Archive for July 3rd, 2008

Getting To Know: Jason Jones

July 3, 2008

Jason Jones accepting the Samuel J. Plumeri, Sr. Community Service Award in 2007 from Thunder GM Brad Taylor

Our popular “Getting To Know” series has featured Chase Wright, P.J. Pilittere, Colin Curtis, Mark Melancon and Phil Coke so far.

This is probably my favorite series of features I’ve done in a long time.  All the guys have been really good about doing it, and not only does it give you an idea of the personalities and interests of some of your favorite players, it also helps me to get to know them better as well.

I’ve got a few guys in mind I’d like to interview for this, but if anyone has any suggestions, you can always send them along.

As for this particular one, if we’re really being honest here, I should admit that I wasn’t always thrilled to come to the ballpark for a Jason Jones start.  When I first took over this beat in 2006, I was VERY caught up in the “prospects” game, and JJ’s never really been considered much of a prospect for one reason or another.

After a while, I realized how stupid that was…if you can hit, you can hit.  If you can pitch, you can pitch.  There’s no doubt that Jason Jones can pitch.  Now, I look forward to covering his turn on the mound, because I know I’m going to see a quality start almost every time.

I’ve also learned that Jason is a quality person as well, and is universally considered to be one of “the good guys” by fans and the media.

Hopefully, this interview gives you some insight as to why…

Mike Ashmore: Tell me something about Jason Jones that’s going to surprise some people…

Jason Jones: “I don’t know…the only thing that comes to mind is that I started fishing this off-season, and I’ve been pretty into that.  We like to fish.  I tell everybody I’m from the south because I’m from Maryland, and it’s south of The Mason-Dixon Line.  But we have an argument at least once a day with me when I tell everybody I’m from the south, and nobody thinks that’s the south.  My argument is that The Mason-Dixon Line separated the north from the south in the war, and The Mason-Dixon Line is our northern border.  That’s kind of random…I just tell everybody I’m from the south.”

Ashmore: I’ll save you from another argument on that one…but why the sudden interest in fishing?

Jones: “I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and would fish a lot growing up with my dad.  Playing baseball every summer, the only time in Maryland you can fish is the summer.  So I kind of gave it up and played baseball all the time.  This off-season, back in Florida, they fish year round.  I actually met my girlfriend, and she has her own boat and kind of got me back into it and kind of brought me back to my childhood.  I really enjoy it.  I’ve always golfed in my spare time.  Instead of having the strenuous activity of golfing, as much as it is, it’s so much more relaxing to sit on the boat and fish and be on the water.  It’s something I really love.”

Ashmore: So what’s a typical in-season thing you like to do outside of fishing?

Jones: “Both off days we’ve had so far, I went to Six Flags.  We get in for free because Brad gets us passes and all.  That was really enjoyable.  I guess in my down time, I don’t do a whole lot.  I read fishing magazines and stuff like that.  We don’t really get a chance to do a whole lot.”

Ashmore: You big into movies or music at all?

Jones: “Not really.  Actually, growing up, I wasn’t allowed to listen to any music besides oldies and country.  I grew up in a really strict Christian family.  Everybody knows about all the 80’s music, but I missed all the 80’s stuff.”

Ashmore: Honestly man, that’s probably for the best

Jones: “Yeah.  But I listen to everything now.  Country mostly, but rock, rap, classical…really anything, I listen to.  I may not know who it is, but I like it.”

Ashmore: Any favorite song or artist or anything like that?

Jones: “I’ll tell you a story about my come out song, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses.  As a child, my dad’s work had season tickets to AHL hockey.  My first memory ever is they were playing Sweet Child O’ Mine, and they had a fire lit and the hockey team entered the ice playing that song.  So I remember as a little kid –this was probably ’89, so I was probably five or six — just coming out, and the excitement of the hockey team coming out.  Every time I hear it now, it gives me chills.”

“Another story about that same song, when my brother got married, he and his wife got introduced for the first time to the same song.  It’s the come out song that I’ve always had.  Actually, the same song, it was the first tape I ever had and I got in trouble for it.  My mom found the tape, Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction, and it had Sweet Child O’ Mine on it.  It’s a big kind of a joke now, I don’t even know if my parents really realize it.  That’s the song we grew up listening to and going to the hockey games, so it has all that history behind it and it’s kind of funny.”

Ashmore: Are you a hockey guy at all?  I actually consider myself more of a hockey guy than a baseball guy, so what you said about going to hockey games when you were a kid is pretty interesting to me… 

Jones: “We used to go to all these hockey games, like every weekend.  And growing up, I always said I wanted to be a hockey player.  My parents were going to try to sign me up, but I guess the ice times for kids in Maryland was either six in the morning or ten at night and there was all this money for insurance and other stuff.  So they thought baseball was a lot easier.  My older brother started playing when he was five and I was three.  I went to all the practices and played with him, so loving baseball really started when I was three.  I used to cry because I couldn’t put on the uniform and go play when my brother got to play, so that’s kind of how I got started into baseball.  But before that, I always wanted to be a hockey player.  But then it kind of changed to baseball.”

Ashmore: On one side, being in Trenton for as long as you’ve been probably sucks, because nobody wants to be at a certain level of the minor leagues for too long.  But on the other hand, it’s good in a way because you get to know the area really well and know where to go and where not to go.  Not to give away any of your prime spots or anything, but is there any particular place in the area that people might not know a lot about — a restaurant or whatever — that you really enjoy going to?

Jones: “The funny thing is my parents are really strict and conservative.  Really strict.  They don’t even know if I drink.  Out of respect for them, I never drink in front of them.  So I’m not going to say, ‘Well here’s a really great spot, they’ve got really great drinks and all that stuff’ and my parents get wind of it.  I’m sure they realize I’m 25 and I do my own thing, but out of respect for them, I don’t drink in front of them.  We don’t even talk about it.  There’s a few nice places to go, but I don’t even want to cross that road.”

Ashmore: Well, I mean I’m sure there’s a good place to go to for a…ummm, soda and so on.

Jones: “Yeah.  I like Shirley Temples.  There’s a random thing about me that not a lot of people know.  After almost every game, I go out to eat with my parents or we go hang out or whatever, I’ll go get a Shirley Temple.  It’s cherry, sprite, whatever.  I don’t know why, it’s my drink of choice, I guess you could say, for after the games.”

Ashmore: I don’t curse in front of my parents, so I can actually understand what you’re saying about not drinking in front of them…

Jones: “It’s just a matter of respect.  That’s the way I was raised, that we never cursed and drank.  Really, it was a pretty strict and conservative Christian family.  And it’s just out of respect for them, that’s why I don’t do it.”

Ashmore: When was the last time you had hair on your head?

Jones: “It’s funny.  In college, and even growing up, I always had long hair.  College especially.  Real shaggy, real big goatee and long hair.  Then I got drafted by the Yankees and everybody’s like ‘Oh, you have to have your hair cut.’  So for me, it was always that inbetween stage.  In my first year with the Yankees, when I played for Staten Island, I just hated it.  We always wore a hat.  I’m not going to lie, it was getting a little thin, the receding hairline was getting up there a little bit.  So I just said, you know what why don’t I just shave it.  We always wear a hat anyway.  It’s low maintenance, no big deal.  Fine.  In instructs (instructional league) in 2004, at the end of my first year, that was the first time I shaved it.  Everybody thought it looked like a big white head with no sun.  Then I just started trimming it and trimming it real close, no razor and no guard.  Probably the last two years, I started just doing straight razor and it’s a lot easier to maintain.  That was 2004, so I guess it’s been four years now almost since I had hair.  I like it.  The ladies love it too.”

Ashmore: That’s the perfect way to end it…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Jones Battles, Dominates

July 3, 2008

If you cover a team long enough, you get a good feel for the guys and have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to tell you after the game.

Jason Jones, for example, frequently says he had to battle and that at least one of his pitches wasn’t really working for him, generally his “splitty.”

The issue here, of course, is that Jones is now 9-3 with a 2.28 ERA.  The biggest thing he’s had to battle this season is probably indigestion.  He’s flat out on a roll, and is making it look easy.

And believe it or not, he actually seemed to agree.

“Today, most of the stuff was working,” he said.

“Curveball was working well, splitty was good, slider was good, location was good.  I executed today pretty well.  Today was a good day.”

Jones allowed just two hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking none.

“Jason Jones was outstanding,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin.

“That was best I’ve seen him.  He had command of everything, and he was very efficient with getting guys out when he had an opportunity to get them out.  He made pitches all night.  It was just great, just outstanding.  He could have pitched anywhere tonight.”

When asked what specifically was working for Jones tonight, pitching coach Scott Aldred — who agreed with Franklin that this was the best they’ve seen him pitch — said it was his command of all four pitches.

“He has no patterns when he pitches,” Aldred said. 

“They had no idea what was coming.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Game 85: Portland @ Trenton

July 3, 2008

Game 85 – Portland Sea Dogs @ Trenton Thunder
July 3, 2008
Waterfront Park – Trenton, NJ

Pitching Matchup: TRE Jason Jones (8-3, 2.45) vs. POR Adam Mills (AA Debut)

Starting Lineups:

Portland

1 – Bell
2 – Granadillo
3 – Corsaletti
4 – Bates
5 – Daeges
6 – Otness
7 – Jimenez
8 – Khoury
9 – Suarez

Trenton

1 – Pena
2 – Curtis
3 – Jackson
4 – Malec
5 – Cooper
6 – Pilittere
7 – Ehlers
8 – Gonzalez
9 – Corona

Pre-Game Notes: Tony Franklin had a bit of a bombshell before the game.

“It seems to be a fairly severe injury,” said Franklin of Jose Tabata’s hamstring injury.

He did not give a timetable on Tabata’s return. 

“He’s not going to be rushed back.  It takes a little time to come back from those injuries, it’s a very sensitive and delicate area.”

I asked him what led him to believe it was a severe injury, and he wasn’t very specific about it.

“I know he had an MRI, and I don’t know what he had, but it should be significant enough to send him (to Tampa).”

Tony suggested that I try to “corner the trainer” and ask him about it.

So, I did.

“Can’t tell,” said trainer Tim Lentych.

Obviously, that was the expected answer since I know that they can’t really talk about injuries.  It didn’t sit well with some people that I even asked, but what else am I going to do?  Still have to ask.

I asked Kevin Whelan again about his injury, and he was specific.  He said it is a strain of the flexor tendons in his forearm.  He showed me where it was, and…if you hold out your arm with your palm facing up, it’s right around where the top of your arm meets the bottom, kind of on top of the elbow.  He said it IS NOT his elbow, he WILL NOT need surgery and that he hopes to be back in about 10 days.

Kevin Russo said he will not be returning this month for sure, but hopefully shortly thereafter.

The “Getting To Know” feature with Jason Jones runs after the game tonight.  Really, really pleased with how it came out.

Do you remember this guy?  Quite a fall…

Radio Links: Click here for the links to each team’s broadcast.

Live Box Score: The MILB.com direct link is here.

Around the Eastern League: For scores from around the EL, go here.

All-Star rosters announced…

Northern Division All-Stars

P Salvador Aguilar Binghamton Mets
P Michael Bowden Portland Sea Dogs
P Brett Cecil N.H. Fisher Cats
P Zach Dials N.H. Fisher Cats
P Justin Hedrick Connecticut Defenders
P Jason Jones Trenton Thunder
P Ben Julianel New Britain Rock Cats
P Joseph Martinez Connecticut Defenders
P Ryan Mullins New Britain Rock Cats
P Robert Parnell Binghamton Mets

C Brian Jeroloman N.H. Fisher Cats
C P.J. Pilittere Trenton Thunder

INF Scott Campbell N.H. Fisher Cats
INF Mike Carp Binghamton Mets
INF Nick Evans Binghamton Mets
INF Kyle Haines Connecticut Defenders
INF Luke Hughes New Britain Rock Cats
INF Chris Malec Trenton Thunder
INF Olmo Rosario Connecticut Defenders
INF Steven Tolleson New Britain Rock Cats

OF Bubba Bell Portland Sea Dogs
OF Jeff Corsaletti Portland Sea Dogs
OF Austin Jackson Trenton Thunder
OF Travis Snider N.H. Fisher Cats

Southern Division All-Stars

P Bradley Bergesen Bowie Baysox
P Pat Bresnehan Altoona Curve
P Bobby Brownlie Harrisburg Senators
P Carlos Carrasco Reading Phillies
P Casey Fien Erie SeaWolves
P Yoslan Herrera Altoona Curve
P J.D. Martin Akron Aeros
P Randy Newsom Akron Aeros
P Chris Tillman Bowie Baysox
P Jordan Zimmermann Harrisburg Senators

C Lou Marson Reading Phillies
C Dusty Ryan Erie SeaWolves

INF Jason Delaney Altoona Curve
INF Jason Donald Reading Phillies
INF Shelby Ford Altoona Curve
INF Wes Hodges Akron Aeros
INF Jeff Nettles Bowie Baysox
INF Ryan Roberson Erie SeaWolves
INF Josh Rodriguez Akron Aeros

OF Mike Daniel Harrisburg Senators
OF Greg Golson Reading Phillies
OF Luis Montanez Bowie Baysox
OF Wilkin Ramirez Erie SeaWolves
OF Jeremy Slayden Reading Phillies

In-Game Updates (LIVE from the ballpark): 1-0, Thunder.  B1.  Malec doubled home A-Jack.

2-0, Thunder now, T2.  Cooper singled home Malec, but got nailed it second trying to stretch it.

Austin Jackson is as locked in as I’ve seen him this season.  2-for-2 so far, and he’s just barreling the crap out of the ball.

2-0, B4.

Jason Jones is dealing after six innings of work.  Only two hits allowed, and seven K’s so far.  I look forward to him telling me how he had to battle out there tonight…because it sure as hell doesn’t look like that’s actually the case.

Real strong outing from Jones.  Melancon came in for the eighth and gave up a hit, but looked good.

4-0, Thunder, T9.

In-Game Photo Gallery:

Anthony Claggett and Zach Kroenke

James Cooper

Reegie Corona

Colin Curtis

Cody Ehlers

Michael Gardner

Edwar Gonzalez

Austin Jackson

Jason Jones

Jones tries to pick off a runner at first, throwing to Cody Ehlers

Chris Malec

Mark Melancon

Joe Muich

Ramiro Pena

Oneli Perez…

…and his six-finger fastball

P.J. Pilittere

Jose Valdez

Chase Wright

Adam Mills

Mark Melancon

In-Game YouTube Videos: Jason Jones VIDEO, Adam Mills VIDEO, Mark Melancon VIDEO, Mark Melancon VIDEO 2, Mark Melancon VIDEO 3, Daniel Haigwood VIDEO, Jorge Jimenez VIDEO

Final Score: 4-0, Thunder.

Post-Game Notes: Where was this for the whole series?  Really, really solid job by JJ and Melancon tonight.  Much needed.

Thunder Thoughts: I updated the right side of the page with links to the videos I’ve recently uploaded — all of which you’ve probably already seen in the game threads. However, I did dump some videos on there that I never got around to uploading at various points earlier in the season that I’ve never linked to here.

The whole point of the videos is to show you a guy’s delivery or swing…so unless I’m going for something specific (i.e. the Tabata vs. Masterson video) the length of them is never going to be too long.

I recorded my GTKY with Austin Jackson, so I’m sure that’ll pop up in about a week or so.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper

July 3, 2008

The originality department is clearly working overtime here.  Somewhere, Mark Curry is smiling.  Either that or waiting tables somewhere.

In any event, I was able to catch up with the newest member of the Trenton Thunder, James Cooper, before the game yesterday.

Cooper, who went 1-for-4 in his debut last night, was hitting .311 with a home run and 22 RBI in 66 games for Single-A Tampa this season before his call-up.

“(Tuesday) night, I was sitting down and having dinner,” Cooper said.

“The trainer down in Tampa called me and was like, ‘Hey, you’re going up to Double-A tomorrow morning.’  So I had to rush to get back to the hotel, get back to the field and pack all my stuff, and get everything situated.”

The Los Angeles native was having a breakout year in the Florida State League, and attributed his success down there to not trying to play over his head.

“I was comfortable, just sticking to my plan,” he said.

“Just overall believing in myself and having confidence, and just going out and playing hard every day.  And have fun with it, most importantly.”

The 24-year-old’s name had come up at several points this season when potential outfield call-ups were needed, but he didn’t let that affect him.

“There was a while where people were like, ‘When are you going to Double-A, when are you going to Double-A,” Cooper said.

“I just told myself to focus on the things that I could focus on and not worry about the things that are out of my control.  I just tried to go out and play hard every day, and I knew that if I did that, then everything else would take care of itself.”

Offensively, Cooper described himself as a scrappy player who doesn’t strike out much and puts the ball in play.

“I’m not a power hitter, but I just try to find ways to get on base,” he said.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Tony Talks

July 3, 2008

Thunder manager Tony Franklin is always fantastic to talk to, but he really had some interesting stuff to say before last night’s game…

“I thought maybe we’d have more (All-Stars).  The reason being, we’re at the top of the heap with our pitching and we’ve only got one guy on the team that’s a pitcher.  I’m a little miffed at that.  I think our guys have done a tremendous job, but of course I’m quite biased when it comes to our guys and what they’ve done.” 

“Scott (Aldred) made a good point: we don’t have one or two guys racking up tremendous numbers, maybe other than our starters, because of our format and what we try to do with our pitchers.  We don’t have that guy down there racking up 19 or 20 saves in the first half.  We’ve got guys that are capable of pitching three or four innings and getting saves in that manner, but they’re not in the ballgame every night when we’ve got a lead.  And that kind of hurts their chances of becoming those go-to guys.  But here’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to produce Major League pitchers, and get their innings to where if they’re called up to the Major Leagues or they go to Scranton, they’re going to be able to pitch three or four innings.  It hurts their chances of making All-Star teams, but if you look at their total numbers down there, it’s pretty impressive.”

“With being at the top of the league in pitching, I wish he had more guys on the club.  I think we deserved to have more guys on the team.  I’ll let it go at that.”

“We’ve got 13 pitchers and two banged up extra men in Mendoza — and of all the people to hit him, Bard hit him, throwing 150 miles an hour — and P.J. took a pretty good shot to his wrist.  He had X-rays today and they’re negative, nothing’s broken.  But he’s sore as heck.”

“Marcos (Vechionacci) had a setback with his leg, his quad.  Can’t tell you anything about when he’s coming.  There’s been no date.  Actually, there’s been no discussion about him returning at all.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

All-Star Series

July 3, 2008

I have a lot of new content on the site right now, and I didn’t want to overload everybody…

So while the team is away in New Hampshire from July 4th-7th, I’ll have a series of posts on Austin Jackson, Chris Malec, Jason Jones and P.J. Pilittere featuring quotes from each player, and from Tony Franklin about each of them.

Additionally, keep on the lookout for the “Getting To Know” feature on Jason Jones.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com