Archive for February, 2008

Best of 2007: Moment #9

February 29, 2008

Moment #9 – Trenton finally beats Portland in the playoffs
September 8, 2007
Portland, ME

In their first 13 seasons, the Trenton Thunder not only had never won a playoff series, they’d never had a 2-1 series lead.

With the first two games between Trenton and the Portland Sea Dogs at Waterfront Park split down the middle and making the series little more than a best-of-three, it was obvious that Game 3 at Portland’s Hadlock Field would be the turning point.

Daniel McCutchen got the nod in the pivotal third game for the Thunder, the first postseason start of his brief professional career.

“You have to take the same approach, even though it’s going to be a little more intense than a regular season game,” McCutchen said.

“I know (Portland) has some pretty good hitters, and we have a pretty good scouting report on them. I just have to pitch to my strengths, and go right at them.”

That’s exactly what the 24-year-old righty did, allowing only one run on three hits over six innings of work, leading the Thunder to a tight 3-2 victory and their elusive two games to one series lead.

The 30th ranked prospect in the Yankees system, according to Baseball America, McCutchen retired 11 straight batters at one point in the game.

With Jeff Marquez on the mound for Game 4 with the Thunder on the brink of advancing to the championship series for the first time in franchise history, there was little doubt that Trenton would break their 13-year curse.

The 15-game winner continued the domination of Thunder starting pitching in this series, combining with Eric Wordekemper and Justin Pope on a five-hit shutout. In fact, Thunder starters allowed just three earned runs over 26.2 innings pitched (1.02 ERA).

And just like that, the Trenton Thunder would be headed to the Eastern League Championship Series.

The first two games of the series, held in Trenton, seemed to be where the Thunder needed to make their mark. Chase Wright, who made two starts for the Yankees earlier this season, started the series opener, and Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Alan Horne was on the bump for the second game.

Wright outdueled top Boston prospect Justin Masterson in the first game, getting a little revenge against the Red Sox — who hit four straight home runs off of him in his last big league start.

“I’ve faced them a couple of times since I’ve been back, and they’ve roughed me up a little bit, so when I saw that I was going to get a rematch, it was nice to be able to go out there and beat them,” Wright said.

Masterson, drafted in the second round out of San Diego State just last year, looked like the inexperienced pitcher he is, having a difficult time locating his pitches in his five innings of work.

It was an assessment he didn’t necessarily agree with.

“I did exactly what I wanted to do,” said Masterson, who picked up the loss after allowing two runs on seven hits.

He also walked a batter, hit another, and threw a wild pitch.

“I actually felt pretty good out there. I gave up seven hits or something like that, but four or five of those never left the infield. Every hit was at least a ground ball, and that’s exactly what I want to do,” said Masterson, who got 10 of his 15 outs on the ground.

Noah Hall, who started the season with the independent Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League, found his way back into the starting lineup after a long stretch on the bench late in the season, and provided a key run scoring single in the win.

“It feels good,” Hall said.

“This season has really worked out well. Having done well in my short time playing, maybe I’ll get another opportunity next year.”

In Game 2, Horne and Sea Dogs knuckleballer Charlie Zink matched each other frame for frame, with the Thunder ace carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and Zink giving Portland seven strong innings of his own.

The contest lasted over four hours, with Portland scoring the eventual game-winning run on a wild play to give them the 3-2 win.

With two outs in the 13th Inning and a runner at first Base, Portland right fielder Jay Johnson singled to give the Sea Dogs runners on the corners. Andrew Pinckney then hit a ball off the glove of the diving first baseman, Cody Ehlers. The ball deflected back to the pitcher, Kevin Whelan, who flipped the ball back to Ehlers, who dropped it, allowing the runner on third to score.

The Thunder’s first playoff series victory helped get rid of the bitter taste left in the mouths of Trenton fans after the past two seasons, as they’d lost to the Sea Dogs in the first round of the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.

What made that pill even more difficult to swallow was that Portland was the affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.  Even at the Double-A level, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is an intense and important one.  And this time, it would be the Yankees who’d come out on top.

Recapping the Top 20 so far…

#9 – Trenton finally beats Portland in the playoffs
#10 – Shelley Duncan’s Impact With The Yankees
#11 – The emergence of Austin Jackson
#12 – Tony Franklin named Thunder manager
#13 – Matt DeSalvo’s MLB debut
#14 – Phil Hughes rehab appearance
#15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB debut
#16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
#17 – Chase Wright’s MLB debut
#18 – Chase Wright’s opening night start
#19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
#20 – Jeff Karstens rehab appearance

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thunder Alums Shine In Intrasquad Game

February 28, 2008

Well, most of them did.  Over at his frequently linked to blog, Pete Abraham’s got the pitching line’s from yesterday’s intrasquad game.

Jeff Karstens, Scott Patterson, Steven Jackson and Edwar Ramirez pitched for “Team Goose,” while Dan McCutchen and Sean Henn laced em’ up for “Team Gator.”  Here are the pitching lines for pitchers from Thunder past.

Team Goose
Karstens: 2 IP,  1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Patterson: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Jackson: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Ramirez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

Team Gator
McCutchen: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Henn: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 K

So most of the pitchers really stood out for good reasons.  For Sean Henn…well, I guess it’s more of the same.  I wonder if he’s ever recovered from getting the call straight out of Double-A.  In the Yankee clubhouse last season, Henn told me that he felt like he was ready at the time, but didn’t really feel like he’d showed it.

Three years later, and there are still questions about whether he’s a ready for primetime player.

Another thing that may be working against him, at least in the long term, would be the loss of Ron Guidry.  While did pitch on Guidry’s team, Dave Eiland is the pitching coach now, and Henn also told me last year that he credited Guidry with helping him with “certain situations and how to attack guys and what to look for and things like that.” 

McCutchen Addresses “Steroid” Suspension

February 27, 2008

In an article by Journal News beat writer Peter Abraham, Trenton Thunder pitcher Dan McCutchen goes into detail regarding the confusion about his 50 game suspension in 2006.

In fact, his supposed steroids suspension wasn’t for steroids at all…

“Yes, McCutchen had been suspended for 50 games when he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance during his first year in the minor leagues. But it was for taking Adderall, a drug his doctor had prescribed for attention deficit disorder. McCutchen’s mistake was not filing a copy of the prescription with the Yankees after he signed.”

It seems he doesn’t know yet whether he’ll be at Trenton or Scranton this year, but if he does return to the Thunder, McCutchen would be a prime candidate to get the nod on Opening Night in Binghamton.

“At my age, I need to be on the fast track,” he said. “But whether I started the year at Double-A or Triple-A, I know I’m close to the majors.

“I’ve gone through too much already not to keep pushing and get there.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

2008 Baseball America Top 30: #21-25

February 27, 2008

The Thunder Thoughts breakdown of Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees Prospects for 2008 returns today with a look at prospects #21-25.  As you know by now, the Thunder’s new lead broadcaster, Steve Rudenstein, is on board to provide some analysis for this.

Steve’s done a great job of providing his expert analysis on each player, and I’ll throw my “Thunder Thoughts” in there after each of his player breakdowns.

As for Steve’s work, you should know that the below commentary are opinions solely from Steve Rudenstein, and do not represent the opinions of the Trenton Thunder (Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees) and the New York Yankees.

#21 1B Juan Miranda – A Cuban defect to the Dominican Republic, Miranda signed a four year, $4 million contract with the Yankees in 2006. There are questions about the legitimacy of his age, but Miranda makes up for the age questions with his bat. He had the most RBI of anyone in the Organization in 2007. Considering the fact that Miranda had not played organized baseball prior to this past season since his defect in 2004, he should continue to get better in 2008. Even though he can’t run that well and is still a work in progress defensively at first base, there is no reason why Miranda can’t be a 1B/DH platoon at the Major League level very soon. He can tattoo the baseball and hit it a mile.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: This is a big year for Juan Miranda.  As Steve mentioned, what year of his life this is appears to be unknown, but the fact that he’s a legitimate power threat has put those issues on the backburner.  The worst thing you can do when analyzing someone’s defense is to call them a butcher.  Miranda isn’t one, but he does have some butcher-esque tendencies in the field and for the time being seems to project as a designated hitter.  While slow guys who can’t field all that well and have a lot of power aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, they aren’t the scarcest commodity in baseball either.  Miranda’s bat will take him to the big leagues at some point within the next two years, but he’s going to need to develop a lot more than that to stay there.  Whether he plays at Trenton or Scranton this season, he’s going to need to show some all-around improvement to make a name for himself in the crowded battle for the first base position in the Bronx.

If you’re resigned to the fact that Miranda will be nothing more than a designated hitter — as some are – then the number to watch out for this season will be his strikeouts.  He’s done a good job of keeping them down so far, but he’s going to need to continue doing that if his play in the field doesn’t improve.

#22 C Austin Romine – With Jorge Posada agreeing to a new four-year contract in the off-season, The Yankees are hopeful that some day either Montero or Romine will eventually succeed him. Romine was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft, and impressed Yankees’ officials with his athleticism and arm strength. He suffered a ligament tear in his left thumb at the end of his prep career, so hopefully the injury won’t affect his play this season. He is a year older than Montero and will play at a more advanced level this season, but ultimately will have to prove that he is a better prospect.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: The Yankees second round selection in 2007, Austin Romine appears to be the complete package.  He can hit for average and power, and has a laser of an arm.  However, he only turned 19 years old about four months ago, and still has a lot of developing to do to translate his game to the pro level.  Of all the catching prospects the Yankees have — Jesus Montero included — I think Romine could be the quickest mover.  You won’t see him in Trenton for a while, and it will very interesting to see who gets there first…Romine or Montero. 

#23 C Francisco Cervelli – Cervelli is older and more experienced than Romine and Montero, but doesn’t project nearly as high. He skipped a level in 2007, jumping from Staten Island to Tampa and held his own. He led the Florida State League by throwing out 41 percent of base-stealers and exhibits good defensive intangibles. The reason Cervelli doesn’t project higher is because of his bat. He has hit for average, but doesn’t hit with much power (only six home runs in 247 minor league games). However, he still will only be 22 once the season starts. He was added to the 40-man roster in November, and stands a decent chance to make it to New York in the not too distant future, albeit if it is only as a back-up to Posada.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Despite being ranked 23rd on this list, there is a lot of hype surrounding Francisco Cervelli.  At 22 years old, Cervelli is very likely to make the jump to Double-A Trenton to start the season, where those who follow the organization will be watching closely to see if his offensive abilities can match his already well-refined defensive prowess.  Already on the 40-man roster, Cervelli can already taste the big leagues, but it would be very surprising to see him achieve that goal this season.

#24 RHP David Robertson – Robertson opened some eyes by handling Charleston (Low-A) and Tampa (High-A) with ease during his first professional season. He went 8-3 with a 0.96 ERA in 44 combined appearances, including two games with the Thunder. He also did not give up a home run last year. Because of the abundance of right-handed middle relief pitchers in the Yankees Minor League System, he still has his work cut out for him. A fastball/curveball/slider pitcher, Robertson likes to work down in the zone because he doesn’t throw extremely hard. At only 5’11” 180 pounds, Robertson will have to prove himself at every level. But after a sensational debut season, he is on the radar.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Picked in the 17th round in 2006, David Robertson has moved through the Yankees farm system pretty quickly.  Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why.  Batters hit just .154 against him over three levels last season, and he has yet to allow his first professional home run in 84 innings of work.  However, he’s a solid middle reliever in a system full of them, and he’s going to have a make a real strong impression this season to distinguish himself among a talented group of Yankee farmhands.  It’s very possible he’ll start the season at Waterfront Park.

#25 LHP Mike Dunn – The Yankees Minor League System is littered from top to bottom with right-handed starting pitching prospects. Dunn, may be the best of a limited amount of left-handed starting pitching prospects. He started his minor league career as an outfielder, but when he hit under the Mendoza line for parts of two seasons, the Yankees converted him to a pitcher. A fastball/slider/change-up pitcher, Dunn is coming off a very good season at Charleston. He went 12-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 27 starts. Because he will turn 23 in May, Dunn has little margin for error because he has a long way to go in the organization. He will head to Tampa, and could be promoted to Trenton quickly if he experiences early success in 2008.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Mike Dunn is one of a growing list of Yankees prospects to flame out in the field and turn to the pitching mound as a last chance.  I think I’d be a little more optimistic about Dunn’s chances were it not for what happened with Kevin Whelan last season.  Whelan converted from a catcher to a pitcher in college, and struggled more than the numbers might show in Trenton last season.  Considering his standout season at Charleston last year, Dunn is a strong candidate to jump to Double-A this season.  But this level is a whole different beast, perhaps the most challenging stop in all of minor league baseball, and Dunn will have to show that he’s a “real pitcher” and not just some guy who can blow the ball past people because of his strong arm.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

All 15 Year Team: Catcher

February 26, 2008

Steve Lomasney / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

As promised, Thunder Thoughts look at the All 15 Year Team nominees begins today with a look at the four finalists at catcher.

Anyone who’s followed the Thunder throughout their history is certainly familiar with David McDonough, who has covered the team since its inception in 1994. Dave is one of the most well-respected and likeable people in the Thunder press box.  For what it’s worth, he was also one of the first people who would actually talk to me when I first started covering the team.  That sounds like nothing…but trust me, that’s something.

Similar to what I did with Steve Rudenstein and the Top 30 Prospects breakdown (which will return this week with prospects #21-25, by the way), Dave’s going to be our featured writer and the following are his thoughts on Walt McKeel, Steve Lomasney, Virgil Chevalier and Dioner Navarro.  With his experience in covering the team, he brings a unique and welcome perspective to Thunder Thoughts, and I hope you all enjoy both his analysis and mine for the Trenton Thunder’s All 15 Year Team.

The following is Dave’s breakdown, mine will follow after all of his are done…

Walt McKeel: Walt McKeel was never going to be an impact player, and he never did get much big league time, only 11 games in parts of three seasons. In his second year at Trenton, in 1996, he was arguably the MVP on a first-place team. The 24-year-old batted .302 with 16 home runs and 78 RBIs and handled the pitching staff in excellent fashion, including Minor League Pitcher of the Year Carl Pavano. When the Red Sox rewarded McKeel by sending him up to Boston just in time to miss the Eastern League playoffs, the Thunder sputtered without him, and lost in the semi-finals. The killer was that McKeel sat on the bench in Boston, and got into one game without an at-bat.

It was McKeel’s best year in professional ball. He stayed around until he was 30 with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers and Rockies organizations, but never did much. But the Thunder would not have been in first place in the Southern Division of the Eastern League in 1996 without him.

Steve Lomasney: The pride of Peabody, Massachusetts, Steve Lomasney was always going be the Red Sox catcher of the future. The future never happened. Lomasney was a 21-year-old power hitting backstop when he got to Trenton in 1999. He had crunched 22 homers in Single-A in 1998, but he had also struck out 145 times. He hit 12 homers in 47 games for the Thunder in 1999, and everyone thought he was on his way. The Red Sox even brought him up at the end of the season, and let him get into one game, to the delight of all his family and friends in Peabody. Turns out, that was his only big league game.

Injuries on and off the field and struggles at the plate did him in. He was hurt for part of 2000. After he hit 10 home runs for Trenton in 58 games in 2001, he got the call to Pawtucket. When he floundered at the start of the 2002 season, he was back in Trenton. A completely demoralized Lomasney struggled badly, batting .210 in 109 games with an astronomic 133 strikeouts. That was pretty much it for him. He hung around for a few more years but never got out of AAA. His lifetime Minor League batting average for 12 years was .229. Just a reminder to us all how hard this game really is.

Virgil Chevalier: Every team has one or two guys you look at and think, “Well, he’ll probably never make the majors, but baseball sure could use someone like that coaching or managing.” Guys like former Thunder players Gavin Jackson (96-98), Nate Tebbs (97-99), Tom Sergio (02), Andy Cannizaro (03-05) and Anton French (02), who, as it happens, is now a minor league instructor for the Phillies. And from last year’s club, Jason Brown and Noah Hall.

Chevy was like that, too. Over the 3 ½ seasons (98-01) he played for Trenton, he grew from a shy guy to a confident veteran, to whom the young players could go for guidance. The first Native American to play for the Thunder (sorry, Joba), he had been signed by the Red Sox as a free agent after an open tryout at Fenway Park. He was originally a catcher, but played only 9 games there for Trenton. He was mostly a first baseman and outfielder. In 1999, he hit .293 with 13 homers. In all, he played nine minor league seasons, and got mentioned in “Moneyball”, although not as prominently as Youkilis. I think the exact quote was, “Who is Virgil Chevalier?” I can tell you he is, Billy Beane – a class act all the way.

Dioner Navarro: He was a top prospect for the Yankees when he joined the Thunder in 2003. He had good hands, a good arm, and when he batted .341 in 58 games for Trenton, at the age of just 19, he was considered, along with teammate Robby Cano, to be a future regular at the Stadium. Some how, it never happened. In 2005, Navarro went to the Dodgers in a three-way deal that saw Randy Johnson got to the Yankees. He never did much with the Dodgers, and last year, with the Devil Rays, he was the victim of a freak accident in June and ended up batting .227. The Rays still call him their starting catcher, and he’s only 24, but so far, he has been one more example of the fact that the Thunder have never had a catcher who went on to be a big league impact player.

Not on the ballot: Joe DePastino: Joe hit 17 homers in 79 games as the Thunder catcher in 1997, and hit .295 in 73 games in 1998. All told, in 158 games for Trenton, he had 29 homers and 103 RBIs. He’s now the manager of single-A West Michigan in the Tigers organization.

But my favorite story about DePas comes from 2000, when he was a back-up catcher for the Bowie BaySox. The BaySox hosted the Double-A All-Star game. One of the catchers voted to the team was late, and Joe was in the stands, about to watch the game. So they hoisted out, gave him his shin guards and told him he was on the squad. He didn’t play, of course, but it is written now for posterity that a catcher batting .215 in 19 games was a member of the American League AA All-Star team. Surely an inspirational story for us all.

Dave’s Vote Goes to: Walt McKeel.

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Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: As some of my regular readers may know, I started regularly following the team as a fan in 1999 before eventually covering the team as a writer in 2006.  In terms of catchers, I came in somewhere around the Steve Lomasney era, if you want to be so generous as to call it that.

With that said, here’s my look at each of the four catchers.  Also, to borrow Dave’s idea (see: steal) I’m going to take a look at someone who stands out for me who isn’t on the ballot.

Walt McKeel: McKeel was picked in the third round of the 1990 draft by the Red Sox, and became just one of 10 players selected in that round to make the big leagues.  He went from prospect to suspect to journeyman pretty quickly, as five years came between his penultimate and final Major League cups of coffee in 1997 and 2002, with the Red Sox and Rockies, respectively.

McKeel caught for parts of three seasons in Trenton, and was eventually succeeded by Joe DePastino in 1997.

Steve Lomasney: Rather than essentially recap what I’ve written about Lomasney in the past, I’ll simply include my 2006 feature on Lomasney from when he came back to Waterfront Park as a member of the New Britain Rock Cats.  After that, I’ll share my two favorite memories of Lomasney’s career as a fan…

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Steve Lomasney enjoyed his finest season in 1999 as a member of the Trenton Thunder. The starting catcher of the most successful team in franchise history, Lomasney parlayed his year into a September call-up from the Boston Red Sox, where he got into the last game of the season against the Orioles and got two at-bats.

Seven years later, and all Lomasney has is that taste of what his career could have been.

After being named the Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year, Lomasney went into the 2000 season with lofty expectations. Baseball America considered him the number one prospect in the entire Red Sox organization and he seemed to be in line for another September call-up at the very least. But injuries ended his season two months early, so that call-up would have to wait.

In 2001, the Peabody, Mass. native was up with Triple-A Pawtucket, an injury away from getting another chance at wearing the uniform of his hometown team. But it was another injury of his own that altered the course of his season and ultimately his career. Lomasney was struck in the eye with a line drive during batting practice, fracturing his orbital bone and damaging his cornea.

As a result, the call-up he was waiting for never came, and the chance of wearing a Red Sox uniform again went away with it after not re-signing with the organization following his fourth straight season in Double-A in 2002.

He caught on with the Orioles organization in 2003 and with the Reds for 2004 and 2005, spending all three seasons with their Triple-A teams. But Baltimore and Cincinnati didn’t see anything from him that warranted a big league call-up either, his struggles being capped by a meager .160 batting average in limited action with the Louisville Bats last season.

Lomasney only played for a few innings in his only big league appearance in Camden Yards, but it served as a microcosm of the reason why he‘s never been able to stick in the show. He threw out both base runners who tried to steal against him, but also struck out in both of his plate appearances.

“Three-two counts both times,” Lomasney said. “I was swinging hard, but I had a little bit of the jitters in me.”

Always known more for his glove than his bat, Lomasney entered the 2006 season with 2,790 professional at-bats. He’d struck out in 961 of them, an alarming rate of one strikeout per 2.9 at-bats.

Numbers like that won’t get you anywhere, especially the big leagues, and that’s why the 28 year-old Lomasney finds himself in the visiting dugout of Trenton’s Waterfront Park, spending his fifth season at the Double-A level.

Now with the New Britain Rock Cats, the Eastern League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, Lomasney is again struggling, hitting just .194 with no home runs and three RBI. Having gone from the next Carlton Fisk to the next Crash Davis, he returns to the site of that breakout 1999 season at a very different stage of his career.

“When I first got here, I said I’d never been on this side of the field before,” Lomasney said, across the diamond from the home dugout he spent four seasons in.

“We had great fans and great players here, it was a great organization to be with.”

Even with his slow start, his teammates and coaches seem to be behind him.

“He’s a veteran presence behind the plate,” said Rock Cats manager Riccardo Ingram, who noted that Lomasney was working well with his other catcher, Jose Morales.

“Steve knows his role here, and his role is basically to be a veteran leader. I think he’s fitting the bill well.”

Lomasney, who’s already accumulated seven strikeouts in thirty-one at-bats this season said he’d been contacted by several independent league teams over the past few seasons, but feels his best chance to get back is by staying in the minors.

With his chances in affiliated baseball quickly diminishing, this is one opportunity where Steve Lomasney can’t afford to strike out.

My two favorite Lomasney moments involve a bench clearing brawl and a broken bat walk-off home run. 

The first occured on my Dad’s birthday in 2000 and was against the Binghamton Mets.  We were sitting on the first base side, and prospect at the time Leslie Brea was on the mound for the B-Mets.  Brea had already hit Lomasney once in the game, and then proceeded to drill him again in his next at-bat.  In what is still the only bench clearing brawl I’ve ever seen in over 400 games, Lomasney charged the mound, but never really got to his target.  Mets catcher Jimmy Gonzalez got to Lomasney before he was able to charge Brea, and after a few minutes order was restored.

I asked Lomasney about this during our 2006 chat, and he said the following:

“Well, earlier in the year, Leslie and I…he was pitching a really good game, and I hit a home run off of him and it ended up being the game winning run, but it was earlier in the game.  I don’t know if he took that too well.  I got to know Leslie after all this, and he’s a good guy, but he hit me twice.  He hit me twice, and they were both definitely intentional.  After he hit me, I kind of just looked at him, and he yelled something to me, and I basically just snapped and charged him.  I didn’t get to him, the catcher caught me, Jimmy Gonzalez.  But we cleared it and had a pretty good one for a little bit.  But that’s the nature of the game.  Guys get hit, you get hit twice, and you’ve got to have your respect.  You can’t just lay down for people.  That was the only time I ever charged the mound.  It happened, and it was just one of those things.”

The broken bat walk-off home run was against Bryan Malko and the New Britain Rock Cats.  I was sitting behind the home dugout, and I can remember watching a part of the bat go flying instead of the ball…which of course went sailing over the wall for the game winning home run.

Again, I was lucky enough to ask Steve about this as well a few years back…

“I don’t really tell a lot of people about that, because a lot of people don’t believe it.  It was unbelievable.  I knew I hit the ball good, and the bat kind of exploded in my hands.  I think part of it actually went in the New Britain dugout.  I had the handle in my hand, and I was watching the ball and I remember thinking, ‘I think I hit a home run.’  I was jogging slow, and finally it went out for a walk-off home run, and I took the handle and put it in my back pocket and finished my trot.  After the game, everyone couldn’t believe that just happened.  I didn’t know if the bat was already broken or what, but I hit the ball good and the bat just exploded.”

Virgil Chevalier: I actually don’t remember Chevy as a catcher at all.  I actually remember much better as an outfielder, where he permanently switched to in 1999.  For someone his size, he wasn’t that bad of an outfielder either.  At the plate, Chevy had some of his best years for the Thunder, hitting .293 in 1999 and .309 in 2000.  He was one of the guys who would always sign autographs for fans, and was always very friendly.

As someone who had followed the team for three seasons at the time, I can remember how weird it was to see Chevy in a B-Mets uniform in 2002.  One of his game used, signed red Thunder hats sits on one of my shelves back home as a memory of my days as a Thunder fan.

Dioner Navarro: Navarro was one of the more hyped prospects the Thunder had at the time he first put on a Trenton uniform in 2003.  Following the somewhat painful switch in affiliations from Boston to the Yankees, both Navarro and Robinson Cano gave the Thunder the star power they hadn’t had in several years.

He played pretty well behind the plate in Trenton, and was usually pretty accessible to the media by all accounts.  Unfortunately, he never really lived up to the hype that was placed on him, and has bounced around a few teams since being dealt by the Yankees in the ill-fated Randy Johnson trade.

Not On The Ballot: Damian Sapp.  Sapp’s friendly nature, willingness to sign autographs, and occasional tape measure blast made him one of my favorites from the 2000 team.  The 1996 Boston Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year, Sapp seemed destined to play in Fenway after quickly rising through their farm system in first three years.

Turns out, the only time he would seet foot in Fenway Park would be to pick up that award.

Injuries, specifically to his knees and back, wrecked any chance Sapp had at a Major League career.  He eventually ended his career with Nashua Pride of the Atlantic League, where I got to ask him about his time with the Thunder… 

“Oh, I loved Trenton. The fans, the place, the atmosphere, everything about that place I just loved. I mean everywhere from the front office to every last fan was nothing but warm and welcoming. Anything you ever needed, if they could help in any way, they would. Very faithful fans. It was a pleasure to actually get a chance to play there.”

Still only 32 years old, there had been rumors as recently as last year that he might return to professional baseball.  Oddly enough, those rumors were preceeded by one that he was contemplating a career in professional wrestling.

Mike’s Vote Goes To: Virgil Chevalier.  He deserves to be on the team somewhere, and if he isn’t going to be on there as an outfielder, then let’s stick him behind the plate… 

Other Thunder Catchers: Pedro Gonzalez, Tim McConell, Joe Perona, Matt Brown, Alex Delgado, Dana LeVangie, Jeff Martin, Richie Borrero, Bill Haselman (rehab), Chris Madonna, Chad Epperson, Damian Sapp, Shea Hillenbrand, Luis Rodriguez, Mike Figga, Kelly Ramos, Michael Rose, Andy Dominique, Andrew Larned, Dan Mooney, Omar Fuentes, Dave Parrish, Sandy Madera, Nathan Griffin, Jason Brown, Omir Santos, Tommy Rojas, P.J. Pilittere, J.T. LaFountain, Dan Conway, Joe Muich

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com 

Volt. Just Call It Volt.

February 26, 2008

Volt

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

What would you name this thing?

February 25, 2008

Hmmm…Bolt?

(Picture from Thunder website)

“This thing,” of course, is the Thunder’s new mascot.  While you could certainly debate whether the team needs another mascot, that’s not the point.  The purists will hate it, but it’s actually a smart business decision.  The team can have another visible mascot when Boomer is elsewhere, and will likely increase merchandise revenue through new products featuring the new mascot.

Ahem…but as I said, that’s not the point.

The point is that you can name the mascot and win $500 worth of stuff.  For more information, head on over to trentonthunder.com

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Santos to play in Orioles intersquad game

February 25, 2008

Omir Santos, the longtime Thunder backstop, will be replacing Ramon Hernandez in tomorrow’s Baltimore Orioles intersquad game.

Santos never really had a legitimate chance to make the big leagues while with the Yankees organization, and doesn’t seem to have much of a shot with Baltimore either.  In fact, he may be passed by someone you could very likely see with Bowie this season, super-prospect Matt Wieters.

TOMORROW: The first part of the All 15 Year Team positional breakdown will be unveiled, as will the special guest helping me out with it.  Also, I’ll catch up on the news from the past few days…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Breaking News: Snow In Canada

February 25, 2008

Shockingly, my trip to Canada was marred by a blizzard and cold temperatures.  Never would have seen that coming.

Anyways, I’m back from vacation and plan on catching up on some things tomorrow, so stay tuned…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Heading Up North…

February 21, 2008

I’ll be headed up to Montreal on vacation for a few days, so I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be able to have anything posted on here until I return on Sunday night.  I’m not entirely sure if the internet has made its way up to Canada yet (I’m kidding) so I might not have access to anything for a few days.

Anyway, the links are on the right side of the page for a reason…make sure you check all those guys out in the meantime.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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