An amazing season was capped off by an amazing celebration both on the field and in the clubhouse following the Thunder’s 5-1 Game Four victory over the Akron Aeros to win the 2008 Eastern League Championship.
Music was played at eardrum shattering levels, certainly some awful dancing took place, and there was plenty of collective hooting and hollering that could be heard echoing through the underbelly of the stadium after the final out.
Every square inch of the home clubhouse was covered in large plastic sheets, and so much champagne was sprayed inside that players were leaving wet footprints as they emerged and walked on the carpet in the hallway.
But the focus eventually shifted back to what the team accomplished on the field, and the participants couldn’t have been happier to talk about their long and successful journey.
“Fantastic, it was fantastic. They’re all special in their own way. It’s special. After last year’s season, you think that with it being such a magical season, you’re not going to surpass it. To surpass what we did last year with championships in consecutive years, man that’s just fantastic. It just doesn’t happen, I’ve spent a lot of time in this game. I’ve been in this game a long time and won a couple championships here and there and gone to the playoffs a few times, but this is far and beyond what I ever thought could happen to me. It’s still a lot of fun for me, and I guess that’s why I still do it.”
“You know what I think is special about them, is there ability to compete. They’re a young club, I had a young club in terms of experience. But I also had some guys in key positions who were back, like P.J., Colin Curtis, Jonesy. But what impressed me most about these guys was their ability to compete. These guys battled their butts off out there. When you’ve got young guys, you’re just not sure what they’re going to do. And here comes AJ with all of these press clippings and people touting him as being the next so and so, and in the back of my mind, I’m saying I’m not sure because I hadn’t seen him play except for that one week. I see the tools, I see the ability to run, hit, throw. Is he going to be able to do it consistently over 140 games? He surprised the heck out of me, man. He pulled it off. The game last night was indicative of what you’re going to see for maybe 15-20 years in a Major League career. That’s pretty special stuff.”
“(Winning it in Trenton) is even more special, just in front of the hometown fans. Where else would you want to win it? These are the people who support you all year, why would you want to win it somewhere else. We did it (in Akron) last year because of the schedule and it dictated that. But the people here in Trenton are very supportive, they love their baseball. They are very, very compassionate about what we do. I’m just happy we were able to win them a championship.”
“It’s nice to do it at home in front of the fans and the all the people that have supported us for how many years here in Trenton. I’m sure a part of them missed out a little bit last year, but I’m sure it was great for them tonight to be a part of this.”
“It’s a great feeling. It’s been a lot of hard work, it’s not easy. We expected this to be a championship season, but I’m just glad it turned out the way it did. It just shows you if you work hard enough, we can do this two years in a row. It was nice to come out on top.”
“There’s been a lot of opportunities (in the clutch). The ones you have success with will show up in the box score more than the ones you get out on. I felt really confident up there. I faced that guy a few times earlier in the series, and I was actually excited to have that matchup and get a chance to drive in a big run for us and get a chance to put a crooked number up there for us.”
“I was just happy to get some innings in the playoffs this time around, it’s good to be a part of the championship. It’s been a good year, and it was a great ending to my year.”
“Timely pitching, timely hitting and we had a great coaching staff. Put it all together, and it’s still hard to go back to back. All the guys did their part throughout the year.”
“Everything’s come together, everything’s been really good. It’s great to win in front of our home crowd. We have great fans, they’re just a great bunch of people. It was awesome to win it in front of them.”
“Jones came in and did an awesome job, and the offense came through and did a good job. I just had a good team behind me overall, and it was a good team win today.”
“(Being hurt) is stuff that you don’t want to happen, obviously. But I’m healthy now, and I’m feeling good now, and that’s in the past. Hopefully I can just keep on moving forward.”
“(Last year’s team and this year’s team) are very similar. Good group of guys, tremendous staff. Everyone’s like a big family, so that always helps going into playoffs and championship series like tonight.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com