Archive for March, 2012

Y U NO HAVE TWITTER?!?!

March 29, 2012

Sometimes, when I’m pretty busy with things, Twitter is the best way for me to get information out quickly and succinctly. It also can be the only place I put things, which is a disservice to those who don’t use Twitter.

(Shameless plug: Follow me at @mashmore98)

So, there were a few newsworthy things that happened yesterday that I wanted to get to on here as well…

As you may have seen Josh Norris — who is doing a great job in Tampa and also a must-follow at @jnorris427 — report, Grant Duff, Reegie Corona (left) and Preston Mattingly have all been released by the Yankees organization.

Duff, 29, has spent the past seven seasons in New York’s farm system, and was once so highly regarded that the Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League. The friendly fireballer was severely hampered by injuries as of late, initially sidelined in June of 2010 after a stress fracture was diagnosed in his elbow, which ultimately led to the insertion of a screw. Duff pitched in just eight games last season before being shut down with shoulder trouble, and was with the Triple-A work group in spring training.

Corona broke his arm late in the 2010 season while with Triple-A Scranton and ultimately never played for the Yankees organization again. The 25-year-old Venezuelan infielder played in all or parts of three seasons for the Thunder, including the entire 2008 campaign. He was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Seattle Mariners in 2009, but was returned and went on to have a fine season for Trenton, being named to play in the Eastern League All-Star Game before being promoted to Triple-A.

In addition to Mattingly, however, I did some work of my own and got a hold of Mark Newman, who told me of the following Yankees prospects that have been released in addition to those three players:

P Gavin Brooks, P Noel Castillo, P Daniel Martinez, P Joaquin Hinojosa, P Cory Cowsert, P Yobanny Reyes, P George Isabel, P Ronny Marte.

Interestingly, all eight are pitchers…so clearly the organization is trying to get rid of some of their lower level pitching depth that they felt wasn’t going to progress. The only name Thunder fans might be familiar with is Castillo, who flamed out in both opportunities he got with Trenton in 2009 and 2010 to the tune of 23 earned runs in 26 2/3 innings pitched. He also walked 26 batters. Other than that, he did just fine.

In other news, and cue the Art Vandelay comment, former Thunder pitcher Anthony Claggett has agreed to a deal with the Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots. Claggett, who reached the big leagues with both the Yankees and the Pirates, won a World Series ring in 2009, but was stuck in Double-A with Altoona as recently as last season. He spent all but four games of his season with the Curve last year, and the 27-year-old righty went 5-5 with a 3.75 ERA in 42 Double-A appearances.

And the Thunder added some more promotions to their already packed schedule. Most notably, there’s a giveaway of whatever the hell a “Robinson Ca-Gnome” is, and appearances by Larry Bowa and Giants punter Steve Weatherford. Here’s the team release on that…

(PR) (TRENTON, NJ) – The Trenton Thunder, the Double A Affiliate of the New York Yankees, announced new additions to its previously announced Promotional Schedule on Wednesday afternoon with a Robinson Ca-Gnome giveaway, celebrity appearances and NASCAR and football theme nights leading the way.

Gnomes were first used in Germany in the 1800’s as a way to protect gardens from evil sorcery and bring good luck. On Sunday, July 8, the first 1,800 Thunder fans ages six and older will take home a Collectible Garden Gnome that’s worthy of protecting even the lush turf at Yankee Stadium. The Thunder’s “Robinson Ca-Gnome” giveaway presented by Black Bear Franks will feature the likeness of former Thunder star and current Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano in traditional gnome attire, complete with a pointy cap.

Thunder fans will have two chances to meet prominent sports celebrities at the ballpark this year. On Tuesday, May 29, MLB Network’s Larry Bowa will be the Thunder’s special guest. Bowa, a 16 year Major League veteran, is a former All-Star and member of the 2,000 hit club. He spent most of his playing career with the Philadelphia Phillies and also managed in the Major Leagues including four seasons with the Phillies where he won the 2001 NL Manager of the Year award. The Thunder will also welcome Steve Weatherford of the New York Giants on Wednesday, June 20 thanks to Steiner Sports Collectibles. Weatherford is a 2011-12 Super Bowl Champion and Franchise Tagged Punter. Both Bowa and Weatherford will throw out a ceremonial pitch and be available for autographs on the main concourse.

Additional new giveaway items include White Eagle Printing Company presenting Thunder player posters to the first 2,000 fans on Tuesday, June 19 and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey supplying umbrellas to the first 1,500 fans ages 18 and older on June 25. The first 1,000 fans ages 21 and over at the Irish Heritage Celebration on August 9 will receive Pint Glasses thanks to Budweiser. On August 20, Kia Car Mugs will be given to the first 1,500 fans ages 18 and older thanks to KIA Motors.

Macy’s will present a pair of Back To School Nights at the ballpark this season. On July 31 and August 28, lucky fans will win valuable gift cards to Macy’s. Thunder players as well as mascot Boomer will visit the Macy’s locations at the Quaker Bridge Mall, Oxford Valley Mall, Neshaminy Mall and East Brunswick in support of the nights (dates TBD).

On Tuesday, August 1, Thunder fans will be thinking NASCAR as Pocono Raceway sponsors the game. The night will feature cars on display, opportunities to meet drivers and NASCAR Pennsylvania 500 promotions and prizes.

On Sunday June 10, Radio Disney will bring their Interactive Entertainment show featuring music, dancing, trivia, activities and prizes to Waterfront Park’s Times Square, the area outside the main gates. The show will be before the game, so fans are encouraged to arrive early and visit with Radio Disney personalities.

The Thunder have several fun theme night promotions in store for fans this year. On April 10, everyone is encouraged to dress in their most unattractive sweater as the Thunder celebrate Ugly Sweater Night (think 1980’s Bill Cosby and loud Christmas sweaters). Tuesday, August 7 will be the team’s Fourth Annual Mustache Bash – an evening full of facial hair themed fun. Saturday, August 18 will be the Thunder’s annual Football Kickoff Game and fans are asked to wear their favorite football jersey. There will be football themed entertainment throughout the evening.

Thunder players will wear special jerseys on two occasions this season. On Wednesday, July 4th, the team will wear the much publicized “stars and stripes” uniforms they wore at last year’s Independence Day game. The jersey worn by Derek Jeter in 2011 was auctioned off for charity but the rest were kept and will be worn again this season. On Wednesday, August 22 at 12:05pm, the team will sport desert camouflage themed jerseys in recognition of the men and women of the US Armed Forces.

The Thunder will host a special event for business professionals on Monday, April 9. This event, the second annual “Night of Networking” in the Yankee Club includes a presentation, buffet and the chance to network. A special ticket is required.

The Thunder are also bringing back popular daily promotions. All Tuesday night games are “Super Value Tuesdays” with Kids Eat Free Courtesy of On The Border and Dollar Hot Dogs thanks to Black Bear Franks. Thirsty Thursday presented by Budweiser will again feature Bud Light and Budweiser bottles for just $2 from gates open until the 5th inning. Sundays will feature the TD Bank Kids Fun Run, where kids can run around the bases after all afternoon games.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Predicting Pettitte’s Pace: Andy Pettitte, Part Three?

March 22, 2012

I was pretty sure I’d never be writing about the possibility of Andy Pettitte setting foot on a mound again.

I was positive that I wouldn’t be writing about that mound being the one that sits 60 feet, six inches away from the plate at Waterfront Park.

And yet, here we are, on March 22nd, wondering out loud if the legendary lefty will be making a tune-up start or two in Trenton.  It’s certainly possible.  YES Network scribe Jack Curry broke the story — despite what you may have seen from ESPN, of course — and ever since then, speculation has been pretty rampant about what Pettitte’s plan will be.

Pettitte recently told New York reporters that he could be ready in as soon as three weeks, but was urged by Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild to slow down.  Regardless, that’s a pretty good sign that he’ll be on a mound somewhere sooner rather than later.

You may remember that the 39-year-old appeared in two postseason games for the Thunder in 2010.  He faced New Hampshire in the ELDS in the capital city and made the trip to Altoona to take on the Curve in the ELCS.  There was no reason to think those weren’t his last minor league games. 

Instead, a glance at the 2012 Thunder schedule reveals 13 home dates in April, including a six-game homestand to start the season that goes from April 5-11 (skipping April 8).  More realistically, however, the club’s seven-game homestand from April 19-26 (skipping April 23) seems like the timeframe in which Pettitte could appear there if, in fact, that is the team’s plan for him.

The front office certainly wouldn’t be opposed to me telling you that the schedule for those aforementioned contests is as follows:

4/19 vs. Harrisburg, 7:05 PM
4/20 vs. Harrisburg, 7:05 PM
4/21 vs. Harrisburg, 5:05 PM
4/22 vs. Harrisburg, 1:05 PM  
4/24 vs. Erie, 7:05 PM
4/25 vs. Erie, 7:05 PM
4/26 vs. Erie, 10:35 AM

The cringe-worthy nature of the game being on the 26th aside (it would be played in front of a bunch of kids who wouldn’t know Andy Pettitte from Andy Dick and it wouldn’t even sell out given it’s a mid-week morning start) that’s a pretty a big window of opportunity.  It’s around this point in the story in which you start asking me when the Yankees other affiliates are home.

Scranton, well…yeah, they won’t be home until 2013, so shall we move on to Charleston and Tampa? 

Charleston’s home dates: 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd
Tampa’s April home dates: 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th

In reality, the real threat here would be Tampa’s schedule, since Pettitte may just want to stay down at the team complex (or maybe even just throw in extended spring training, to be honest…but we’ll just pretend I didn’t say that for the purposes if this story, OK?  OK.).

But, assuming you didn’t misremember how Roger Clemens did his tune-up tour in 2007, this all may not matter.  Clemens made one stop at each Yankees affiliate from Low-A on up to Triple-A (he never actually pitched for Charleston, but did visit later in the year).  However, the latest he could start a tune-up tour (and remember, with Pettitte on a minor league deal, he wouldn’t be on the 40-man roster and a move would need to be made to get him on each team’s squad…literally a minor detail, but still) and pitch every five days and visit every city would be April 11th.  Pettitte could start with the RiverDogs on 4/11, go to Tampa on 4/16 and then pitch for Trenton on 4/21 and possibly the dreaded 4/26 game.

Were he to instead visit the…sigh…Empire State Yankees that day, he’d be pitching a “home game” for Lehigh Valley that night.  Given the proximity of that park to Trenton and even New York, seems like a feasible scenario, no?  Regardless of where he pitched on the 26th, that would put him on pace to return to a Major League mound on May 1.  The Yankees are home that night against Baltimore.

If Pettitte were to not make a start in Charleston, which is certainly very possible, he could start his tune-up tour in Tampa as late as the 17th, then visit Trenton on the 22nd and pitch in Lehigh Valley on the 27th, which would still have his big league return taking place on May 2 at home.

Hmmm…

I don’t know what he’s going to do.  He probably doesn’t at this point, either.  But how do you guys think this plays out?

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Coverage Plans For 2012

March 22, 2012

Well, since we managed to avoid my typical overly dramatic “well, I’m not sure if I’m coming back this year” routine this off-season, I suppose you all know that I’ll be back covering the Trenton Thunder for the 2012 season.  With the Trenton Titans season winding down — and for those of you who follow them closely, you know it was pretty much over with before it started — I’ll be able to turn my focus to where it belongs, baseball.

I love covering hockey, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been very fortunate to have covered hockey in Trenton for the past four seasons, as well as to parlay that into serving as the ECHL.com national alumni feature writer for the past two.  Hockey is my passion, and getting to interview guys like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist certainly isn’t a bad thing.

But baseball is my bread and butter, and what I’ve done for ten seasons now.  It takes a few weeks into hockey season to realize how much I miss being at the field every day — well, all right, maybe not every day — and I can’t wait to get things going with the Thunder’s annual Media Day on April 3.

I will return to doing this blog on a daily basis, and hopefully can find something new to implement on here.  I am ALWAYS open to suggestions and only want to put the type of coverage on here that fans want to see.  I sign every post with my e-mail address for a reason.  I don’t do this for myself.  A writer is nothing without his or her readers, and I encourage you to tell me what you want to see more and less of for the 2012 season.

My print coverage will be expanding a little bit this season.  In addition to serving as the Hunterdon County Democrat’s beat writer for the club for the sixth season and contributing to The Trentonian as well, I will be writing for the Hamilton Pulse this year. 

However, I will not be attending spring training.  I actually pursued a few opportunities that would have allowed for this to happen — which is a bit of a change from years past — but it isn’t going to happen.  Considering a trip down there for a week would cost the Democrat more than they pay me in a season and The Trentonian is sending Josh Norris down — and Josh will do his usual fantastic job — there really wasn’t much of a choice in the matter.

On the plus side, I am planning on doing as many of the 71 games at Waterfront Park as possible — yes, even the stupid camp days — and am hoping to do a few road games this year as well.  With that being said, if those of you living in Eastern League cities have a futon, garage or anything other than a bed of nails I can sleep on or in, I’d be pretty excited about that.  I’m also hoping to expand my organizational coverage as well, and would like to make trips to see Charleston, Tampa and whatever the hell they’re calling Scranton these days  Empire State play.  So don’t be scared if you see me going door to door with a bucket in my hands attempting to collect change for those ideas.

Also, I will continue to cover the Somerset Patriots for the Democrat, as I have since 2003.  Hi, Art Vandelay!  The road to the Atlantic League tends to run through Trenton on occasion, and it’s nice to catch up with former Thunder players there for stories which you’ve seen on this blog over the past few years.  On that note, I’m also planning on covering my usual handful of big league games for the alumni features which you guys have seemed to enjoy.

I’m excited to get things going for 2012 and looking forward to seeing how things unfold for Trenton this season.  But whatever does happen, I can assure you that I’m your guy for Thunder coverage.  I’m very grateful that so many of you have visited this blog since its inception in 2008, and look forward to hearing from and, in some cases, seeing you again this year.

Mike Ashmore — mashmore98 AT gmail.com — Twitter: @mashmore98

Welcome North Fan Fest Set For April 3

March 14, 2012

(Trenton, NJ) The Trenton Thunder, the Double A affiliate of the New York Yankees, will host a free event prior to Opening Night, the “Welcome North Fan Fest”, on Tuesday, April 3 from 3:00 PM to 7:30 PM.

“We’re excited to continue the tradition of welcoming the new Thunder team to Trenton and giving fans a chance to meet the players before the season,” said Thunder General Manager Will Smith.

At 3:00 PM, Waterfront Park gates will open and fans will be able to view the team’s first practice of the year in Trenton and take tours of Waterfront Park. From approximately 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM fans will have the opportunity to meet this year’s team and seek autographs. Waterfront Park concession stands will be open throughout the event and there will be prize raffles. This is a rain or shine event.

Members of the Thunder’s 90% Club, a group of season ticket holders who attended at least 90% of the team’s games last year, will have a special reception in the Yankee Club and Conference Center from 5:00 PM until 7:30 PM. The reception will feature a buffet dinner and an approximately 45 minute exclusive “meet and greet” with Thunder team members.

WELCOME NORTH FAN FEST

WHEN: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 (3:00 PM – 7:30 PM)
WHO: Open to Media, Sponsors, Season Ticket Holders and General Public

Waterfront Park Gates Open For Fans: 3:00 PM
Stadium Tours: 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Team Practice: 3:00 PM – 5:15 PM
Player Autograph Session: 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM
Players visit 90% Club In Yankee Club (private): 6:30 PM – 7:15 PM
Ballpark Closes: 7:30 PM
Times are appoximate and may change.
The 2012 Trenton Thunder season will begin on Thursday, April 5 at home against New Hampshire (Toronto). All Trenton Thunder tickets are all on sale now at trentonthunder.com. All Thunder games can be heard at 91.3 FM and online at trentonthunder.com.


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