There comes a point in which you need to be realistic.
I’ve covered the Thunder since 2004. The first interview I ever did in affiliated ball was at what was then Waterfront Park, in the home clubhouse, at a card table with Dave Shepard. I’ve accomplished quite a bit since then, and covering Trenton has opened a lot of doors in the big leagues for me.
But I always wanted to be on the Thunder beat. I grew up watching games here. So, to actually get an opportunity to cover the team meant a lot. But I’ll be 31 in December. I made less than four figures a year (no joke) covering the Thunder, and when it became obvious that either gig with the two big papers in town weren’t going to open up for me, that kind of sealed my fate. Yes, I covered the team since 2004, but realistically…I was only on the beat since 2008, when I established this blog and did all but a handful of home games from there on out.
There was a time where I think it’s fair to say that my coverage of the team was the best around. But that wasn’t even close to the case over the past season or two, when I simply didn’t have the time to put in the effort needed to be successful. So it’s time to move on. I knew, after the last playoff game I covered in the opening round, that this was going to be it for me on the beat. I took a minute to stop on the concourse on my way up from the clubhouse and just look around, because I didn’t know when my next opportunity to be at Arm & Hammer Park would be.
I’ve covered 355 games with a Thunder credential around my neck. Maybe I’ll be back in some form next year, and maybe I won’t. But it wouldn’t be for more than 20 or so games — basically, how it used to be when I took over the beat for the Democrat in 2006 and then in 2007 — and this blog won’t return in 2014. You could argue it didn’t really return for 2013.
I’ll miss not being in Trenton every day next season. I was extremely fortunate to have covered so many fantastic events and prospects over the past 10 years, and am grateful to have made some form of an impact on you and your knowledge of the team and Yankees organization.
While I need to thank the entire Thunder organization for having me in their press box for the past ten years — and you may have to deal with me on occasion for an 11th — I need to make sure I specifically thank Bill Cook. Bill is the team’s long-time Director of Public Relations, and I surely have made that man climb up the walls in his office since he was first silly enough to credential me. But he deserves so much more credit than he receives for how successful that organization has become, and is one of the absolute best in the business.
To everyone I’ve encountered and sometimes befriended (I’m not particularly easy to get along with) in the Thunder press box, thank you for making my experience that much better. I am extremely different “in real life” than I am at work, so thank you for dealing with my wacky personality.
To the players…thank you. With the exception of maybe one or two, every single one of you made my job easy.
And to Tony Franklin? I’ll miss you the most. The absolute best part of my job wasn’t watching the baseball. Baseball went from being fun to becoming a job. And it wasn’t the conversations that myself or the other writers would have while the recorders were on. The best part of my day, typically before a day game, was when I’d sit in Tony’s office and just shoot the s–t with him for a half an hour and get some great stories about his many years in the game. That is what I’ll miss the most, and that…more than a paycheck and certainly more than the baseball, is what would bring me back next season.
And lastly, to my readers…thank you. Love me, hate me…I did this for you. I enjoyed interacting with so many of you at the ballpark, via e-mail and on Twitter. Truth be told, my personality away from work…I’m super shy and very quiet. I’d have loved to have made it throughout the day without being recognized. But that people were willing to take time out of their day to talk to me meant a lot, and I hope I served you well in my ten years.
The hope for me in 2014 is to serve as the Somerset Patriots beat writer for MyCentralJersey.com, which is what took me away from Trenton most days late last season. It’s a full-time beat gig that’s close to home for the only paper that truly covers the team. I’ll be able to support myself, continue with my career and work towards my ultimate career goal of becoming a beat writer in the NHL or MLB, very much so in that order.
Either way…you haven’t heard the last of me.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com