Cooper Troopers

James Cooper now plays for the Newark Bears (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

That headline sucks.  James Cooper does not.

But after five seasons in the Yankees organization, in which he topped out at Double-A Trenton and was a .256 career hitter, the 26-year-old was released late in spring training after spending the majority of his camp in the Scranton work group.  Cooper had to scramble for a job and ultimately ended up in the independent Atlantic League with the storied Newark Bears franchise.

After struggling to find playing time early in the season, Cooper has fought his way into the lineup and has flourished, hitting .349 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 28 games.  I recently sat down with the former Thunder outfielder…

Mike Ashmore: So tell me about how you ended up with Newark…

James Cooper: “I got released the last week of spring training.  My agent is good buddies with Rock (Bears manager Tim Raines), so he called him and they made that happen the first day.  Actually, a few hours after is when I signed the contract and came over here.”

Ashmore: Was it a little surprising to get released by the Yankees?

Cooper: “I was a little bit.  I thought coming back from the injury last year, I honestly thought I was going to start in Double-A this year or be on the Double-A roster to start the season.  But I wasn’t getting a lot of at-bats in spring training, so I kind of figured something might be up.  I tried not to worry about that and leave everything in God’s hands.”

Ashmore: Has there been an adjustment to come from affiliated ball to independent ball in any sense?

Cooper: “Baseball is baseball.  It’s a lot more relaxed over here in the sense that a lot of guys aren’t really worried about what the guys up in the front office are worried about.  A lot of guys are trying to get out of here, but the only way to get out of here is to try to put up numbers.  You do what you have to do and not really worry about what everybody else is thinking about.”

Ashmore: So how have things been going for you in Newark this season?

Cooper: “Things here have been going better.  I finally started to play more, so I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable.  I’m recognizing pitches offensively and just trying to square balls up.  Defensively, I’m just trying to make every play that I can possibly make.”

Ashmore: Overall, what did you think of your experience in the Yankees organization?

Cooper: “I had fun with the Yankees.  I wish I didn’t get injured as much as I did, but everything happens for a reason.  I met a lot of good guys over there, some that are going to be lifelong friends.  I don’t really have anything negative to say about the organization.  I feel like for the time that I was healthy, I feel like I had a good shot.  And it’s still not over.  I’m finally healthy, and I’m trying to put up numbers here and help the team win some ballgames, we’ve been in a little funk lately.  I’ve just got to keep working hard and see what happens.”

Ashmore: Safe to say you enjoyed it in Trenton, too…

Cooper: “Yeah, I had fun in Trenton with my two years there.  I helped the team win a championship.  I just try to do whatever I can do to help the team win wherever I’m at.  Whether it’s this league or affiliated.  Wherever I’m at.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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