Visit Somerset's TD Bank Ballpark
Welcome to TD Bank Ballpark, a baseball oasis in the center of the Garden State. Take a train to the game, meet Sparky Lyle and his mascot counterpart and indulge in a burger topped with New Jersey's favorite food.
Somerset Patriots (Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees since 2021)
Established: 1998 (in the independent Atlantic League)
Ballpark: TD Bank Ballpark (opened 1999)
League: Double-A Northeast (Northeast Division)
Notable Alumni: Tim Raines, Robert Andino, Sparky Lyle (manager emeritus)
The Bridewater Township-based Somerset Patriots are located in New Jersey's Somerset County, approximately 60 miles from Yankee Stadium. The team debuted in 1998 as a flagship member of the Atlantic League, playing on the road while TD Bank Ballpark was under construction. The facility, originally called Somerset Ballpark, hosted its first game on June 7, 1999. Over the ensuing two-plus decades the Patriots established themselves as one of the top draws in the Atlantic League, averaging over 5,200 fans a game. Part of this success at the gate was due to success on the field, as the club won 13 division championships and six league titles. In 2021, after more than two decades as an independent entity, the Patriots replaced the nearby Trenton Thunder as the Yankees' Double-A affiliate.
As for why the team is called the Patriots? The Middlebrook encampment, located in Bridgewater Township, is where George Washington and his troops flew the first official American flag. This occurred in 1777, after Congress passed a law to adopt a national flag.
1 Patriots Park
Bridgewater Township, New Jersey, 08807
Capacity: 6,100 fixed seats, with room for more fans on the lawn and in group areas
Dimensions: left field, 317; center field, 402; right field, 315
With its brick exterior, simple layout and riotous assemblage of outfield signage, TD Bank Ballpark has a classic feel. The vast majority of the seats are in the lower-level seating bowl. (The second level, topped by a green gabled roof, is home to suites and, down the left field line, a party deck). The concourse-level press box is located a bit down the first base line; this was done so that fans have an unobstructed view of the field immediately upon entering the ballpark. The concourse stretches from foul pole to foul pole. A patch of lawn seating, located near the right-field foul pole, was reduced prior to the 2021 season in order to accommodate an expanded and redesigned home bullpen.
TD Bank Ballpark is bounded by I-287 to the east, and also in close proximity to the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. One need not drive to the game, however. The Bridgewater Train Station, on New Jersey Transit's Raritan Valley Line, is located just beyond the outfield. The Raritan River is located on the other side of the train tracks. The river's proximity to the ballpark has resulted in occasional flooding, most recently in September 2021 as a result of the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
Inside the ballpark, one is likely to find a boisterous, tight-knit atmosphere that was carefully cultivated throughout the Patriots' long tenure in the Atlantic League. A simple call-and-response chant often resonates throughout the ballpark on game days. Over the PA comes the call: "Somerset!" The fans respond with "Patriots!" What else?
The spacious concourse concession stands feature an abundance of ballpark staples, augmented by occasional specialty items. Local flavor can be found via standalone kiosks on both ends of the facility. On the left field-side one can obtain a Super Jersey Burger, topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, French fries and, most crucially, the New Jersey delicacy that is pork roll. A lighter option, if one can call it that, is to skip the burger and get a simple pork roll and cheese sandwich. New Jerseyans who refer to pork roll as Taylor Ham, who generally hail from the northern portion of the state, should note that their preferred terminology is not utilized anywhere in the ballpark.
Premio sausages are another New Jersey staple, and they can be found on the right field-side of the ballpark. A smattering of local vendors can also be found in that direction, including the exemplary barbecue of Oink and Moo (get the brisket sliders).
Sparky Lyle, the first manager in Patriots' history, piloted the team from 1999 through 2012. The former Yankees reliever was then named "manager emeritus," and his number 28 has since been retired by the team. Lyle is still a regular ballpark presence, serving as a goodwill ambassador of sorts. Sparky is joined in this role by mascot Sparkee, a dog whose name and likeness (including a handlebar mustache) was inspired by the man himself.
The Middlebrook Encampment -- on Middlebrook Road, fittingly enough -- was where the first-ever United States flag was flown. It is one of many Revolutionary War-era sites in the area, a history that inspired the Patriots' team name. For more 18th-century history, take a tour of the Abraham Staats House. It was built in 1740 and remained a private home until 1999. Somerset County is also a great area for birdwatching, as it is home to three areas - Duke Farms, Delaware and Raritan State Park and Sourland Mountain Region -- designated as an IBBA (Important Bird and Birding Area).
Food and Drink
For pre- or postgame food and libations, head to nearby Somerville. The town's Main Street is packed with worthwhile options, including Verve bar and restaurant. NJ.com named Verve the best bar in the state of New Jersey, due to its "top-notch bartenders, inventive cocktails, convivial atmosphere, and food the equal of — or better than — any area restaurant."
Lotsa Balls, in Metuchen, has what its name implies: lots of meatballs. Oink and Moo BBQ, in Somerville (and also available at TD Bank Ballpark), slings some of the best barbecue in the region. New Jersey is home to hundreds of diners, and they are legion throughout Somerset County. Try the Manville Diner or the Time to Eat Diner or whatever diner whose gleaming, gaudy edifice happens to catch your eye.
Bridgewater Township is not exactly a tourist destination in and of itself, but nonetheless there are a smattering of chain hotel options in the vicinity of TD Bank Ballpark.
The Trenton Thunder, whom the Patriots replaced as the Yankees' Double-A affiliate, are now in the MLB Draft League. Their home, currently called Trenton Thunder Ballpark, is located approximately 45 miles to the southwest. The Patriots are located in-between the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate (the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, to the northwest) and their High-A affiliate (the Hudson Valley Renegades, to the northeast). The Yankees themselves are located just 60 miles away, of course. And when in New York City, try to make some time for the Mets-affiliated Brooklyn Cyclones as well. A pair of Phillies affiliates are also located in the general vicinity: The High-A Jersey Shore BlueClaws (the only other Minor League team located in the state of New Jersey) and the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
The Road to New York City
The Yankees' system begins at their Spring Training home of George Steinbrenner Field, which also hosts the Low-A Tampa Tarpons. The rest of the system is comparatively local to New York City. From Tampa, players move on to High-A Hudson Valley, Double-A Somerset, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and, finally, the Bronx.