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In memoriam: Steve Kalafer

Steve KalaferSteve Kalafer, who launched the Somerset Patriots in the independent Atlantic League and then worked to lift it as a Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, passed away this morning. He was 71.

The cause of death was cancer.

“We are completely heartbroken by Steve’s passing. Everyone who ever came into contact with him over the years knows just how special a person he was,” said Somerset Patriots President/General Manager Patrick McVerry in a press statement. “He built his dealerships and this team from the ground up with the customers, employees, his family, and the communities served always as his top priorities. He taught us all the value of doing things the right way, of taking the time to build long lasting relationships, and making a difference wherever you can. To say that he will be missed is an understatement. Everything we have here is because of his tireless efforts. We were fortunate to have such a wonderful chairman, father-figure, and friend. We know his sons Jonathan and Josh will help continue his legacy and our staff will strive to make him proud every day because we know he will always be with us, guiding our path and showing us the ways to succeed.”

Kalafer’s history of business success began in 1973, when he launched Flemington Car and Truck Country, Clinton Honda, and Jaguar Land Rover Princeton. His obvious passion for baseball–he grew up attending Yankees games with his father Milton, a pratice he continued throughout his life with his sons Jonathan and Josh and his grandchildren–manifested itself when the Somerset Patriots played their first home game in June 1999. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. When MLB launched its reorganization of Minor League Baseball, the Patriots were invited to become the Double-A affiliate of the Yankees.

“There is no one like Steve Kalafer. From the first day I met him, I loved him. He treated everyone like family and made you feel like the most important person in the world,” said Somerset Patriots Manager Emeritus Sparky Lyle. “We became friends when he hired me to manage the Patriots and I learned so much from him about the right way to do things in life and how to conduct yourself in business. Every time I set foot in the ballpark, I will think of him with an unbelievable amount of love, respect, and appreciation. He was the Somerset Patriots, and it will be up to all of us to carry his vision long into the future.” 

In addition, Kalafer was a producer of documentary films that led to three Academy Award nominations.

Services will be private, according to a team press release. The Somerset Patriots and the Kalafer family will be planning a celebration of Steve’s life at the ballpark at a later date.

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