Through the Eyes of a Somerset Patriots Fan: From the Press Box, Part II
It is a Thursday evening (4/25/2013) and once again, I am sitting up in the press box of the Somerset Patriots. Tonight is the final game of the series between the Sugar Land Skeeters and the Patriots. Our Patriots dropped the first two of the series, so the hometown fans are anticipating a much-needed victory to avoid the sweep. The Sugar Land squad was undefeated until that point, in case anyone is curious, a Skeeter, it is a southern colloquialism for a mosquito.
But before I start this column, I saw a small camera crew in the parking lot as I parked my car around 6pm. They seemed to be filming a black SUV. The camera followed the vehicle as it drove by them and then they focused their lenses inside once it chose a parking spot. I did not wait to see who was inside; because my stomach was grumbling so I went into the ballpark to get something to eat.
It is usual at Patriots games, and at most minor league games; to have simultaneous activities down on the field. After taking my assigned place in the press box, armed with my hotdog with kraut and bottle of water, I looked out onto the field to watching two men flying a radio-controlled helicopter and plane. When they stopped flying, two small crowds of children appeared along each outfield foul line. They were watched over by a handful of adults who attempted to get them to stand straight and in order.
Among all the activity by both Patriots’ personnel and fans milling about on the field, I spotted the camera crew from the parking lot. At first I thought they were filming helicopter and airplane? Then it became obvious when three very attractive young ladies appeared then disappeared into the Patriots dugout as the film crew followed.
While this was happening, the two groups of school children walked in from the outfield to form along the first and third base line. Someone in the press box mentioned that it was another day of honoring “most improved” students from the surrounding communities.
Normally the first pitch of the game follows such presentations. Tonight, fans were treated to two “first times” in Atlantic League history. One was the first opening balk (the result of someone winning a contest) and the other being the first electronic instrument delivered pitch performed by a model helicopter dropping a ball over the plate!
After the first pitch, our Patriots ran out to the field and then the teams lineups were announced over the loud speaker.
If you are still wondering about the three lovely ladies that were being filmed, wonder no more. The PA announcer introduced them as actresses for a new cable show “Mom’s on a Mission.” They sang the National Anthem in three-part harmony. And left to the crowd’s rousing applause. As they left, each gave Sparky Lyle a peck on the cheek. It must be hard work being the manager emeritus!
The night’s match up featured two pitchers with respectable major league resumes. Scott Elarton of the Skeeters versus Brad Thompson for our Patriots.
Elarton is a former first round draft pick (1994) for the Houston Astros. He had a ten year career in the majors going 56-71, 5.29. Arguably his best year in professional baseball was 2000 when he went 17-9, 4.81 for the Houston Astros. He has not pitched in the majors since 2008. Last year he appeared as a member of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies AAA) pitching staff and went 6-11, 5.41. I had an opportunity to see Elarton pitch in person, and he lost. From what I remember, he gave up runs in every inning until he was mercifully relieved. Watching him pitch tonight, I noticed a certain quirkiness in his delievery; he had a momentary hesitation before bringing his leg back. I do not remember whether was a part of his motion or something new.
Elarton’s battery mate was Kody Clemens. Kody comes with a well-known major league lineage, Roger Clemens, the 7-time Cy Young Award winner. Kody displayed an impressive ability to play catcher during Thursday’s game, making a great play on a pop-up, then throwing a couple of runners out. He was signed by Sugar Land after being released from Toronto’s minor league team late in the season. Originally he was the Astros 8th round pick in the June 2005 draft, reached triple A with both Houston and Toronto. When he caught his father in 2012, they became the first father and son duo in professional baseball history.
Brad Thompson’s MLB career stretched from 2005-10. Mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals except 2010 when he was a member of the Kansas City Royals. His career totals in the majors are 21-21, 4.46. The highlight of his career was appearing in the 2006 World Series when the Cardinals beat the Tigers. Brad appeared in the second game of the World Series which he pitched to two batters, striking out Brandon Inge and retiring Ramon’ Santiago with grounder to the second baseman.
Last year Thompson pitched for the Bridgeport Bluefish and New Britain (AA Twins).
Our Patriots went on to win 3-1 snapping a two game losing streak and avoiding being swept.
Once again, Yunesky (U-nes-ke) Sanchez was the hero. He got Somerset’s first hit in the first inning then scored their first run, walloped a homer in the third, and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to the leftfield wall. All in all, played a part in all three Patriot runs. Before joining Somerset, Sanchez played for Spain during the 2013 World baseball classic, and batted .636.
While my purpose in the press box has been to operate the Daktronics stat program, it has become a great opportunity to watch the game through the eyes of a Somerset Patriots fan!