Compiled by Joe Southern
Apparently winning the Atlantic League championship wasn’t enough for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Three weeks after the season ended, the victories continue to mount for the local baseball team as the league announced its post-season awards.
Outfielder Jeremy Barfield was named the 2016 Atlantic League Player of the Year and joins Skeeters pitcher Andrew Johnston on the Post-Season All-Star Team.
Additionally, Swatson, the team’s mascot, was named the Atlantic League’s Mascot of the Year and the grounds crew took home the Ray Cipperly Award for Groundskeeping Excellence.
Player of the Year
Barfield, a Houston native, becomes the first Skeeters player to win the award in the franchise’s five-year history.
“After everything that happened with the success of the team, I am able to enjoy the individual success more,” said Barfield. “To be able to contribute for the entire season has been amazing, especially in a league where there is such a high caliber of talent. To be recognized with such a prestigious award is the utmost honor.
“For me personally, to be on the same team for the first time in four years, is icing on the cake. A special thank you to my wife Amy for allowing me to pursue my dream, my parents for being the ultimate host family, my dad for being the best hitting coach I ever had, as well as the coaching staff and my teammates for being so supportive. This would not have been possible if it was not for them, they made it fun to be part of such a wonderful organization. I would also like to thank all the other players in the entire league because it was an absolute joy to share the field with them for the entire season. I now have friendships that will last me the rest of my life.
“I also want to thank the best season ticket holders in my entire career; they were the added bonus to perform on a daily basis. A very special thanks as well to the Skeeters organization for treating us not just as ballplayers, but as family.”
Barfield led the Atlantic League and set single season franchise records in home runs (27), total bases (272) and extra-base hits (60). He became the first Skeeters player ever to win the Atlantic League home run crown. He also finished second in the league in runs scored (87), tied for third in RBI (85), fourth in slugging percentage (.533) and walks (62), tied for fourth in hits (156) and finished fifth in doubles (31).
“Jeremy earned and deserved the award,” said Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti. “He never complained, doesn’t get hurt, fought for every pitch in every at-bat and played great defense. Jeremy is one of the reasons we won the championship this year. I’m just glad he was on my team and so are all of the Skeeters fans. He deserves to play in the big leagues.”
The 28-year-old also set a single season franchise record in multi-hit games (51) while placing second in hits (156), RBI (85) and third place in doubles (31). In 2016 Barfield was voted to the ALPB All-Star Game, named to the End-Of-Season All-Star team and was also named the Skeeters Most Valuable Player. Barfield batted .308 in the playoffs and helped lead the Skeeters to their first-ever Atlantic League championship.
“Jeremy had an outstanding season and we are very excited he has been named the 2016 Atlantic League Player of the Year,” said Skeeters president Jay Miller. “Jeremy led by example each game playing with great enthusiasm and energy. I am truly happy for Jeremy and I truly enjoyed, along with our fans, watching his record season.”
Barfield is the son of former major leaguer Jesse Barfield and the brother of former major leaguer Josh Barfield. In eight minor league seasons he batted .260 with 72 HR and 392 RBI. He spent most of his minor league career in the Oakland A’s farm system reaching as high as AAA Sacramento in 2013. He spend a short time with the Skeeters in 2015 appearing in 17 games, but in that short time, he helped the Skeeters put together a 10-game winning streak which tied for second longest in franchise history before being signed by the Colorado Rockies and reaching the AAA level for the second time in his career.
Post-Season All-Star Team
The Atlantic League announced recently that two members of the Sugar Land Skeeters were selected to the 2016 Post-Season All-Star Team. Jeremy Barfield, the 2016 Skeeters MVP, was named an All-Star outfielder and 2016 Skeeters Pitcher of the Year Andrew Johnston was selected as an All-Star pitcher.
Barfield led the league in home runs (27), total bases (272), extra-base hits (60), finished second in runs scored (87), third in RBI (85), fourth in slugging percentage (.533) and walks (62), tied for fourth in hits (156) and finished fifth in doubles (31). Barfield set a Skeeters franchise high in multi-hit games (51), tied for the franchise high in average (.308) and became the first Skeeter ever to win the Atlantic League home run crown. His 2016 regular season numbers made him the franchise single-season leader in home runs, total bases and runs while earning him second place in hits and RBI and third place in doubles. Barfield was also a member of the 2016 Atlantic League All-Star team.
Johnston finished the regular season with a 5-2 record with a 1.78 ERA in 61 games. His 1.78 ERA placed him third best in franchise history for ERA by a reliever in a single season. Johnston posted an impressive 0.88 WHIP and recorded 47 strikeouts with only eight walks in 60 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander’s 61 games pitched were the second most by a Skeeter in a single season and tied him for second in the Atlantic League. Johnston was also voted to the 2016 Atlantic League All-Star Team.
Mascot of the Year
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball has named Swatson, the Sugar Land Skeeters mascot, is the 2016 Mascot of the Year. Winners for the ALPB post-season awards were selected through voting from club managers, executives and media.
Swatson has been an integral part of the Skeeters organization and is one of the most recognizable faces in community and marketing initiatives. His interaction and engagement with fans during each home game brings a constant energy to Constellation Field. The bright green mosquito is recognized for entertaining the home crowd each night with his creative skits, his interaction with visiting players, coaches and his playful humor with fans in attendance.
“Swatson is one of the most recognizable mascots in Sugar Land and the surrounding communities,” said Skeeters president Jay Miller. “He spends countless hours representing the Skeeters organization in a positive manner and is the best at entertaining our home fans during games at Constellation Field. He is truly a fan favorite and we are proud of his accomplishments.”
Zach Bohls, mascot coordinator for the Skeeters, oversees all activities for Swatson. The 25-year old Texas Tech graduate schedules all of the mascot’s appearances in Sugar Land and the surrounding communities. Swatson makes over 200 appearances each year which includes visits to schools, senior living communities, local businesses, non-profits, hospitals, day care centers and many more.
His marketing efforts for the Skeeters organization and presence within the community helped Swatson earn the title of MascotInsider’s Minor League Mascot of the Year earlier this season, a title based on fan votes. Swatson becomes the second ALPB Mascot of the Year following the inaugural award presented to the Long Island Ducks organization in 2015.
Ray Cipperly Award
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB) announced that the Sugar Land Skeeters grounds crew are the recipients of the 2016 Ray Cipperly Award for Groundskeeping Excellence. This is the second consecutive year the Skeeters grounds crew has received the award. Winners for the ALPB post-season awards were selected through voting from club managers, executives and media.
“It’s an honor and a tribute to the entire grounds crew because it takes a lot of team effort,” said Skeeters Head Groundskeeper Brad Detmore. “It’s also nice to be recognized by the league after a long season and it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the rest of the organization.”
Detmore and the entire grounds crew were tested mid-summer with heavy rains that saturated the Sugar Land and Houston area, but his team kept Constellation Field in playing condition night after night. Not only does Detmore and his team groom the field for 70 home games a season, they also prepare the field for over 160 non-Skeeters game events including the Southland Conference Tournament, college baseball games featuring the University of Texas and University of Houston, Skeeters Foundation Kickball Tournament, Country at the Ballpark concert, Sugar Land Holiday Lights and the Diwali Festival.
“Brad and his team are the best in the business and I am extremely proud of their efforts and earning the best grounds crew award in 2016,” said Skeeters President Jay Miller. “Our players know when they take the field each game they are competing on the safest and best groomed field in the league because of Brad and his crew’s hard work.”