When Wantagh product Joe Holden was drafted by the Mets out of Molloy College in 2005, the dream of playing professional baseball in front of friends and family for a hometown team was well within reach.
Holden experienced that thrill while with the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2005, and for the last three years, he's had the privilege of playing at home but for the opposing team, making three or four annual trips to Long Island as a member of the Somerset Patriots to face the Ducks.
Sunday, he started in centerfield for Somerset at Bethpage Ballpark, with about 15 or so friends and family members in attendance. And much to their delight, and the dismay of the 5,500 other spectators on hand, Holden went 2-for-5 with a run scored and helped the Patriots establish a 3-0 lead in a game that entered the 12th inning tied at 3.
Holden, who is hitting .310 for the Patriots this season, started a Somerset rally in the second to give the Patriots an early lead. He singled to rightfield to lead off the inning and James Skelton reached safely on a well-placed bunt up the third-base line. After the runners advanced to second and third, Cory Aldridge lined a two-out single to right-center to make it 2-0.
In Holden's second at-bat in the fourth, he lined a single to right to advance Jeff Baisley from first to third, and moved to second as Baisley scored on a throwing error by Ducks rightfielder Adam Bailey that made it 3-0.
Holden, a graduate of Wantagh High School in 2002, more than satisfied his personal cheering section with Sunday's performance.
"Being able to see him out here and perform the way he did tonight, there's nothing better," said Rob White, a Wantagh classmate who also had Holden in his wedding party. "Whenever [Somerset] plays the Ducks in these series, we're always out here cheering him on . . . It's very awesome and surreal for us. We get to cheer for him and he appreciates us being here and likes playing in front of us."
Sunday night, the Ducks made it 3-2 on Ryan Strieby's two-run homer in the fourth, and tied the game in the eighth on Willis Otañez's solo shot to leftfield.