Ashmore’s Thunder Mailbag

If you want your question answered in a future mailbag, send it to me at mashmore98 AT

What do you think the Thunder pitching staff will look like?

Since it’s March 19th, that’s such a hard question to answer. I don’t get to go to Florida for spring training, so I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like to…so this is more of an educated guess based on what I’ve been reading and also what I’ve been told from various sources.

SP: Dan McCutchen, Brett Smith, George Kontos, Phil Coke, Jason Jones
MR: Zack Kroenke, Anthony Claggett, David Robertson
CL: Eric Wordekemper

Yeah, there are a few holes in the bullpen…but it’s too hard to project anyone else for those spots right now. Maybe Jason Jones goes to the pen and another starter comes in? Hard to say at this point.

What do you do in the off-season?

I do a lot of work in my other beat, as I essentially have to cover an entire league instead of just one team…although I do cover one specific team for the paper. I submit occasional articles for the paper, which started to become weekly again around a month and a half ago.

This blog has definitely altered my off-season plans, as I usually don’t do very much with the Thunder until the season gets going in April.

Outside of that, I follow hockey very closely. I’m a Rangers fan, and usually end up going to anywhere from 20-40 NHL games a season. I do go to a lot of Devils games, as I like getting to see as much hockey as I can, and have seen games in 13 of the current 30 NHL arenas. I’ve also seen games in the AHL, ECHL and USHL this year, so I appreciate the game at all levels.

Hockey aside, I enjoy hanging out with friends, going to movies or staying home and watching a DVD, playing XBOX 360, and checking out the internet.

Do you think Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain would be receiving this much attention if they pitched for, say…the Royals? Or the Marlins?

No, but that has more to do with the New York market than it does those specific players. Both are special, special players…the kind of guys who have the potential to be once-in-a-lifetime type of pitchers.

But I can see what you’re saying though. There have been a lot of guys that have been huge names in prospect circles who you don’t hear about as often anymore. Homer Bailey was one of the biggest prospects in baseball, but he seems to be just another starter in the Reds rotation now. Same thing with Cameron Maybin, even with the trade to Florida.

But Hughes and Chamberlain are the real deal, there’s no doubt about it. They just get more attention because of where they are…but again, that’s not an indication of what type of players they are.

What do you guys eat in the press box?

Caviar, filet mignon and champagne.

Man, that was hard to type with a straight face.

Trenton’s front office is gracious enough to provide the media with a wide variety of options. The chicken fingers are a personal favorite of mine, but the food has ranged from the general ballpark fare to things closer to actual meals. The cheesecake at the end of last season was also much appreciated, despite the fact that my stomach didn’t enjoy the fact that I splurged and ate two pieces.

As far as the drinks go…all the Coke products can be found. Diet Coke, which few sportswriters can function without, is a staple…although I can’t stand the stuff and go with either Sprite or regular Coke.

As far as the minor leagues go, they do a good job. I’ve covered games where you’re lucky if you get a hot dog or a hamburger. Some teams will provide a ticket which you can redeem on the concourse for your choice of items, and others will have the press box catered by local establishments.

Having covered games in the MLB, NBA and NFL, I can tell you that things get much better as you move up the ladder. The Yankees have a large media dining room, but also charge you a small fee. The Phillies and Orioles do this as well…I don’t remember if the Nationals did, but they’re done at RFK Stadium now anyway, so whatever they did there might change at the new park.

But covering the NY Giants was easily my best food experience. There is a gigantic, free buffet for both breakfast and lunch. Huge freezers full of all your favorite frozen treats are there waiting for you, and there are people to serve you whatever you’d like.

My worst food experience?  One minor league hockey team provided popcorn out of a bowl and warm soda.

Getting back to the Yankees, though…the one thing they do that I really enjoy, is they have a small concession stand inside the press box. Various ballpark fare is available at deeply discounted rates, and I more often than not have ended up eating there instead of paying the fee and eating downstairs.

Do you get a championship ring for covering last year’s team?

Nope. The players, coaching staff and front office all get rings. I don’t get one, and really don’t deserve one either, to be honest. Besides get the team some press, what do I really do to help the Thunder? I’ve been fortunate enough to cover three championship teams on a full-time basis now (four if you count my ten games in Newark last year, and five if you count my handful of appearances covering the Philadelphia Phantoms in the AHL a few years ago) and the media does not get rings.

Who do you think will be some of the players to watch this season in Trenton?

Everyone’s going to focus on the outfield, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Mark Melancon. I’ve heard so many good things about him, and although I know he won’t be in Trenton until the weather gets a little warmer, I can’t wait to see him pitch when he does get called up.

But with that said…yeah, you can’t overlook that filthy, filthy outfield. Of the three, I’ve already seen Jackson and Curtis, so Tabata’s the one I’ll have my eye on. Ever since I started covering the Thunder, I’ve heard all about how big of a deal this guy is and how special a player he is, so to finally get a chance to see him with my own eyes is something I’m going to relish.

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