazzaro leads the Blasters pitching staff. The former Patriots righty owns a 24-23 record with a 4.79 ERA and one save over eight years of service in the big leagues. The East Rutherford native tossed six shutout innings with Somerset over three appearances in 2017 and most recently posted 11 wins over 39 games with the Long Island Ducks in 2019.
Lefties Sean Keselica and Brandon Leibrandt join Mazzaro on the strong Blasters’ staff.
Keselica split his 2019 season in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, while Leibrandt spent both 2017 and 2018 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Phillies organization.
Leibrandt, a 6th round draft pick in 2014, posted a 4-1 record with a 1.42 ERA over 20 contests (six starts) with the IronPigs in 2018.
The rest of the Blasters’ pitching staff includes players with experience in Major League organizations. Vin Aiello (last team – Double-A Jacksonville) and Alex Vargas (Double-A Tennessee) each most recently were two steps from the Majors, while Michael LoPresti and Ryan Williamson both played at the Single-A level.
— Jerry Del Priore