Bridgewater, NJ- Productive corner infielders are a recipe for success for any ball club. Jeff Nettles has been a staple at third base for the Somerset Patriots since 2003. For the last five seasons Josh Pressley handled the designated hitter/first base duties with ease, but in the offseason he decided to join the Atlantic League expansion franchise, the Sugar Land Skeeters, to be closer to family in that area.
The vacant slot left a big void for Director of Player Personnel Brett Jodie. He wanted a leader in the clubhouse with power at the plate and a high baseball IQ. He knew just the person to contact…Jesse Hoorelbeke.
“When you hit 33 home runs in one year [for the Bridgeport Bluefish] in a bigger park than this one, that is impressive,” said Jodie. “He hit some no doubters so I’m glad he’s on our team. He also plays a good first base.”
The 6-foot-2, 255 pounder has a commanding presence and returns to the Atlantic League after a two-year stint with Fargo-Moorhead in the American Association. Prior, he spent three years with the Bridgeport Bluefish in the Liberty Division.
His best year came in 2007 when he was the Atlantic League Co-Player of the Year. His numbers were off the charts as he batted .313, tallied 33 home runs and drove in 94 runs.
“It’s wonderful [to be a Patriot],” said a smiling Hoorelbeke. “I always wanted to get back to the Atlantic League. For three years I played against this team and always admired the way this team handles themselves. I like the way Sparky [Lyle] and Brett [Jodie] run the squad. I used to play against Travis [Anderson]. I’m real happy to be given this opportunity because I don’t know how many years I have left.”
Hoorelbeke and Nettles are the two oldest players on the squad (34 and 33 respectively). Combined the two have 421 career minor league home runs. The potent dynamic duo in the middle of the lineup will go a long way in terms of how the 2012 campaign fares for the Patriots.
“When I used to play [for the Bluefish] I would come here and rocket balls down the line and Nettles would rob me,” said a chuckling Hoorelbeke. “It’s nice that he’s on my same squad and opposing teams are going to pitch Nettles the same way they are going to pitch me. We can learn from each other.”
In the offseason, Hoorelbeke is a professional photographer. The well-traveled Hoorelbeke brings his camera and studio lighting kit with him everywhere he goes. Hoorelbeke’s main area of expertise is dramatic lighting. He shoots models and wedding portraits.
“I love it,” said Hoorelbeke. “I love being creative. I’m looking forward to exploring the area and shooting on off days. Photography means a lot to me.”
Hopefully after his time with the Patriots, Hoorelbeke can add a photo of himself on the Patriots Wall Of Fame on the main concourse at TD Bank Ballpark for his achievements with the organization.
“I’m hoping to see the same thing I saw with the Bluefish,” said Jodie. “He’s hit for power everywhere he has gone. That’s why I signed him. I don’t see why he won’t be successful.”