Archive for July 20th, 2010

Catching Up With Phil Coke

July 20, 2010

About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to chat with former Trenton Thunder pitcher Phil Coke for a few minutes.  Even though he spent only about four months at Waterfront Park, he will go down as one of the most memorable characters in the history of the Thunder.

Coke was one of the most engaging personalities ever to set foot in the home clubhouse in Trenton, having lengthy chats with reporters about a wide variety of topics; baseball and otherwise.

But my most memorable moment of covering Phil came on July 25th, 2008.  Coke had just finished his first inning of his start against the Portland Sea Dogs.  I was down in the dugout taking some pictures and videos, and there seemed to be some commotion around Coke prior to the second inning.  Sure enough, Coke had vanished and was out of the game, and I was in full reporter mode.

I had to update the blog with what I’d just seen, but I also had a few more pictures to take, so this entailed making a few more passes from the press box to the field and vice versa.  In the middle of all this, reports began to surface that not only Coke, but George Kontos were both involved in a deal that would send them to the Pirates.

In one of those trips to the field, I bumped into Coke…I asked him if he knew what was going on, and the usually talkative lefty was only able to say that he had no idea.  Back in the press box, Kontos was reading about being dealt on my laptop.  Suffice it to say, it was an awkward day.

After the game, Coke was cleaning out his locker and saying goodbye to teammates.  As myself and another reporter — I believe it was Dave McDonough, actually — were interviewing him about the events of the day, I directed Coke’s attention to the ESPN broadcast on the television above his locker.  There went his name, scrolling past on the bottom line, saying he’d been traded.

Thing is, he wasn’t traded.  Neither was Kontos.  Coke and Kontos were switched out with Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens, and both pitchers remained property of the Yankees.  Coke, he went on to win a World Series ring as a reliever with New York last year.  And Kontos is hoping to make a quick recovery from Tommy John surgery and make his big league debut in pinstripes.

Coke was dealt to the Tigers this off-season, and I caught up with him in the visitor’s dugout at Citi Field.  Here’s how the conversation went…

Mike Ashmore: Can you take me through how you found out you were going to be a Detroit Tiger?

Phil Coke: “I got a phone call from Michael Dunn with what the original deal was going to be, with him and I coming over here in the Granderson trade.  Then I called my agent and I was like, ‘What’s going on here?  This doesn’t sound right, can you find out?’  He made a couple phone calls, and he was told that it was only a 50 percent possibility and nothing was even remotely close to a deal.  Then, like 9:35 in the morning the next day, I get a phone call saying I got traded.  It was quick.”

Ashmore: Was it difficult to leave the Yankees?  You came up with them your whole career, and you seemed to be a guy who really enjoyed the whole Yankee experience, so to speak.

Coke: “Yeah, it was difficult for me.  I grew up there, so of course, you grow up somewhere, that’s home.  I felt like maybe I messed up or something and I was no longer in their plans.  Then again, I was told at the same time that the way it worked out for them was they wanted a guy who had a long-term contract and wasn’t going to cost them a lot of money, they were trying to downsize a little.  The Tigers asked for me by name and wanted me to come here.”

Ashmore: So how special was it to get to be a part of the World Series while you were with the Yankees…and not only to be a part of it, but to win it and be a key part of getting there?

Coke: “It was perfect, man.  I mean, I didn’t do a whole lot in the series in my own personal opinion, I could have done better.  It was just that finally at that moment, when I came in to pitch, it was just like the magnitude of the situation finally hit me.  I didn’t make bad pitches.  Utley is a great hitter, and he got me.  And then Ibanez, I don’t know how he hit the ball, it was six inches off the plate about chest high, so I don’t know how he pulled 460 (feet) to right.  That was more or less a pitch to get him to swing at, but I didn’t think he was going to get barrel on it, especially not being that far away.  But he barrelled it up.  So I gave up two home runs in the World Series.  I don’t know if that’s what I’m known for, but what that did, is it allowed us to go home and win it there, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.”

Ashmore: Do you feel like there’s less pressure being in Detroit than there was in New York?  I know there’s still a good amount of media there and the fanbase is strong as well, but it’s hard to compare anywhere else to being with the Yankees…

Coke: “I was always more apt to be worried about doing my job on a daily basis and not being worried about everyone else is thinking and so on and so forth.  Now, being with the Tigers, it’s less of a media circus, but at the same time, you’ve still got to go out there and do your job.  We’re trying to accomplish the same thing that me and Johnny were a part of last year and go to the World Series.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Well, This Can’t Be Any Worse Than That Last Headline…Free Food!

July 20, 2010

(PR) (Trenton, NJ) – On Sunday, August 15 at 5:05 pm as the Trenton Thunder face the Harrisburg Senators, Hot Dogs and Hamburgers will be free of charge for all fans in attendence as the team hosts Hot Dogs vs. Hamburgers, a new promotion to determine “Baseball Concession Supremacy”.

Tickets are $11 (adult pavilion level) or $12 (club level) and availability is limited for this popular offer, so fans are encouraged to reserve their seats in advance. Season Ticket holders and groups who have already booked their outing are automatically included in this promotion. All new groups of 20 or more people can reserve seats at $11 per ticket. Tickets may be purchased online at trentonthunder.com or by calling 609-394-3300.

“We are looking forward to having fun with this battle of ballpark meats and to giving free hot dogs and burgers to a stadium full of hungry Thunder fans!” said Thunder General Manager Will Smith.

This offer includes All-You-Can-Eat Hot Dogs, Hamburgers and Cheeseburgers and will only be available at the 1st Base and 3rd Base Main Food Court locations. Fans will be limited to three items per trip to the food court.

The Thunder return action at Waterfront Park on Monday, July 26 to face the New Britain Rock Cats in a three game series. Tickets are available by calling 609-394-3300 or online at trentonthunder.com.

Squirrels Do Not Find Nuts, Get Shutout In Richmond

July 20, 2010

(PR) Richmond, VA- One day after being shut out, Trenton took out their frustrations on Richmond, and shut down the Flying Squirrels 6-0 on Monday night at The Diamond. With the win, the Thunder improve to 57-38 on the year.

After mustering one hit over the first two innings, the Thunder struck first with runs in the third and fourth innings. In the third, Edwar Gonzalez was hit by a pitch by RHP Michael Main and then stole second base. After Main walked Justin Snyder, Austin Romine hit a fly ball to center field, allowing Gonzalez to tag from third and score the first run of the game. In the fourth, Matt Cusick reached on a throwing error by Main and scored on an RBI triple by Jack Rye to give Trenton a 2-0 lead.

The Thunder came away with two more runs in the fifth inning, as Main (0-2) committed another throwing error, allowing Justin Christian to reach base. Snyder followed with a bunt hit to put runners at first and second base with no outs. However, Christian was picked off between second and third with Romine at bat. Three pitches later, Romine knocked an RBI double to left field, scoring Snyder to put the Thunder on top 3-0. A single by Brandon Laird moved Romine to third base, and a sacrifice fly by Daniel Brewer brought in Romine for a 4-0 Trenton lead.

RHP Lance Pendleton (8-4) held Richmond to one hit, walked four and struck out five in six innings of work. Richmond threatened by loading the bases in both the seventh and eighth innings, but George Kontos was able to dance around trouble both times, getting the potential tying runs at the plate to end both threats.

Trenton plated more insurance in the ninth, as Gonzalez scored on a sacrifice fly by Christian, and Marcos Vechionacci came in from third on a wild pitch by Andrew Sisco.

Trenton and Richmond play the middle game of their three game series on Tuesday night starting at 7:05 PM. RHP Hector Noesi will start the game for the Thunder, while Richmond gives the ball to RHP Felix Romero. Catch all the action on 107.7 FM The Bronc or at http://www.trentonthunder.com