Archive for March, 2010

Robnett Signs In Atlantic League

March 31, 2010

Richie Robnett hasn’t gone too far, Thunder fans.  The former Athletics and Cubs farmhand has signed a deal with the Atlantic League’s Camden Riversharks. 

In 46 games, Robnett hit .269 with two home runs and 12 RBI.  I kind of figured this might be his next career move.  His pedigree and offensive skills may get him picked up in time, but he really needs a place to hone his defense, and this may be the place for him.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT


March 31, 2010

(PR) Trenton, NJ) Fans of the Trenton Thunder, the Double A affiliate of the New York Yankees, are encouraged to come to the ballpark hungry this season. The team announced many new additions to the Waterfront Park concession offerings on Wednesday including a new partnership with Newtown, Pennsylvania’s The Green Parrot Restaurant and Pub. All new items are highlighted in bold below.

The Green Parrot will have a satellite location on the third base concourse offering eight-inch personal pizzas that are freshly baked in a new wood-fired oven, Baby Back Ribs, BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches and BBQ Chicken Sandwiches. The stand will also offer Nachos made with The Green Parrot’s famous chili. The Green Parrot Restaurant and Pub is located at 240 North Sycamore Street in Newtown, PA.

New “Strike Zone” Kids Snack locations above sections E and N will give fans an express food option. The stands, with the distinctive Dietz & Watson awnings, will offer items portioned and priced for kids including Kids Hot Dogs, Grilled Cheese and Peanut Butter and Jelly Uncrustable sandwiches as well as a variety of chip, cookie and candy selections. Additional new items added to these stands will include Hershey’s Regular and Chocolate milk and the soon-to-be-famous Frito Pie, which consists of Fritos brand corn chips served with your choice of Chili, Cheese or both. For an additional charge, sour cream and diced tomatoes will be available to top off the order.

Waterfront Park fixture, “The Grille”, is located along the first base concourse and will once again be home to Chickie’s and Pete’s and their world famous Crab Fries. Chickie’s and Pete’s has added Mozzarella Sticks to their menu this season and The Grille will continue to be home to Italian Sausages, Pork Roll Sandwiches, Cheese Steaks, California Burgers, Bratwursts and more.

Snyder’s of Hanover has joined the Thunder family as an official snack provider at Waterfront Park. Snyder’s will offer a variety of products including Sourdough Special Pretzels, Ripple Chips and Pretzel Thins to be served in our Luxury Suites, Yankee Club and Picnic Areas. Yellow Corn Nacho Tortillas, Buttered Popcorn, Mini Pretzels, Honey Mustard and Onion Nibblers, and a variety of potato chip products including Krunchers! Kettle cooked chips which will be available at most of the concourse food and beverage locations.

The Main Food Courts, identical on both the first and third base concourses, will continue to feature traditional ballpark fare including Dietz & Watson Thunder Dogs, French Fries, our fan favorite Chicken Tender & Fry Basket and more. Funnel Cakes are also available at the end of each food court. The Main Food Courts are also home to the Healthy Choices Menu that features Roast Beef, Grilled Chicken Breast and a Gardenburger served with lettuce, tomato and complementary bag of Ripple Chips which boast to have 40% less fat than regular potato chips, 0 trans fat and no preservatives. To compliment these entrees, the Main Food Courts also offer a variety of Salads, Fruit Cups and Diet Decaffeinated Iced Tea from Rosenberger’s Dairy.

On the beverage side, the Thunder are pleased to serve Stewart’s famous Root Beer at the main food courts this season in addition to the full line up of Coca Cola sodas and Rosenberger’s Ice Teas and juices. New beers available at the ballpark this year are Blue Moon and Leinenkugel Summer Ale. Sunflower seeds will be available this year at all beer locations for the first time.

Waterfront Park favorites, Mikey’s Ice Cream, Squeeze Play Lemonade and Dippin’ Dots will once again be available on the main concourse. SUPERPRETZEL Soft Pretzels again be available at locations throughout the concourse and SUPERPRETZEL Braided Pretzels will be vended in the seating bowl.

Fans attending games on the Luxury Suite level will enjoy a revised catering menu and a brand new “Pub Menu” that features a variety of appetizer and entrée items available in individual serving portions. Also, patrons will be able to order individual liquor drinks at our newly expanded Kiosk bar location in the elevator lobby. And of course, fans enjoying the view from our Luxury Suites will once again be able to take the Thunder Burger Challenge, in which they have a half hour to eat chef John Caiola’s monster creation featuring pork roll stuffed grilled cheese sandwiches serving as the buns for 16 ounces of beef with all the fixings. The $15 burger is free if eaten in the allotted 30 minutes.

The Thunder recently announced a series of Daily Promotions for the 2010 season. Three of these promotions are food related: Kids Eat Free Mondays in which all children under age 12 will receive a voucher at the entrances for a free hot dog, bag of chips and a fountain soda, $1 Hot Dog Tuesdays (Tuesday night games only) and Thirsty Thursdays™ presented by Budweiser that will feature $2 Bud and Bud Light bottles from the time gates open until the middle of the 5th Inning (Thursday night games only).

Trenton begins its 2010 season by hosting the Erie SeaWolves on Thursday, April 8 at 7:05 PM. The New York Yankees World Series Trophy will be on display on the stadium concourse during the game and the first 2,000 fans will receive a magnetic schedule thanks to the Verizon Yellow Pages. It is also the first of the new “Daily Promotions” and is a Thirsty Thursday™ presented by Budweiser.

2009 Thunder A-Z: Justin Snyder

March 31, 2010

Before 2009: Snyder was drafted — with much fanfare, I may add — out of the University of San Diego in the 21st round by the Yankees in 2007.  He quickly signed and was just as quickly shipped off to Short Season-A Staten Island, where he tore up NYPL pitchers to the tune of a .335 batting average in 73 games, adding five home runs, 40 RBI and ten steals along the way.  Always known for his versatility, Snyder played 13 games at second base, 23 at third base, 32 at shortstop and 11 in the outfield that year.

The undersized spark plug advanced to Low-A Charleston in 2008, and performed as well as their everyday second baseman, hitting .288 in a whopping 504 at-bats.  Although he hit seven home runs and 59 RBI, he had three less steals than the previous year despite nearly double the plate appearances and understandably couldn’t come near matching his impressive 58/50 K:BB ratio from the year before as well.

2009: Having just turned 23 years old, Snyder was somewhat surprisingly assigned to start the season in Double-A Trenton, skipping High-A Tampa entirely.  It was an experiment that did not go well…in my opinion, that’s for several reasons.

Snyder struggled all season long, hitting just .195 with three home runs, 29 RBI and one stolen base in 94 games.  Thing is, there was no reason to keep Snyder there all season.  He was just 23 years old, as I said, and sending him back down to Tampa hardly would have retarded his progress…if anything, it may have hastened it.  But while the organization was quick to send down those who were underperforming (Smith, Fortenberry) and keep them there, they seemed unwilling to admit a mistake in skipping Snyder a level, although…admittedly, they had no reason to initially think he couldn’t have handled it based on his performance in 2007 and 2008.

Furthermore, the organization seemed to get away from their plan of having Snyder master one position, as he did in 2008.  Oddly, they felt it was more beneficial for him to serve as a super utility guy — playing all over the place for the Thunder — but getting less playing time and less experience in any one spot in Double-A than having him refine his game in High-A.  Didn’t understand that the whole season last year, and I still don’t.

After 2009: Snyder will undoubtedly return to Double-A Trenton in 2010, most likely as a middle infielder…but really, who knows after last season.  Last year was a huge and significant bump in the road for a player the Yankees liked very much when they drafted him.  Although he’s 24 years old, it’s hard to envision a promotion to Scranton for Snyder unless he shows significant improvement from his 2009 season.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

2009 Thunder A-Z: Kevin Smith

March 31, 2010

Before 2009: Smith was picked in the 39th round of the 2006 draft by the New York Yankees.  I’m not even sure there are bonuses given at that stage.  In any event, the 26-year-old has given the organization a nice return on their selection.  Assigned to Short Season-A Staten Island in 2006, Smith hit .277 with two home runs and 21 RBI in his first 43 professional games, primarily playing first base.

Things got even better in 2007, as Smith posted a career-best OPS of .856 while with Low-A Charleston.  All in all, he hit .297 with a career high eight home runs and 52 RBI in 83 games, and started to put his name on the map for Yankees fans who, after all, didn’t know too much about him given his non-descript name and draft position.

Smith advanced another level in 2008, spending the year in High-A Tampa.  He hit well again, posting a .290 batting average with five home runs and 62 RBI in a career high 124 games, stealing a career best seven bases as well.

2009: Smith stayed on his path of moving up a level a season last year, starting his 2009 campaign in Double-A Trenton.  While he ultimately didn’t play that poorly, he didn’t excel as he had in previous years, and was was sent back down to Tampa in mid-June after the emergence of Jorge Vazquez, despite hitting .247 in 48 Double-A games.

Smith responded well to the move, hitting .317 in 63 games with Tampa, and earning another look with Trenton in 2010.

After 2009: Smith is one of the more overlooked position players in the organization, but age is not working in his favor…it’s similar to what happened to Seth Fortenberry, but Smith played well when he got sent down, Fortenberry did not.

So Smith has another chance this season, and will most likely be Trenton’s first baseman for some stretch of time in 2010.  If he can show that his two month stay last year was a bit of an aberration from his usual strong hitting, he could see his first time at Triple-A this season.

Perhaps the better comparison is Chris Malec…Smith is actually a .289 career hitter, but both he and Malec never seemed to be discussed as some of the better bats in the organization.  Now, Malec’s out.  What will Smith’s fate be?

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

All You Can Eat With Bobby Baseball…

March 30, 2010

Straight from the Trenton Thunder, it’s Bobby Baseball…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

2009 Thunder A-Z: Josh Schmidt

March 29, 2010

Before 2009: Selected in the 15th round of the 2005 draft by the Yankees, Schmidt was sent to Short Season-A Staten Island and was an absolute revelation, allowing just one earned run in 33 innings of work.  All in all, he went 5-1 with an 0.27 ERA and 13 saves in 26 appearances, walking eight batters and striking out 47, all while holding NYPL batters to a miniscule .128 batting average.

The Yankees sent Schmidt past Low-A and directly to High-A Tampa in 2006, and oddly, his career seemed to stall out a bit.  Schmidt would, for all intents and purposes, spend the next three years of his career at High-A Tampa.  He started the 2008 season with Double-A Trenton and made just eight appearances during the first month of the season before being sent back down.

2009: You could make a strong argument that Schmidt was the Thunder’s best pitcher in 2009.  He made a career high 46 appearances last year, going 8-4 with a 1.61 ERA in 83.2 innings of work, also a career high.  Schmitty also struck out a career high 96 batters, all while making five spot starts as well, a role that he’d never before been in during his pro career.

Schmidt’s unorthodox delivery and slow curveball kept Eastern League hitters off-balance all season, to the tune of a .196 average.  He allowed just two home runs all season.

After 2009: Schmidt was a pleasure to cover.  Always honest, always willing to talk, and sometimes with a self-deprecating sense of humor, which is something anyone who knows me knows I can appreciate.  The longest conversations I had all year were with him, and they were often the best.  Just a good guy.

It’s somewhat of a shame that he didn’t get an opportunity to at least get a taste of Triple-A last year.  It seems he’s just another Yankees minor league who’s been overlooked.  How is it that a now 27-year-old pitcher with a 24-13 career record, 2.48 career ERA and .206 career batting average against who’s stayed healthy for the five years he’s been in the organization not at least gotten a sniff of Triple-A?

That all changes this year.  Right?  Barring something ridiculous, Schmidt will open the season in Triple-A…and for someone who doesn’t blow people away with his fastball and relies heavily on location and offspeed stuff, that will be the true test.  Schmidt is R.J. Swindle, but better.  Swindle made the big leagues…will Schmidt?

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

2009 Thunder A-Z: Francisco Santana

March 29, 2010

Before 2009: Santana was signed as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic by the Yankees.  For the first three years of his career, the Yankees kept him in the Dominican Summer League, where he seemed to improve each season.  In 2008, Santana established career highs in batting average (.307), home runs (6), RBI (38), walks (27), stolen bases (19) and OPS (.881).  That seemed to punch his ticket to the United States.

2009: Santana made his debut on U.S. soil with Short Season-A Staten Island, and spent all but five games of his 2009 season there.  In 40 games, he hit .236 with just one home run and 10 RBI, but was a somewhat surprising call-up to Double-A Trenton in the middle of August.  Used more for his legs than his bat at Waterfront Park, Santana scored two runs while going 0-for-7 in five games.

After 2009: Don’t let the brief Double-A stay fool you, Santana is unlikely to come back to Trenton for a little while.  My best guess would have him at Low-A Charleston for at least some part of this season.  While he proved himself in the DSL, he’s yet to put up a good season in the USA, and he’ll have to put up some numbers in 2010 to have a legitimate chance to move through the system.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

2009 Thunder A-Z: Amauri Sanit

March 29, 2010

Before 2009: Not to avoid doing any work or anything, but I probably can’t do a better job of Sanit’s “Before 2009” than I already have in this feature

2009: Sanit started his 2009 season in High-A Tampa, and four scoreless appearances later, he was up in Double-A.  While he fought through brief stints of inconsistency, Sanit was good for the most part.  Tony Franklin used Sanit as his closer while he had him, and Sanit was 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA and 10 saves in 21 appearances, including finishing 19 games.

Eastern League batters were hitting just .186 off of the Cuban hurler, so the next step was to promote him to Triple-A Scranton, which the Yankees did during the first week of July.  In 19 games in Scranton, Sanit struggled at times, going 0-3 with a 4.13 ERA.

After 2009: Sanit has a legitimate chance to wear Yankees pinstripes this season.  He was impressive this spring before being sent back to minor league camp, and his age, stuff and makeup would seem to make this a season where he could make the jump.  Not on the 40-man roster, the 30-year-old will need to force the Yankees hand if he wants to be pitching in the Bronx before 2010 ends.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Horne Out For The Season

March 29, 2010

Chad Jennings has the story.  Alan Horne will be visiting Dr. James Andrews to have surgery on a rotator cuff that, according to Jennings, has an 80 percent tear.

This is another tough break in a series of tough breaks for the 2007 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, who would also likely start on any reporter’s Good Guy Team as well.  Horne will miss the 2010 season, and who knows what his future holds.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Know Your Radio Broadcasters, Part One…

March 26, 2010

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the newest Trenton Thunder radio broadcasters, Jay Burnham and Justin Shackil.  Here’s how Part One of the conversation went…

Mike Ashmore: Well guys, how about we start off with giving me a little bit of background info on your careers…

Jay Burnham: “I graduated from Elon University and this will be my eighth season in minor league baseball.  I spent the past two seasons in Asheville, North Carolina and three years before that in independent baseball.  I’ve only been here a few weeks.  We’re lo0king forward to Opening Day.  We’ve got the World Series trophy that’s going to be here, so it’s kind of taking things to a different level for myself and probably Justin as well.”

Justin  Shackil: “I was born and raised in Northern New Jersey, in Wayne.  I attended Fordham University and graduated in May.  Before coming here, I was working for the school’s radio station and calling play-by-play for Fordham sports, and I was recently on the radio broadcast team for the United States Tennis Open in September, which was a blast.  I got to see some world-class athletes do their thing, which was phenomenal and a great experience.  Previous baseball experience, in 2008, I spent the summer in Sauget, Illinois, which is just outside St. Louis, with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League.  That was a blast, great experience.  Now I’m here, working in the Yankees organization with a team I grew up watching and loving.  I’m very excited.”

Mike Ashmore: So you guys both have indy ball experience, which is how I got my start as most people know…how do you guys think your experiences there will impact what you do here?

Burnham: “I know a lot of people don’t think of indy ball as a highly touted circuit or whatever.  Justin has experience with Major League Baseball, and this will be the third different organization I’ve been with; the Rockies, the Giants and now the Yankees.  No matter who you’re comparing this to, it’s a different level.  There’s only a few franchises you can throw out there; the Yankees, the Red Sox, Manchest United…that really have that kind of appeal.  I think it’s a different level no matter where you’re coming from.  The scrutiny is there.  I spent two years in Asheville and never had one sit-down talk with one reporter whatsoever, and now I’ve done four in a week.  You can just see the difference.”

Shackil: “I think the structure aspect of working here was something that I was anticipating.  When you work in indy ball, especially in a league like the Frontier League where there’s an age limit, every day you would have players driving cross country to come and try out on a little field in Illinois, that’s a great experience in itself.  But coming here, like Jay said, he’s obviously had prior experience with it…and I was fortunate enough to do some work with XM Radio with the Baseball Channel, so I was fortunate enough to be around big league clubhouses, so you get an idea of the whole structure there.  It’s something that comes with the territory, and I think it’s a neat part of the job.”

Mike Ashmore: I’m sure there were a lot of jobs that were open this season, what made you guys want to come to the Thunder?

Shackil: “This was my first year coming out of college, and you have a bunch of ideas floating around your head.  Before you graduate, you think you know exactly what you want to do, then once you graduate, you have no idea what you want to do.  That’s where I was at professionally.  I called the U.S. Open, and after that, I was just kind of job searching.  After that, I honestly didn’t apply for a single baseball job.  I didn’t know if I wanted to do this.  Steve Rudenstein came out and contacted me and asked me if I wanted to interview.  For someone from the Trenton Thunder, who are very well respected in the minors, for someone from there to reach out to you and say we might be interested in you, that was a huge compliment.  After that, I interviewed and fell in love with it.  It’s New Jersey, where I grew up, and it’s the Yankees, so it’s pretty much home for me.”

Burnham: “Lucky as lucky can be.  It goes without saying, but this is one of the premier jobs in our industry.  Not just because it’s the Yankees and being a big market, but because of Tom McCarthy and Andy Freed.  It’s one of the premier spots in minor league baseball.  I’m very fortunate.”

Mike Ashmore: Justin, for you…you’ve been in big league clubhouses and minor league clubhouses before, and I’ve done some big league games myself as well.  The access in the big leagues is what it is, but you can’t get the kind of time with guys up there that you can down here.  Having experienced that, I guess how appreciative are you of the kinds of opportunities that this experience provides in comparison?

Shackil: “You have to take advantage of it.  I think if you’re at this level, the players aren’t too well-known, still.  You might have a blue-chipper coming through the system, but generally everyone’s pretty down to Earth, and they’ll give you the time of day.  The cool thing about that, is you can build relationships with coaches and players, and who knows…five, 10, 15 years down the line, you’ll meet up with them again.  That’s one of the cooler things about the industry.  It’s just one of those things where you won’t see them for 10 years, and once you see them, you pick up right where you left off.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT