After Ten Years…

November 15, 2013

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

Thunder Capture Third Eastern League Title

September 13, 2013

(PR) HARRISBURG, PA – The Trenton Thunder used a five-run 3rd inning to beat the Harrisburg Senators 11-4 for the third Eastern League Championship in franchise history.

Trenton- who finished the season on a season-high nine-game winning streak and has not lost since August 30th- was the first Eastern League team to sweep both the divisional and championship rounds of the postseason since Albany-Colonial (Yankees affiliate) did it in 1991. The championship for the Thunder is the first since the team won the second of their back-to-back titles in 2008.

The Thunder notched 16 hits in the ballgame including four as part of the five-run inning. Trenton sent 11 batters to the plate in that inning which knocked Harrisburg starting pitcher Nathan Karns out of the ballgame. Karns, who finished the regular season with 155 strikeouts in just over 130 innings, lasted just 2.2 innings and was charged with five runs on four hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch.

In that 3rd inning, Trenton had two outs and a runner on first base with Jose Pirela batting. He had an 0-2 count against him before being plunked by Karns. That started a streak of seven straight batters to reach and turned a 1-0 deficit into a 5-1 lead.

Trenton’s offense was led by three-hit nights by Ramon Flores and Ben Gamel. Gamel finished the postseason by batting 8-for-15 (.533 AVG) with three walks (.611 OBP) in four games played. Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez and Tyler Austin each finished with two hits on the night and all nine starters recorded hits for Trenton.

Postseason MVP was Ali Castillo who played just 46 games for the Thunder in the regular season, but was instrumental in many key moments for Trenton. Castillo, who rejoined Trenton’s roster after an injury to starting shortstop Carmen Angelini in the final series of the regular season, smacked his first homer as a member of the Thunder in the 5th inning to pad what was a 5-1 lead at the time for Trenton. He finished the postseason batting 8-for-20 (.400) with two doubles, a run scored and two RBI.

Shane Greene was the starting pitcher for the Thunder and tossed 5.1 innings for the victory. Down the stretch, Greene’s final three starts were in the Wild Card-clinching game at Portland August 31st, Game 3 of the Eastern Division Championship Series at Binghamton and Thursday’s title-clinching ballgame. He allowed two earned runs in 18.0 innings (1.00 ERA) and got the victory in each game.

The championship was the third for manager Tony Franklin in his seven seasons at the helm of the Thunder. It was also the third for Trenton third baseman Reegie Corona who was part of the 2007 and 2008 championship teams. The 26-year old had not appeared in an affiliated baseball game since 2010 due to an arm injury and finished with six hits in six postseason games.

The Trenton Thunder family wants to thank our fans for an incredible 2013 season, and we cannot wait for the 2014 season to begin at ARM & HAMMER Park next April.

Sweep, Sweep, Sweep

September 7, 2013

(PR) BINGHAMTON, NY – In a ballgame that featured 15 baserunners for the Binghamton Mets, Trenton’s pitching was able to strand all 15 in a 3-0 series-clinching win at NYSEG Stadium.

Trenton’s series sweep of the Binghamton Mets didn’t come without extra-inning heroics (Game 1), 9th inning suspense (Game 2) or even a benches-clearing altercation (Game 3), but the Trenton Thunder advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series for the fifth time in seven years under manager Tony Franklin.

The Thunder used six shutout innings by Shane Greene to allow the Thunder offense to strike first in the ballgame. Greene- who has not allowed a run in 13.0 innings over his last two starts- earned the victory for the Thunder while Danny Burawa tossed a scoreless 1.1 innings for the save.

Trenton scored a pair of runs in the 5th inning to open the scoring. Ali Castillo doubled and was driven home on an opposite-field single by Zoilo Almonte for the first run of the game. And then Jose Pirela hit a ball to shortstop that Wilfredo Tovar threw wide to first base allowing Ramon Flores to score.

In the middle of a sequence in which Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez, second baseman Danny Muno and shortstop Tovar were ejected, Thunder second baseman Jose Pirela was thrown from the game as well. The scene unfolded in the bottom of the 7th inning with the Thunder ahead 3-0 and Binghamton trying to rally with runners on first and second base and no outs.

Wilfredo Tovar hit a ground ball to second base when Pirela flipped to Trenton shortstop Ali Castillo to begin a double-play. The relay throw from Castillo never materialized, however Danny Muno was ruled to have interfered with Castillo on the slide and Tovar was ruled out at first base as a result. From there, the four ejections were handed down as a flood of Thunder and B-Mets players and coached streamed from the dugout and bullpens towards the center of the diamond.

The fracas set-off a ten minute delay in the ballgame as the umpires restored order and tried to sift through the ejections. It appeared no punches were thrown.

Trenton awaits the winner of the Harrisburg Senators-Erie SeaWolves series to see which team from the West Division will travel to ARM & HAMMER Park for Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series starting Tuesday.  Tickets are available for Game 1 of the ELCS by going to www.trentonthunder.com/tickets or by calling (609)394-3300. Radio coverage of Tuesday’s game on 91.3 FM (WTSR) and online coverage begins at 6:45 p.m.

ELDS Game 2: Post-Game Notes

September 6, 2013

– Raise your hand if you had Zoilo Almonte and Ali Castillo being the guys drive in the Thunder’s runs last night.

I’m not seeing a lot of hands.

But that’s how it played out on Thursday night, and Mikey O’Brien made sure it was enough.  O’Brien struggled with command early in his Game 2 outing, walking four batters before getting an out in the third inning.  But he settled in, held the best regular-season team in the Eastern League to just one run on two hits over six innings of work and gave his team a chance to win.

“Those first couple innings, I just couldn’t get a rhythm for anything,” he said.  “I just had to battle and hope they hit it right at our guys.  I tried not to think about the previous innings and what I was doing by walking guys or falling behind.  I just tried to clear my mind and start over.”

The win was, as all playoff wins are, huge for Trenton as the series now shifts to Binghamton for the next three games (Games 4 and 5 if necessary).

“We’ve won two games and it’s great, we’re in a good position right now.  But we haven’t done anything yet,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin.  “All we’ve done is won two games and put ourselves in a pretty good position.  We’ve got to get one more.  Like I said yesterday, they’re a gritty bunch of guys and I don’t expect them to roll over.  They’re going to come out fighting.”

Neither team looked to be an offensive juggernaut on Thursday.  Trenton got its run on a sacrifice fly by the rehabbing Almonte, and did its big damage on an RBI double by unlikely hero Ali Castillo.  Zach Nuding and Tommy Kahnle were excellent in relief, and just like that, the Thunder were up two games to nothing in a series not many gave them a chance to win.

“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing as far as taking it one game at a time and just putting together quality at-bats.  Our pitchers are going up there throwing strikes, and that’s what we’ve been doing lately. If we keep that same mindset, good things will happen,” said first baseman Kyle Roller.

“We play well as a team together.  It’s not just one guy doing it, it’s a different guy every night.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

ELDS Game 2: Pre-Game Notes

September 5, 2013

6:30 PM — Not too much to say. Zoilo Almonte says his ankle feels “very good” and he’s not sure how long he’ll be here. He said many other things as well. I’ll write that up after the game. Whee!

4:25 PM — Lineups are here, and Ben Gamel is on the bench for the Thunder one day after his walk-off hit won Game 1 for them.

B-Mets: Muno 2B, Rodriguez 3B, Hughes 1B, Dykstra DH, Vaughn LF, Taijeron RF, Ceciliani CF, Forsythe C, Tovar SS, Gorski P

Thunder: Flores LF, Almonte RF, Pirela 2B, Sanchez C, Austin DH, Roller 1B, Williams CF, Corona 3B, Castillo SS, O’Brien P

4:00 PM — Just when I thought I could solely focus on just a playoff game, a rehabber has arrived from the Bronx.

Zoilo Almonte, who played for the Thunder in 2011 and 2012, played in 26 games with the Yankees earlier this season, but sprained his left ankle on July 19 and has been out ever since.

I’ll have lineups for you later, but rest assured he’ll be in it somewhere.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

VIDEO: Ben Gamel Walk-Off Single, ELDS Game 1

September 5, 2013

ELDS Game 1: Post-Game Notes

September 5, 2013

– The Thunder were going down one game to none in this series. It was going to happen. It was an out away from happening. A strike away from happening.

And then? Then, it didn’t happen.

After Pat Venditte coughed up two runs in the top of the 10th inning to put the Mets up, 5-3, Binghamton put All-Star closer Jeff Walters in the game to close it out. Strikeout by Mason Williams. Groundout by Ramon Flores. Nobody on, two out, and the best stopper in the league on the mound.

Game over, right? Nope.

Jose Pirela doubled to give the Thunder a small glimmer of hope. Then, Walters had Gary Sanchez down 0-2 after he swung and missed at his first two offerings. But Sanchez wouldn’t die. He fouled a pitch off, then took a very close offspeed pitch that just missed the plate. After fouling off another pitch, Sanchez singled through the middle to score Pirela and cut the deficit to just one.

Tyler Austin, who made some waves with a pre-game comment about how Binghamton starter Noah Syndergaard would be in for a long night, backed up his words one more time (albeit against Walters this time) with an infield single, and then Casey Stevenson tied the game 5-5 on a single to left. On the first pitch he saw, Ben Gamel then won the game with a line drive to right field.

Down 1-0? How about up 1-0 and they beat Binghamton’s ace to do it?

Below, find post-game comments from Thunder manager Tony Franklin, outfielder Tyler Austin and designated hitter Ben Gamel about the improbable victory.

TONY FRANKLIN

“This is kind of what we’ve done all year and kind of what we’ve talked about all year, and that’s just to keep playing. No matter what the circumstances or where we are in the game, just keep playing. We’ve done that a couple times this last couple of weeks, and it’s worked out very well for us.”

“It’s part of the makeup of this team. If you go back to when we got here in April and everyone is asking me about what kind of team I think we have, I didn’t know. I know now. We don’t have a lot of the same guys, but I think the guys that we had established the team we were going to be, and we were going to grind it out no matter what. The guys who have joined us, they picked up right where the guys who are gone left off.”

“We’ll find out (what this type of win does) tomorrow. That’s when you find out, you hope that it’s going to carry over to tomorrow. It would have been a tough one to lose for us, the way things were turning out.”

“It’s tough to get runs off those guys, it’s tough to beat pitchers like Syndergaard and Walters. I’m not saying it’s any more special, but they’re the class of the league.”

BEN GAMEL

“I was really just looking for something up, something I could handle. I put a good swing on it.”

“Two quick outs, then Petey hits a double, Tyler got a hit up the middle, Gary hits a line drive…it’s unreal. The heart and determination this team has, we all kind of feed off each other. Just like that, we’re back in it.”

“We put a lot of good at-bats together, and that’s what kept the momentum going. The pitchers kept us in the game, they never let it get out of reach.”

TYLER AUSTIN

“I guess (the prediction came true). It’s a big win. And against him, he’s a great pitcher, and I’m not taking anything away from him or any of their staff. They’ve got a great team, great staff. But like I said (before the game), this team’s got heart. We came to play, and we gave it everything we had from the opening pitch to the last one of the game.”

“We just believe in one another, we believe in each guy that steps into the box and we believe in every guy we throw out there on the mound. That’s what we take out there. This is a great team, and I’m excited to see what the next few games have to hold.”

“That’s definitely big coming in here and getting the first game, especially at home and knowing that we potentially have to play three games at their place. It’s always big to come here and get Game 1 at home.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Noah Syndergaard Strikeout Reel, 9/4/2013

September 5, 2013

If you have a short attention span or not a lot of time on your hands and just want to see the strikeouts…here you go:

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

VIDEO: COMPLETE OUTING, Noah Syndergaard (9/4/2013)

September 5, 2013

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

VIDEO: Bryan Mitchell, First Two Innings (9/4/2013)

September 5, 2013


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers