In just five years of existence the Sugar Land Skeeters have risen to rule the league!
When you stop and think about it, it’s an amazing accomplishment for a team that was 35-35 and five games out of first at the end of the first half of the season. This same team came on strong in the second half, building a three-game lead before hitting a terrible skid and sliding toward the brink of being eliminated from post-season play. Then came a four-game sweep of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and a dramatic dive at home for the clinching win that ended the season on a high note and powered the Skeeters to a 6-0 sweep to win the Freedom Division and ultimately the Atlantic League.
The Skeeters went 10-0 at the end, eliminating the Blue Crabs from playoff contention, sweeping the York Revolution for the division and downing the Ducks of Long Island for the championship. From what I understand, the Skeeters are the third team to go undefeated in the Atlantic League playoffs and the first to go 6-0 as previous playoff formats included best of three games, not the best of five they played this year.
I’ve been a fan of the Skeeters since the inaugural game in 2012. This year was my first year to cover them for the paper, and what a year it has been. It’s been a huge honor to get to know so many people in the Skeeters organization from Manager Gary Gaetti to his players, the front office staff, seasonal employees and especially many of my fellow fans. I was able to make it to 31 games this year, including all four home playoff games.
I’ve been a big fan of different sports teams over the years but this is the first time I’ve felt like I was part of the team, as the Skeeters have been so incredibly welcoming and accommodating this season. I hope you had a chance to come out and be a part of this amazing team during this incredible season. More importantly, I hope you’ll be out to support them next year as the Skeeters seek to defend their crown.
I’m still in a state of awe this year over the success of my favorite teams. I am first and foremost a Denver Broncos fan and they are the defending Super Bowl champions. Now the Skeeters have gone and won it all. Please don’t pinch me because if this isn’t real, I don’t want to wake up from this dream.
A superstar visitor
One of the things about being at independent league baseball games is you never know who’s going to show up, especially when there are sons of Major League stars on the team.
The Sugar Land Skeeters have Patrick Palmeiro, the son of Rafael Palmeiro (Cubs, Rangers, Orioles), and Jeremy Barfield, the son of Jesse Barfield (Blue Jays, Yankees). Rafael Palmeiro played a few games last season with the Skeeters and his son. Jesse hasn’t played for the Skeeters but occasionally comes to Constellation Field to watch his MVP son play ball. That was the case Sept. 21 during the second game of the Freedom Division Series.
I stopped playing photographer after the first few innings and took my seat next to my wife behind home plate. That’s when a friend sent me a text to tell me that the guy sitting next to me across the isle was Jesse himself.
Between innings, I leaned over the rail, introduced myself and asked if he wouldn’t mind a brief interview. He very graciously agreed. I pulled out my phone, turned on the voice recorder and started asking questions.
I asked him what he thought of Jeremy’s season.
“He’s put together a very, very good season and I’m very proud of him,” he said. “He’s persevered and done what he’s had to do.”
With Jeremy Barfield capturing several single-season records for the Skeeters and earning the Most Valuable Player award, is it likely that he will be offered a contract by a Major League team?
“I think so,” he said. “There’s not much more he can do at this level. He did what he had to do and we’ll see what happens.”
I asked him if he knew what it would take for Jeremy to get there.
“I guess they were talking about consistency. He showed them he can be consistent so hopefully they’ll take notice,” he said.
What has he been doing since his playing days with the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees?
“I still do a lot of stuff with both teams, alumni and ambassador for the Blue Jays as well, working with the kids and enjoying my family,” he said.
Jesse and his wife were very pleasant to be with and they openly engaged the fans sitting near them. He helped explain rules and made sure to let folks know when a bad call was made. Jesse signed autographs and posed for pictures. He had a warm, genuine smile and seemed to like getting a little attention despite the distraction from the game.
It was a real honor to get to know him and it has been a load of fun meeting Jeremy and watching him play this season. As much as I’d dearly love to see Jeremy in a Skeeters uniform next year, I hope for his sake that he finally gets his chance to play in the Majors because he has worked hard, proven himself and deserves his chance in the show.
At least for now Jeremy has something that his father and his brother Josh (a former player with the Padres, Indians and Orioles) don’t have: A championship!