Nettles Back, But What More Can He Do?

If Jeff Nettles isn’t the first name you think of when you think about the Somerset Patriots — Sparky Lyle likely holds that distinction — then he’s certainly near the top of your list.

Nettles, returning for his seventh season with the team, is the franchise all-time leader in RBI (470), home runs (118), doubles (156), games played (666), at bats (2,462), and hits (716). He’s won three rings and has two Atlantic League Playoff MVP titles to his credit as well.

Given that it’s so clear that he has nothing left to prove in the Atlantic League, some questions have been raised as to why he’d bother coming back.

“I thought about that this off-season, and I think a lot of that had to do with the core guys coming back,” said Nettles, mentioning the likes of Josh Pressley, Matt Hagen, Casey Cahill and Jason Belcher.

“I want to come back and play for those guys, they’ve been a big part of this team. I just remember telling myself in the clubhouse after we won it last year, how could you not want to come back and play again.  It was a fun year.  I’m not ready to hang em’ up quite yet.”

Now 31 years old, Nettles is considered an Atlantic League lifer by some, despite performing well during two stints in Double-A during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.  The Patriots are lucky to have Nettles, but in a way, Nettles also feels lucky to have the Patriots.

“Somerset is like a second home to me,” Nettles said.

“It’s always a fun place to come back and play.  Especially after you win a championship, it’s even more fun to come back on Opening Day and enjoy the festivities and get a ring and go out there and know that the whole league is kind of gunning for you.”

For last year’s team, a big motivating factor was to win back-to-back championships, something no team had ever done in the history of the Atlantic League.  Now, they can win three straight titles, and that too will serve as a driving force for the 2010 version of the Patriots.

“It sounds kind of cliche, but we come there every year wanting to win,” Nettles said.

“Having been a part of the back half of that back-to-back championship, I know that a lot of guys are coming back because they want to win that third one, and I think it would be stupid for us to not think anything else.  I know that’s on our minds.  We’re going to start at spring training, work at it there, and hopefully we can do it.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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