I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the newest Trenton Thunder radio broadcasters, Jay Burnham and Justin Shackil. Here’s how Part One of the conversation went…
Mike Ashmore: Well guys, how about we start off with giving me a little bit of background info on your careers…
Jay Burnham: “I graduated from Elon University and this will be my eighth season in minor league baseball. I spent the past two seasons in Asheville, North Carolina and three years before that in independent baseball. I’ve only been here a few weeks. We’re lo0king forward to Opening Day. We’ve got the World Series trophy that’s going to be here, so it’s kind of taking things to a different level for myself and probably Justin as well.”
Justin Shackil: “I was born and raised in Northern New Jersey, in Wayne. I attended Fordham University and graduated in May. Before coming here, I was working for the school’s radio station and calling play-by-play for Fordham sports, and I was recently on the radio broadcast team for the United States Tennis Open in September, which was a blast. I got to see some world-class athletes do their thing, which was phenomenal and a great experience. Previous baseball experience, in 2008, I spent the summer in Sauget, Illinois, which is just outside St. Louis, with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League. That was a blast, great experience. Now I’m here, working in the Yankees organization with a team I grew up watching and loving. I’m very excited.”
Mike Ashmore: So you guys both have indy ball experience, which is how I got my start as most people know…how do you guys think your experiences there will impact what you do here?
Burnham: “I know a lot of people don’t think of indy ball as a highly touted circuit or whatever. Justin has experience with Major League Baseball, and this will be the third different organization I’ve been with; the Rockies, the Giants and now the Yankees. No matter who you’re comparing this to, it’s a different level. There’s only a few franchises you can throw out there; the Yankees, the Red Sox, Manchest United…that really have that kind of appeal. I think it’s a different level no matter where you’re coming from. The scrutiny is there. I spent two years in Asheville and never had one sit-down talk with one reporter whatsoever, and now I’ve done four in a week. You can just see the difference.”
Shackil: “I think the structure aspect of working here was something that I was anticipating. When you work in indy ball, especially in a league like the Frontier League where there’s an age limit, every day you would have players driving cross country to come and try out on a little field in Illinois, that’s a great experience in itself. But coming here, like Jay said, he’s obviously had prior experience with it…and I was fortunate enough to do some work with XM Radio with the Baseball Channel, so I was fortunate enough to be around big league clubhouses, so you get an idea of the whole structure there. It’s something that comes with the territory, and I think it’s a neat part of the job.”
Mike Ashmore: I’m sure there were a lot of jobs that were open this season, what made you guys want to come to the Thunder?
Shackil: “This was my first year coming out of college, and you have a bunch of ideas floating around your head. Before you graduate, you think you know exactly what you want to do, then once you graduate, you have no idea what you want to do. That’s where I was at professionally. I called the U.S. Open, and after that, I was just kind of job searching. After that, I honestly didn’t apply for a single baseball job. I didn’t know if I wanted to do this. Steve Rudenstein came out and contacted me and asked me if I wanted to interview. For someone from the Trenton Thunder, who are very well respected in the minors, for someone from there to reach out to you and say we might be interested in you, that was a huge compliment. After that, I interviewed and fell in love with it. It’s New Jersey, where I grew up, and it’s the Yankees, so it’s pretty much home for me.”
Burnham: “Lucky as lucky can be. It goes without saying, but this is one of the premier jobs in our industry. Not just because it’s the Yankees and being a big market, but because of Tom McCarthy and Andy Freed. It’s one of the premier spots in minor league baseball. I’m very fortunate.”
Mike Ashmore: Justin, for you…you’ve been in big league clubhouses and minor league clubhouses before, and I’ve done some big league games myself as well. The access in the big leagues is what it is, but you can’t get the kind of time with guys up there that you can down here. Having experienced that, I guess how appreciative are you of the kinds of opportunities that this experience provides in comparison?
Shackil: “You have to take advantage of it. I think if you’re at this level, the players aren’t too well-known, still. You might have a blue-chipper coming through the system, but generally everyone’s pretty down to Earth, and they’ll give you the time of day. The cool thing about that, is you can build relationships with coaches and players, and who knows…five, 10, 15 years down the line, you’ll meet up with them again. That’s one of the cooler things about the industry. It’s just one of those things where you won’t see them for 10 years, and once you see them, you pick up right where you left off.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com