Around the League - Sussex County Miners
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Around the League

sussex miners crowd

Around the League

Around the League | Just a Few Jersey Guys on Miners Roster


Remember Mike Suk?

     He was the original Miner – a 6-foot-5, 250-pound, hard-throwing  right-hander with reddish hair and a reddish beard.

     He was the first player signed to a contract by the Miners, the brand- new team in the Can-Am League that would play its first season at Skylands Stadium in 2015.

     Suk had some big moments for manager Steve Shirley that opening year, then more big, important pitches for manager Bobby Jones, who took over in 2016.

     Suk, who grew up in Blairstown, was the first Miner and the first Jersey Guy to suit up for the home team.

     There have been a few dozen Jersey Guys in Augusta over the past six years, and there are a handful on the current 2021 roster:

     Pitcher Max Herrmann is from Rutherford, Bobby Jones’ hometown. Billy Layne Jr. is from Cliffwood Beach, with a view of Lady Liberty. Alexander Vargas is from Plainfield, in Central Jersey, hometown of 1950s Brooklyn Dodger legend Joe Black, not to mention world championship boxers Harold Knight, Tracy Spann and Glenwood Brown.

     Nilo Rijo is from nearby Paterson, and Tyler Benson is from nearby Montville, in Morris County. And remember Martin Figueroa? He played third base for the Miners in 2018, batting .328 over 96 games. The 25-year-old switch-hitter is from Elizabeth, and he’ll be back with Sussex County this year.

     That’s the Jersey contingent at the moment.

     Meanwhile, the current roster shows seven players who grew up in Florida, two from Texas, two from Georgia and two from the Dominican Republic. 

     By Sunday, May 23, Jones must trim his roster down to 28 active players, then the roster must comprise 22-24 names during the regular season, which begins at home at Skylands Stadium on May 27.

Root for the Miners in Little Falls

     That’s right. In Little Falls, when the Miners go on the road to play the New Jersey Jackals.

     Yogi Berra Stadium is a great little place. Very different than Skylands Stadium, but a great little place. Skylands is surrounded by farm fields; Yogi Berra Stadium is right off Route 3, a very congested spot in the state, with 10-year road construction projects going on night and day.

     The highway stadium was built in 1998 for the Jackals, the brand- new team in the Northeast League. And, the team has done what few others have done – lasting 23 seasons in three different leagues.

     Highway? It’s really not right on the highway. In fact, the ballpark is located on the campus of Montclair State University, right next to the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, which just reopened to the public on May 1.

     The museum, alone, is worth the 45-mile drive from Augusta.

     And, of course, next-door Montclair has got to be one of New Jersey’s best restaurant towns. 

     The Jackals’ stadium has 3,784 seats, with a lawn capacity going up to 5,000. It’s the second-smallest venue in the Frontier League. Skylands, with 4,200 seats, is third smallest.

     Two big similarities: First, both are owned by Al Dorso and are very family-oriented from the top to the bottom.

     Second, go to either of these little ballparks on the right night with the right sunset and the right smell of mustard in the air, and you’ll think you’re in Iowa… only better – we’ve got real pizza and real bagels.

Speaking of Yogi

     As a daily newspaper writer, I met Yogi several times here and there over the years, and he was always just plain nice to everybody.

     Once, I wrote some stories about a special-ed school, and the school people surprised me by seating me right next to Yogi at a fund-raising lunch. The meal was terrible, but it was definitely one of the best lunches of my life.

     Yogi was funny, as advertised, but he was also very thoughtful, very up on the news, very knowledgeable about a lot of topics. Mostly, we talked about food.

     Earlier that morning, I went into several special-ed classrooms with Yogi, and he was sensational with the kids. A real softy. Some of them hugged him as he left their room.

     A U.S. Navy vet and winner of the Purple Heart for bravery during D-Day in World War II, Yogi became one of the all-time icons of the game, and the Yogi Berra Museum is a must-visit for any baseball fan.

     I think of him every time I attend a Jackals game, not just the baseball hero, but a very nice gentleman who always had time – and a smile – for everybody.

Something Completely Different

     The Miners are off on Monday, July 12, so here’s a suggestion: Make the 55-mile drive to Pomona, N.Y., home of the New York Boulders to see an exhibition game between the Boulders and the national team of Israel.

     The star of Team Israel is Ian Kinsler, the four-time all-star with Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers.

     Unlike the U.S. team, Israel has already qualified to play in the Tokyo Olympics later in the summer.

By Carl Barbati, former sports editor of the New Jersey Herald, Daily Record and The Trentonian.


By Carl Barbati, former sports editor of the New Jersey Herald, Daily Record and The Trentonian.