Archive for December, 2010

Thunder Announce Front Office Promotions

December 21, 2010

(PR) TRENTON, N.J. –The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, have announced several promotions and additions to the front office staff in preparation for the 2011 season that will begin on April 7 on the road at the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
“The Thunder are lucky to have quality people on staff that work hard to be promoted,” said Thunder general manager, Will Smith. “The people that work here make up the best staff in professional baseball, and their tireless efforts make us all proud to be part of the Thunder organization.”

The promotions begin with Bordentown, N.J., native Ryan Crammer being elevated from director of stadium operations to vice president of operations. Crammer, who is entering his eightth season with the Thunder oversees the daily operation of Waterfront Park and the internship program.

C.J. Johnson has been promoted from director of business development to vice president of business development. Johnson, a native of Maryland, joined the Thunder last season, and oversees all aspects of ticket package, group and suite sales.

In the Groups Sales Department, Krysten Hardifer and Chad Heidel have been promoted to group sales managers. Both were formerly group sales account executives, and will now assist the VP of business development in developing a group sales business plan and structuring a strong group sales staff. They will sell various group and hospitality options to businesses and community groups. Both Hardifer, from Lawrencville, N.J., and Heidel, from Gettysburg, Pa., are entering their third year with the team.

Former Thunder game-day employee, intern and most recently an account executive, T.J. Jahn has taken on a new role as a group sales account executive. The College of New Jersey graduate will sell various group and hospitality options to businesses and community groups.

The Thunder promoted several front office members in the Ticket Sales Department. Texas native Erin Leigh has been elevated to ticket sales manager. Erin is entering her fourth year with the Thunder after serving as a ticket operations assistant and a ticket sales account executive. She will assist the VP of business development in developing a ticket package business plan and structuring a strong ticket sales staff, while actively selling new group and ticket packages.

Anna Rosenblatt and Bobby Picardo, both formerly account representatives, are now ticket sales account executives, and will actively sell new group and ticket packages. Rosenblatt, who is entering her third season with the Thunder, also oversees our popular birthday party packages. Picardo, a Thunder intern in 2009, will coordinate our very successful Baseball Camp & High School Baseball programs.

Rounding out the front office personnel moves in the Ticket Office is Deana Ditri, who was rehired for a second season. Ditri, from suburban Philadelphia, handles the processing and printing of all ticket orders and assists the director of ticket operations, Matt Pentima.

The Thunder are pleased to welcome group sales representative, Nate Schneider to the staff. Nate joins the Thunder after spending last season working for the Reading Phillies. The native of Pottsville, Pa., will sell various group and hospitality options to businesses and community groups.

Also joining the Group Sales Department is group sales coordinator, Beth Ann Clyde. Clyde, who hails from Somerset, N.J., will assist the Group Sales Department in processing group orders and providing unsurpassed customer service.

The final new addition to the Ticket Sales staff is business development executive, Bill Hezel. The Bushkill, Pa., native will focus on selling season tickets, ticket packages and group outings to local businesses.

The 2011 Trenton Thunder season will begin on Thu, April 7 at New Hampshire with the home opener set for Thursday, April 14 versus Harrisburg. Season Tickets, Group Tickets, Pic-A-Plans and Mini Plans are all on sale now at

The Trenton Thunder, Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, are located in Trenton, N.J., and play in the 12-team Eastern League. The Thunder have drawn more than 7 million fans in 17 years, and have won the three major awards that Minor League Baseball teams can win; the Johnson Trophy for the “Nation’s Best Franchise” (2005), the Larry MacPhail Trophy for Outstanding Club Promotion (2003), and the Bob Frietas Award for Long-Term Success (1998). The team has given back more than $4 million worth of goods, services and monetary donations to the community through Trenton Thunder Charities, under the Grand Slam We Care Foundation umbrella. The Thunder can be found online at,, on by searching “AATrentonThunder”.

Franklin’s Return Made Official

December 15, 2010

(PR) (Trenton, NJ)- The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, announced on Wednesday that Tony Franklin will be back as Manager for his fifth consecutive season in Trenton.

Franklin will be joined in the dugout once again by pitching coach and former Major Leaguer Tommy Phelps. Julius Matos and Justin Pope will both make a return to Trenton in different organizational roles. Matos, who was a coach for Trenton in 2008 will serve as the Thunder Hitting Coach while former Trenton pitcher Pope will make his Double-A coaching debut. Athletic Trainer Tim Lentych will return for his fourth season and strength coach Kaz Manabe joins the Thunder after spending 2010 with Charleston (Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees).

“We are thrilled to welcome Tony and his staff back to Trenton,” Thunder General Manager Will Smith said. “Since Tony arrived in Trenton four years ago, he has made many positive contributions on the field and in the community.”

Franklin guided the Thunder to back-to-back Eastern League Championships in 2007 and 2008. Last season under Franklin the Thunder finished with the the best record in the Eastern League (83-59) and another Eastern League Championship Series appearance.

The 2008 Eastern League Championship was Franklin’s third title as manager. In 1993, he led South Bend (Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) to the Midwest League Championship. Prior to his time in Trenton, Franklin spent most of the last 11 years as the Minor League Infield Instructor for the San Diego Padres. His managerial career began with the White Sox organization as the manager for Geneva (NY) of the New York-Penn League in 1982.

Franklin spent four seasons in Geneva, making the playoffs in 1985. After one season with Wytheville (Appalachian League), he guided the White Sox affiliate in the Florida State League, the Sarasota White Sox, to a playoff appearance in 1989. Franklin spent two years as the skipper of the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League, including 81 wins in 1991 and a berth in the Championship Series.
While in Birmingham, Franklin was the manager of former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson. Before Trenton, his last managerial stint came with Las Vegas in 2000. Franklin filled in for Duane Espy and guided the Stars to a 43-50 mark.

Franklin was honored by San Diego in 1997 with the Jack Krol Award for Outstanding Minor League Instruction in the Padres’ organization. He and his wife, Haiba, have three children Derrick, Wayne and Shelby.

Tommy Phelps will embark on his third season as the pitching coach for the Thunder. Phelps pitched for the Florida Marlins in 2003 and 2004. During 2003, he went 3-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 27 games (seven starts) for Florida. He was part of a Marlins team that won the World Series over the Yankees. He pitched in 29 games for Milwaukee in 2005. He went 7-4 with a 4.45 ERA in 2006 with Columbus (Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). Phelps was originally an 8th round pick by Montreal in the 1992 draft.

Julius Matos makes a return to Trenton as the 2011 Thunder hitting coach, replacing Frank Menechino. Matos made his coaching debut in 2008 with the Thunder and has spent the past two seasons as the hitting coach for the Tampa Yankees (Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). Originally selected by the Indians in the 16th round of the 1994 draft, Matos played parts of 13 seasons for the Cleveland, Arizona, San Diego, Kansas City, Toronto and Montreral organizations. Matos played 104 games at the major league level with the Padres (2002) and Royals (2003) and batted a combined .244 with four home runs and four doubles.

Justin Pope begins his first season as a coach with Trenton after spending 2010 in the same capacity with the Staten Island Yankees (Short Season-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). Pope played parts of three seasons with Trenton (’05-’07) and currently holds the franchise record in career saves (58). A first-round draft pick by St. Louis in 2001, Pope played for eight seasons in the minor leagues and was acquired by the Yankees in 2003 as part of a trade that sent Sterling Hitchcock to St. Louis.

Tim Lentych returns to Trenton for his fourth season as the Athletic Trainer. The 2009 Eastern League Athletic Trainer of the Year spent the prior three seasons as the trainer for the Charleston RiverDogs (Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). In 2004, he began his stint with the Yankees organization as the trainer for the Staten Island Yankees. Lentych received his B.S. from Ball State University in 2002, and his M.S. from the University of Tennessee in 2004. He has completed internships in athletic training with the Baltimore Orioles in 2001, and the Tennessee Smokies (former Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals) in 2003.

Kaz Manabe joins the Thunder as the Strength and Conditioning Coach, after spending the previous two season with Charleston. A native of Japan, Manabe graduated from Hiroshima University and earned his Master degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Northridge.

Franklin’s Return Headlines 2011 Coaching Staff

December 15, 2010

The 2011 Thunder coaching staff will look like this…

Manager: Tony Franklin
Pitching Coach: Tommy Phelps
Hitting Coach: Julius Matos
Coach: Justin Pope
Trainer: Tim Lentych
Strength Coach: Kaz Manabe

Congratulations are in order for Frank Menechino, who has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton as their hitting coach. 

I have a phone call out to Franklin, who will return for his fifth season as Thunder manager, and will post his comments if and when I hear back from him.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

POLL: Which Alumni Feature Do You Want?

December 14, 2010

In addition to the upcoming Minor League Memories series, I’ve got some alumni stories I can post here as well.  Take a minute and vote on the one you want to see first.  There’s a pretty wide variety of players and even a manager from the Thunder’s history for you to choose from.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Nalbone: Franklin Back With Yankees, But Where?

December 14, 2010

Veteran Thunder beat writer John Nalbone has got the story over at his blog, BareBones.  Nalbone spoke to Mark Newman, who confirms that Thunder manager Tony Franklin will be back with the organization for a fifth season.  But what isn’t clear, however, is just where he’ll be.

Newman was non-committal when asked if Franklin would be back as Trenton’s manager, leaving open the possibility that Franklin, who would be in his fifth year as Thunder skipper, could fill another position within the organization. 

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Duncan’s Next Last Chance Coming With Colorado

December 14, 2010

You remember Eric Duncan.  I know you do.

Duncan was the Yankees first round draft pick in 2003, and spent the first seven seasons of his pro career in the Yankees organization.  Two of those were with the Thunder, where he hit 29 home runs and posted 90 RBI in 183 games…the second season in Double-A came after he was rushed to Triple-A in 2006 and was sent back down after a rough start.

But he began his 2007 season in Triple-A.  And then he stayed in Triple-A, and stayed, and stayed…and after an abysmal 2009 season with Scranton where he hit just .204 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 95 games, Duncan was allowed to go elsewhere.

He signed with the Atlanta Braves, and spent his entire 2010 season in…Double-A.  He played fairly well for Mississippi, hitting .267 with eight home runs and 64 RBI in 119 games.  His .719 OPS was his best since 2006, and his 174 total bases were his most since 2005.

But Duncan again became a minor league free agent, and it seems he’ll be taking his talents to Colorado for 2011. 

Additionally, old friend…ahem, Brian Bruney has inked a deal with the Chicago White Sox, while actual good guy Omir Santos has agreed to terms with the Detroit Tigers.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Catching Up (Rule 5: Kontos, Pendleton Taken)

December 9, 2010

Well, the Rule 5 Draft has come and gone, and that means it’s about that time for me to get back into baseball mode.  So be on the lookout for some more content as the off-season quickly turns into spring training…

George Kontos was selected by the San Diego Padres in the Rule 5 Draft, and Lance Pendleton was taken by the Houston Astros.  Additionally, the Yankees took Angels farmhand P Robert Fish and Red Sox P Daniel Turpen.

Of the two Yankee pitchers selected by other teams, Kontos is considered to be the bigger prospect. Kontos had Tommy John surgery midway through the 2009 season just a few starts into his first Triple-A call-up.

He came back early last year and was in great shape — a continuation of having lost some weight between the 2008 and 2009 seasons — but was inconsistent at times despite good numbers in Trenton (0-2, 3.38, 17 GP, 32 IP, 11 BB/28 K).The Arizona Fall League was a continuation of Kontos’ inconsistency — which is certainly to be expected after coming off of a major arm surgery — as he went 1-2 with a 12.08 ERA in ten relief appearances.  He allowed runs in five of those appearances, including an eight runs in two thirds of an inning meltdown on November 8 while with the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

Off the field, Kontos is a great guy. Read this as evidence of that. Padres fans Googling him and finding the incident in Tampa should know that he isn’t that guy. I thoroughly enjoyed covering George (we’d often just talk with the recorder off about anything and everything outside of baseball) and think his arm and his attitude — he’s a confident guy — will take him far one day. I’m just not sure if he’s in a great position to stick with the Padres right now. Come Opening Day…I’m thinking you see him in Scranton.

At one point, Pendleton seemed to be a surefire big leaguer.  He was an early round draft pick by the Yankees out of Rice (4th round/2005) and his career got off a strong start in Staten Island later that year.  However, he then did what most Rice pitchers did and his arm gave out on him…he came back in 2007 after Tommy John surgery, but at 24 years old, he was already getting a little too older to be considered a prospect.

Now 27, Pendleton has had two really outstanding seasons — with Tampa in 2009 and Trenton in 2010 — and has put any injury concerns behind him.  With 263 strikeouts in 302 2/3 IP over the past two years, he can still finesse the ball past the opposition — he isn’t a power pitcher by any means — and is a very, very polished pitcher for a guy who has just six games of Triple-A experience.

A Kingwood, Texas native, getting selected by the Astros is a great, great scenario for Pendleton.  One of the nicest “gee whiz, aw shucks” kinda guys you’ll ever meet — I’ve never heard the man curse once — you can’t help but root for him to get an opportunity at the big league level with Houston…which is something that was very unlikely to happen in the Bronx.

Robert Fish is an Angels lefty who was last with the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League after splitting last year between Single-A and Double-A.  The 6-foot-3, 225 pounder was 0-2 with a 10.45 ERA in 11 games in the AFL, and similarly struggled during the regular season, going 5-5 with a 6.79 ERA in 49 relief appearances in the Angels system. 

Daniel Turpen was with the Peoria Javelinas of the AFL this off-season and was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and one save in ten appearances.  A 6-foot-4, 230 pound righty, the 24-year-old Oregon native posted a 7-6 mark with a 4.30 ERA in 49 relief outings between Single-A and Double-A in the Red Sox system last year.  While with Portland, he faced Trenton twice — both in Maine — and allowed one run on three hits over three innings of work, striking out five and walking one.

Also, it’s worth noting that C P.J. Pilittere has signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Nice to see a good guy finally get out of baseball jail and hopefully get a real opportunity elsewhere.  C Jose Gil has re-signed with the Yankees, and will likely start next year in Double-A Trenton.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT