A gift from Co-Chairmen Jonathan and Josh Kalafer: The Somerset Patriots (independent; Atlantic League) unveiled a sculpture in honor of their father, Chairman Emeritus Steve Kalafer, and Manager Emeritus Sparky Lyle.
The sculpture is located in a newly renovated area in front of TD Bank Ballpark and recreates an early picture of a conversation between Kalafer and Lyle cherished by both men and their families.
“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to put in a physical being the story of Sparky and dad, how they met, their history, and how that friendship has helped this community and the Somerset Patriots,” said Josh Kalafer, who said the idea came about during a visit to Rome and seeing all the artwork and sculptures to honor great individuals. “It’s exciting and we are thrilled with how it came out. We think it not only captures the likenesses of the two men, but also how they really feel about each other and the community they serve.”
To be able to enjoy this tribute from my children to Sparky and I is just overwhelming,” said Steve Kalafer. “To have this honor after 21 years of the Somerset Patriots playing here, over 7,500,000 fans, a wonderful staff, a community that respects us and we respect them. To have all this is something you can only dream about.”
The sculpture was created by internationally acclaimed and classically-trained sculptor Brian Hanlon of Toms River, New Jersey. He has become one of the most prominent contemporary realism artists with more than 550 permanent installations that are viewed by millions around the world every year. Hanlon has been commissioned by the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL and has been called the “Sports Rodin” by The New York Times for his work in the athletic and sports entertainment sector.
Kalafer and his family have owned the Somerset Patriots since day one and brought the team to Somerset County. He is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, where the team has played since the 1998 season. Kalafer transitioned into the role of Chairman Emeritus in the fall of 2018, when his sons Jonathan and Josh stepped into the roles of Co-Chairmen.
“When I look at this sculpture, this wonderful homage to my father, two things come to mind,” said Jonathan Kalafer. “The first thing is his vision. There is no arguing that Steve Kalafer is a visionary; he sees some great potential and then he makes it a reality. The second thing is his inclusion of other people in his vision. It is not so much that he can’t do it alone, it is that he doesn’t want to. He wants to share these beautiful experiences and accomplishments with other people. All of us have been in the same place where Sparky stands in this sculpture and that is truly a beautiful place to be.”
Lyle was the field manager for the Somerset Patriots from 1998 to 2012. Under his guidance, the Somerset Patriots won five Atlantic League Championships (2001, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009), 12 Half Championships, and eight Division Championships. He won 1,025 games as the manager of the team. Lyle was named the Atlantic League Manager of the Year three times (1999, 2003, 2009) in his 15-year managing career. The New York Yankees legend became the Somerset’s Manager Emeritus after the 2012 season and is still very active at the ballpark and throughout the community.
“Everything is absolutely gorgeous. When they took the cover off of it, I was tearing up already,” said Lyle. “I am honored to forever be besides Steve Kalafer. “It’s very hard to put into words. I remember the day the sculpture captures and meeting with Steve when he asked me to manage his new team. He said, ‘have you ever managed before,’ and I said ‘no.’ He said, ‘do you think you’d be any good at it?,’ and I said, ‘I’ll do it the way I played and live my life. I’ll give you 100% every day.’ The rest is history.”