With MLB baseball returning tonight, and the New York Mets back in action tomorrow, players, team personnel, media, and fans alike are hoping for what will be a great, safe season.
Although the affiliated minor league season has been canceled, New Jersey’s Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League have come up with a way to bring baseball back to the Garden State, with the Somerset Professional Baseball Series.
There are 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 Friday, July 17th through Saturday, August 22nd. It amounts to a 12-game series, with each ticket costing $10.
Last weekend, the clubs split the first two games, with the Blasters beating Somerset, 7-2, Friday night, and in the second tilt, on Saturday, the Patriots edged New Jersey, 2-1, in ten innings.
To ensure safety to all in attendance, Somerset took extra precautions.
- Only 500 fans were allowed in attendance, as per Governor Murphy’s mandate (both games were sellouts).
- You can sit wherever you want. However, you must sit two seats in from the aisle, three seats away from anyone else, and one row apart.
- You must wear your mask everywhere but at your seat.
- In the team store, just 10 customers were allowed in at a time.
- In the bathrooms, every other urinal is blocked off with a plastic bag as well as every other sink, and hand sanitizer was provided as soon as you exited the bathroom.
- The concessions had markings on the floor as to where to stand and the line was roped off so that people are in a single file.
- There was plexiglass in front of the cashiers, and cashless transactions were encouraged.
- No autographs and no foul balls were thrown to the fans.
- Players were socially-distanced during the introductions.
- There were no high-fives, only foot fives.
- There weren’t any bat boys and the batter on the on-deck circle would retrieve the bat left behind by the previous hitter.
- All games are seven innings.
- Activities were limited in between the innings, but the participants were wearing masks.
- The new extra-inning rule with the runner on second base and intentional walk new rule were both in effect.
- There’s a 10-run mercy rule after five innings.
- And they were only two umpires that alternate each game.
To make the game fan-friendlier, Somerset permitted spectators to put free messages on the scoreboard. Two particular fans enjoyed that special bonus.
“My wife wished me a happy birthday on Friday and wished me a happy retirement on Saturday,” said Rich Candia–a former New York City teacher who just retired and attended the game with his wife, Jennifer– both of Staten Island said.
All in all, it was a win-win situation for the fans who attended the first set in the Somerset Professional Baseball Series, as they got to witness live pro baseball in NJ in an awesome, safe atmosphere.
“We usually attend 40-50 baseball games a year, but this was a much different experience,” Candia said. “We were excited to attend because we absolutely missed baseball so much, we didn’t know what to expect. So, we donned our masks, and off we went.
“The staff of the Somerset Patriots did a phenomenal job preparing that stadium for baseball and the safety of the fans. It was an awesome experience.”
The two teams return to action at TD Bank Ballpark tomorrow at 7:05 p.m.
— Jerry Del Priore, with the help of Rich Candia.
(Photos by Rich Candia).