Revolution will hold spring training in York

revs veres

It’s official: the York Revolution will hold its spring training in York in 2009.

The Revs announced Thursday afternoon that they will not travel to the TigerTown Complex in Lakeland, Fla. — as they have the last two years. Instead, York will stay at home during April for spring training along with Lancaster and Somerset. York and Lancaster are owned by Opening Day Partners.

The move makes sense for a bevy of reasons. 1) Newark and Somerset have both trained up north without a hitch the last couple of years (coincidentally, the two teams account for the ’07 and ’08 Atlantic League titles); 2) Holding spring training in York reduces a slew of costs; 3) This move will give Revolution fans an early look in on their hometown team.

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York ousted from playoffs

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Twenty years from now, after the dust has settled and memories have faded, the final scores in this playoff series will suggest the York Revolution went down swinging like a famed prize fighter.

But in reality, that is not how York’s crushing exodus from the postseason should be remembered. The Revs had their chances to give Yorkers their first pro baseball postseason victory in 46 years. Too much timid play from the Revolution simply would not allow it to happen.

York committed three errors for the second straight night while watching another close loss circle the drain. The Revs were ousted from the Freedom Division Series Wednesday night after Somerset’s 6-4 victory before an announced crowd of 6,346 at Commerce Bank Ballpark.

And the end of the season came after York seemed to wake up in big fashion during a three-run seventh that created a one-run lead. But George Sandel overthrew first baseman Chris Ashby on a routine ground ball that would have ended the seventh. That error, which gave Somerset the tying run, allowed the Patriots to smell blood and they went in for the kill.

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The Gold Standard

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — In this suburb that spans a little more than 30 miles, the journey to minor league baseball is an altogether different experience.

There are no classic railroad tracks criss-crossing the road or signs of a downtown revitalization project. No upscale lofts in the midst of construction. No worries about finding a parking spot in the bustling center of a city.

Commerce Bank Ballpark sits in southeast Bridgewater in the shadow of a full forrest. There is a shopping complex across the street. And the $18-million stadium, located within the Bridgewater Promenade, is worlds apart from what baseball fans in Lancaster and York have grown to love.

But in this case, being different is hardly a negative. This ballpark, which will host Wednesday’s Game 2 of the Freedom Division Series featuring the York Revolution, is the home to one of the most successful independent baseball franchises in the country — the Somerset Patriots. And since the team’s inception in 1999, the Patriots have become a pillar of success in the Atlantic League.

In a sense, they are the Atlantic League’s gold standard — the franchise that everyone else aspires to emulate on and off the baseball diamond.

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Defense dooms Revs in Game 1 loss

In a season in which the York Revolution scored nearly 800 runs, its biggest weakness went unnoticed week after week.

The Revs have not been a good defensive team all year — and it finally caught up to them when it mattered most.

Three errors, including an eighth-inning miscue through the legs of Jose Enrique Cruz that allowed the eventual winning run, plagued York in a 3-2 loss to Somerset in Game 1 of the Atlantic League Freedom Division Series Tuesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium. A crowd of 4,038 watched the Revolution drop its first playoff game ever in the best-of-three series.

And York, which had a league-worst .969 fielding percentage and committed 156 errors (second-to-last) in the regular season, wasted a brilliant outing from Aaron Rakers. The right-hander, making his first postseason start since his college days at Southern Illinois Edwardsville, went 7 1/3 innings and gave everything he had for 123 pitches. Rakers, a career reliever before this year, could even be seen biting his glove in the late innings in between his rare mistakes.

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Nunez leaves Revs

Heading into the first postseason in franchise history, the York Revolution will be without closer Franklin Nunez.

Nunez left the Revs Monday to return home to Tampa, Fla. to attend to a personal matter. He joined York mid-season this year after pitching with Saltillo in the Mexican League. He amassed a 2-1 record, 11 saves and a 3.98 ERA in 18 appearances with the Revolution.

Adam Gladstone, the Revolution director of baseball operations, was understanding about Nunez’s need to leave the team and while he was surprised, he does not harbor any ill feelings about the timing of the move. Gladstone said York has a number of players capable of sliding into the closer’s role — mainly former big leaguers Juan Padilla and Travis Phelps.

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Revs face “Yankees of the Atlantic League”

The problems with the York Revolution in the Atlantic League’s first half were so evident that even opposing players could see what was wrong.

“They were without an identity the first half,” Somerset third baseman Brandon Larson (pictured) said last week. “They were out there just to play and now they’re having fun playing with each other. We ran into them recently and they’re a whole different, energetic ballclub … They’re playing with a purpose right now.”

Larson’s astute observation summed up the Revs’ second half — new players, new energy, newfound success. York sewed up the first playoff berth in the franchise’s two-year history last week by winning the Freedom Division second-half title. Now the Revs will play host to their first playoff game Tuesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium.

Somerset, the Freedom Division first-half champion, will take on the Revs at 7:07 p.m. in the first game of the best-of-three Freedom Division Series.

And when the teams pile into their respective dugouts, the two sides will share almost nothing in common. The Patriots have all the history on their side. A league-record three titles. Six trips to the championship series in six postseason appearances. A .518 all-time winning percentage in a league where sustaining success is nearly impossible.

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Lyle and Somerset in a familiar place

On a cool September afternoon, a few hours before Somerset’s home meeting with Lancaster last week, Sparky Lyle indulges in his regular routine.

He throws the first round of batting practice to his Patriot hitters. He then convenes briefly with Brett Jodie, Somerset’s pitching coach and director of player procurement. Then he settles into a spot in the dugout, sparking up a Winston and relaxing.

This has been Lyle’s life for the last 10 years. He has been Somerset’s iconic manager since the Patriots’ inaugural season and he’s done an incredible job. Many around the Atlantic League say the reason for the Patriots annual success rests with Lyle — his honest, to-the-point approach creates one of the best indy-league environments around.

So it’s no surprise that the former Cy Young award winner will lead his Patriots into York for the start of another playoff series Tuesday night. After all, this is a yearly occurrence for Lyle and the Patriots. The former New York Yankee also joined me last week for a brief Q&A.

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