Archive for October, 2009

A Few Things…

October 7, 2009

I want to apologize for the lack of activity on the blog over the past few days. As many of you know, I work two beats (three, if you count the T-Devils stuff online) and the Somerset Patriots recently won their fifth Atlantic League Championship. Covering a Championship Series requires my full attention, and between traveling to Waldorf, Maryland for the final two games of the series and doing the subsequent writing for that, I haven’t had much time to write on here.

This will change.

Soon.

I was fortunate enough to be able to cover Game 1 of the ALDS tonight, and will be at Game 2 on Friday as well…outside of any Thunder-related ties, my assignment from the paper is to essentially tie this all into Hunterdon County somehow. So, you’ll likely see some sort of interesting feature in the paper next Thursday that either describes my experience covering the series or shows how restaurants and bars in the county have been affected by the Yankees playoff run while combining that with how the games actually went.

Again, “interesting feature” applies there.

My initial idea, which was to take the angle of how beneficial it was for the many Thunder alums to play on the 2005-08 playoff teams and how that benfitted them in situations like this, doesn’t really work if I can’t talk to the guys before the games…and my schedule doesn’t work to where I can attend the workouts when there is player access.  So this is pretty much a big scramble for Plan B.

So, I’ll resume the A-Z stuff when I can, and get you guys those features on both Mark Melancon and Tim Lentych shortly as well.

I’d blog from Yankee Stadium, but there’s some new guy doing that. Chad…Chad something?  Never heard of him.  All jokes aside — and it was great to talk to Chad on the field for a few minutes, seems like he’s fitting in really nicely over there — this blog is devoted solely to Double-A related stuff, and I’m really there more for my paper than I am anything else.  So I won’t do too much on here unless it’s Thunder related.

Five Thunder Players Headed To AFL

October 6, 2009

(PR) (Trenton, NJ)- The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A Affiliate of the NY Yankees, announced today that five former Thunder players, including three players from Trenton’s 2009 squad, will play in the Arizona Fall League for the Surprise Rafters.

Right-handed pitcher Grant Duff, Left-handed pitcher Michael Dunn, and Outfielder Colin Curtis each played for the Thunder during the 2009 season. Right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy pitched for Trenton during the 2007 season, and Left-handed pitcher Zach Kroenke pitched for Trenton during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Tampa Yankees Catcher Austin Romine, and Tampa Yankees Infielder Brandon Laird will also play for Surprise. Trenton Pitching Coach Tommy Phelps will be the Pitching Coach for the team.

Duff was 4-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 21 games for Trenton with one save. Dunn went 3-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 26 games for Trenton with two saves. He struck out 76 in 53 1/3 innings. Dunn made his Major League debut for the New York Yankees on September 4th. Curtis started the season with the Thunder, and hit .268 with one home run and 19 RBI in 56 games. During the 2007 season, Kennedy went 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA in nine starts for Trenton. In 2007, Kroenke had a 0-1 record with a 9.42 ERA in 15 games for Trenton, but rebounded with a 6-0 record with a 3.09 ERA in 37 games for the Thunder during 2008.

The AFL will begin its 38-game schedule on Tuesday, October 13. Each Major League Baseball team sends six top prospects to the Arizona Fall League, 180 players in all. The games are played in the Spring Training stadiums used by the Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, A’s, Royals and Rangers.

2009 Thunder A-Z: Colin Curtis

October 2, 2009

curtis

Before 2009: Curtis was drafted by the Yankees in the fourth round out of Arizona State in 2006.  After a three-game stint in the Gulf Coast League, Curtis was sent to Staten Island, where he hit .302 with one home run and 18 RBI in 44 games.

The following season, Curtis would skip Low-A Charleston and get sent to High-A Tampa, where he hit .298 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 65 games.  He’d earn a call-up to Double-A Trenton towards the end of June, and would finish the season there.  His numbers tailed off a bit, but he still hit .242 with three home runs and 15 RBI while becoming an every day outfielder in Tony Franklin’s lineup.

He was also part of one of the most memorable plays in Trenton Thunder history.  Here’s how it looked in the September 20, 2007 edition of the Democrat:

Outfielder Colin Curtis drew a leadoff walk in the ninth inning, bringing designated hitter Noah Hall to the plate.

Curtis advanced to second on a wild pitch that narrowly missed hitting Hall, who started the season with the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League.

The right-handed hitting Hall then hit a fastball the opposite way, and Curtis was running on contact.

Franklin, who coaches third base, was waving Curtis home the entire time, and Curtis was just stepping on third as Akron right fielder Cirilo Cumberbatch was throwing the ball towards home plate.

Cumberbatch fired a seed, with the throw beating Curtis by roughly ten feet.

The slide by Curtis…

The tag by Akron catcher Wyatt Toregas…

The call by home plate umpire Cory Blaser is…

Safe!

Toregas immediately fired off his catchers mask and spiked the ball into the ground, furious with Blaser’s call. Meanwhile, the Thunder dugout had emptied and surrounded both Hall and Curtis, who played key roles in the dramatic, 3-2 walkoff win.

Toregas, who politely declined comment after the game, then collapsed to the ground with his head in his hands and had to be helped off the field by manager Tim Bogar and outfielder Trevor Crowe.

“I’m sure all you guys were sitting up there saying not to send him with nobody out,” joked Franklin after the game.

“I felt like Noah was going to end up on second base anyway, we still were going to have a man in scoring position. Was it a risky play? Yeah, probably too risky to do. But it turned out in our favor.”

As Hall was heading into second base, was he thinking that Curtis was out?

“I did, that’s why I went to second,” he said with a laugh.

“As soon as I saw him rounding the bag, I knew I had to go for two. Then I just looked back, and the throw beat him by a lot. But he made a great slide, and that’s just it. It doesn’t matter if the throw beats you, you’ve got to tag him before he hits that base.”

And that’s all anybody wanted to talk about after the game — what will forever be known as “The Slide.”

“The kid made a heck of a throw, it was a strong throw,” Franklin said.

“But Colin Curtis probably made the best slide I’ve ever seen. The thing that allowed him to get around the catcher was that the ball came up on the catcher, and it when it came up on him, he was able to get around him and get his hand in there.”

Curtis certainly didn’t disagree.

“I didn’t know if the umpire saw it, so I kept saying, ‘I got my hand in! I got my hand in!’ and I looked up he and he called me safe,” Curtis said.

“It was just excitement after that. Everybody was jumping around, and it was a great feeling getting that win.”

Akron would win the third game, held in Akron, but the Thunder picked up the win in Game Four to take the series and their first ever championship.

It looks like “The Slide” will lead to 23 players and three coaches getting “The Ring” in Trenton.

Curtis would spend all of 2008 with the Thunder as well, forming one third of the “Outfield of Dreams” with Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata.  Playing in 132 of the club’s 140 games, Curtis hit a career high 10 home runs while posting a .255 batitng average and driving in 71 runs.  He earned another championship ring as well.

2009: Curtis started the season with the Thunder, despite many thinking he had a chance to begin the season in Triple-A Scranton.  He wouldn’t get there until the middle of June, thanks to two months in the Eastern League that had him hitting at a .268 clip.  He also hit one home run and had 19 RBI, stealing a career high seven bases along the way.

Curtis struggled after getting off to a hot start in Triple-A, going on a 3-for-38 stretch in early July.  But he managed to turn things around to the point where his numbers were respectable, if not spectacular at the end of the season — .235, 6 HR, 29 RBI.

He also earned an invite to the Arizona Fall League.

After 2009: Curtis stock as a prospect has fallen since he was first drafted, and 2010 is a big season for him.  He will inevitably start out back in Scranton, but is almost certainly behind Austin Jackson on the organizational depth chart when it comes to who will get the first call-up to the Bronx.  Worse yet, there are people who aren’t convinced that Curtis will ever get that call-up, and I’m not so sure about that myself.

But Curtis will likely end up in the big leagues at some point, and is likely a fourth outfielder somewhere…just maybe not necessarily with the Yankees.  He’s above average defensively and has very good range, especially in left field.  He’s a good contact hitter, with average speed and power, and hustles all the time.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com