— Please pick up a print copy of The Trentonian for my early story on Ramiro Pena’s arrival, Corban Joseph being named to play in the Arizona Fall League and Jay Burnham being selected as the Ballpark Digest Broadcaster of the Year. More on all of that in a bit…
I think my game story can only be found online…deadlines were a little earlier than usual today.
Also, another big thanks to Trentonian sports editor Matthew Osborne for believing in me to cover a handful of games for him this season. Again, I go back to my fan days with this team where I’d show up to the ballpark around 3 PM to try to sneak in and watch batting practice and pester guys for autographs, and I’d pick up a copy of the Trentonian or…gasp…The Times to occupy myself. To have my byline in a Trenton paper on the big beat in town means a lot.
— Sappy stuff aside, the Thunder lost. For those of you keeping score at home, my first advice to you would be to get out more. But secondly, that marks seven straight such outcomes for Trenton, who now sits at 64-70. Their loss tonight wiped out any chance of them somehow pulling an Eastern Division title out of their rear ends, and with New Britain’s win, their tragic number now sits at three for being eliminated from playoff contention entirely. Spoiler alert, this squad ain’t makin’ the playoffs.
— The first inning was, in a way, a bit of a microcosm for the last two months. New Hampshire put a run on the board in the top of the frame with a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly, but Trenton’s catcher, Austin Romine, seemed to answer back with one of his own. Except not so much. The umpires ruled that Austin Krum had left third base early, which resulted instead in an inning-ending double play. According to Tony Franklin, Krum did not feel he left early. Also according to Franklin, however, third base coach Justin Pope said that he had left early, which was why Franklin didn’t argue the call.
— Franklin did argue another call in the fourth inning, after Austin Romine was punched out on a called third strike. First base umpire Jon Saphire appeared to signal that Franklin shouldn’t come out and argue it, but he did anyway and was pretty quickly asked to leave the game.
“I think Jon got the call wrong, plain and simple,” said Franklin, matter of factly.
” That’s the only reason I complain about most of the things, because I think they got it wrong. I make it a point not to yell at them and raise my voice on too many things, because I feel like when I do contest the call, I feel like I’m right about it and I feel like I should be able to do that. However, the reason I was ejected is I was out there to argue balls and strikes as they call it. In my opinion, I wasn’t arguing, I was just stating the fact that I thought he got the call wrong. That’s a little smart-alecky, I know, but the fact is you aren’t able to argue balls and strikes, and that’s why I was ejected.”
I asked Franklin if part of the ejection — he had to know he was going to get run — was in part to try to rally his team.
“I knew I was going. I felt it was a good time to go,” he said.
“But simply because I felt he got the call wrong. I told Jon, I said, ‘Jon, you make calls like this and you expect me not to come out here? You expect me not to say anything to you? You expect everything to be OK?’ It’s not OK, and I just wanted to voice my opinion to that.”
Franklin sat in his office for the final five innings of the game, listening to Jay Burnham and Hank Fuerst on the radio. But we’ll get to those two in a bit…
— Ramiro Pena, you may remember him from such films as “Trenton Thunder: 2005,” and the subsequent three sequels, was a surprise guest at the ol’ ballyard today. Never had any hint he was coming, and I picked up a lineup at around 2:50 PM and boom, there he is listed as the leadoff hitter and shortstop.
Pena seemed a little rusty on his first defensive chance of sorts in the first inning, allowing a fairly good throw from Romine to sail past him into center field…but other than that, it wasn’t too bad of a night. He struck out looking in the first and grounded into a 6-4-3 DP in the third, but saved his evening with a nice RBI single to left field that scored the second of the Thunder’s two runs on the night. He was, as was the plan, replaced by Yadil “The Real Deal” Mujica as a pinch runner…Mujica subsequently took over at shortstop as well.
Pena was remarkably candid in his comments outside of the clubhouse after his exit, saying he didn’t feel like he was ready to return to the big leagues yet, and that he might need the remaining seven games he could, in theory, play with the Thunder before their season ends on September 5th to get completely ready for a return. Pena is still on track to play seven innings tomorrow.
He is fully recovered from an emergency appendectomy, which he underwent on his 26th birthday.
“At the beginning, I felt like I had stomach problems,” Pena said. “I went to sleep not thinking it was that bad, just maybe I don’t know, some gas or bad food or something. I woke up at 4 AM or something like that with the pain and said this isn’t good. I tried to get better, but I couldn’t, and I had to go to the hospital.”
— Kevin Howard is a name that some Thunder fans may remember. 2006 was my first year on the beat, so I certainly do…and it also marked Howard’s only year with the club. The story seemed to be perfect…he got the big hit against his old team — his two run single in the third turned out to be the game-winning hit — and I was going to get the good ol’ “I had some great memories here, so it sure was nice to get that big hit against my old team” quote. Except, not so much…
“You know, it’s nice to do that any time this time of the season,” he told me.
“Wins are important, and every game is big for us. I’ve never won a championship in the minor leagues before, and we’re in a situation where we have a chance to do that. Any time you can help your team win at this point, it’s really nice.”
But, but, but…you played here!
“I’ve been with nine different organizations, so for me it’s not really a big deal,” Howard said.
“At this point, it’s just about really winning as a team. I don’t really care about who it’s against or anything like that.”
— Corban Joseph was the only player from the Trenton Thunder selected to play in the Arizona Fall League. He, David Phelps, Rob Segedin and Ronnier Mustelier will be members of the Phoenix Desert Dogs. You can see some of Joseph’s comments in the paper, but one extra nugget I wanted to share was something I’ve noticed during the season. I don’t want to give him the Zoolander label, and I was a little hesitant bringing this up with him…but he mentioned he wanted to work on his range a little bit in the AFL, and I brought up that I felt his range was much better to his left than to his right. He’s made some amazing plays this season, but usually it’s when he goes to his left…so I asked him about that, and thought his response was honest and interesting.
“I’d say that (my range) has it’s days,” he said.
“One day, I feel pretty good going to my right and one day, I feel pretty good going to my left. But, for the most part, it’s mainly to my left. I can see where you’re coming from there. But you think about my past, I played shortstop my whole life until I got drafted, so all the balls I was going after were to my left. So it’s a process and it’s something that I’ve got to get a little bit better going to my right as well as to my left.”
— That little crack at The Times was obviously a joke…they have a great paper as well, of course, and John Nalbone’s story on Tony Franklin’s plans for 2012 are more evidence of that. Nice work by my buddy on that one.
— Ballpark Digest named Thunder director of broadcasting Jay Burnham their 2011 Broadcaster of the Year. I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t listen to games on the radio, but I can tell you that I’ve got to know Jay over the past two years and am proud to consider him a friend. He’s a great dude and deserving of any honors that are bestowed upon him. Both he and Hank Fuerst have been a lot of fun to work with this season, and both make my job a hell of a lot easier. Two talented kids who I think you’ll see in the show one day…well, hear not see…but you get the idea.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com