It feels a bit odd writing something like this from the New York Mets press box. But without having covered both the Somerset Patriots and Trenton Thunder over the first nine years of my career, opportunities like this wouldn’t be possible.
It is somewhat ironic, however, that I write this in a press box about three hours before the Mets and Cubs play. Perhaps it’s a sign of things coming full circle for me. The very first big league game I ever went to was on August 12, 1990…the teams were, you guessed it, the Mets and the Cubs. I was seven years old, and despite the fact that even back then, Shea Stadium was an absolute pit, I didn’t care. I was at a big league game for the very first time, and for reasons I don’t remember, I’d be getting to walk around the warning track as part of some sort of parade. I remember jumping as high as I could to see if I could rob a home run over the top of the fence. I remember getting shuffled through some sort of meet and greet where I got to meet the immortal Keith Miller, future convicted murderer Julio Machado and some coach who for 21 years has remained knuckle deep in his right arm pit in photographic form.
But I remember the feeling of being at a big league game and how much I loved it, and how big everything seemed. How perfect everything felt.
So as I sit here in a big league press box for the 50th time in my nine year career — covering Mets vs. Cubs, no less — it all seems so fitting. But…enough sappy stuff, let’s focus on the people I need to thank after this year’s Trenton Thunder season.
First off, the readers. Thank you. Whether you realize it or not, you let me into your homes every day (check the locks!) by choosing to read this very blog, and for that I thank you. It is so incredibly humbling when I hear that people read my stuff every day, and that for some people, I’m the first writer they read. It seems silly to me, all this fuss over me…I’m still just the awkward 16-year-old kid who would go to games at Waterfront Park with my dad back when baseball was nothing but fun, and never a possibility for a career. So, while I do pride myself in keeping things light in the Waterfront Park press box, I can assure you that I take great pride in having made it my home away from home for the past eight seasons (moreso the past four, with the blog having me at the ballpark for the majority of the games).
To the players and coaches, I am again so appreciative of your willingness to deal with my stupid questions over the course of a season. I didn’t have a single problem with anyone this season, and it was always nice and appreciated to be able to walk into that clubhouse and feel welcomed.
And to Tony Franklin…it’s always somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to this time of year. I think Tony has more than shown he’s deserving of a job better than the one he’s currently in…but selfishly, I’d like to see him come back next season as well. There are points in the season where it seems like I’ve spent more time with him than I have my own family, and I can tell you that the best parts of my day in Trenton are when the recorders are off and it’s just he and I and whoever else may be in the room just talking about baseball or life or whatever. Tony is one of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever met — in sports or otherwise — and I’ll miss our chats.
Of course, there’s Thunder front office staff. I am a huge pain in the ass. I know this. They know this. But they never treat me like one. The first person who needs to get thanked every season is Bill Cook, who is tremendous at what he does and has played a much larger role than he likely receives credit for in the continued success of the team. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I bug this guy on a daily basis. And not once has he suggested I jump off the “Trenton Makes” bridge. Another genuinely nice, kindhearted man who I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with and getting to call a friend. Next on the very long food chain of people who get stuck dealing with me at the ballpark on a day-to-day basis is the radio crew. Mainly Hank Fuerst and Jay Burnham, but I can’t leave out Ben Youngerman either.
I really enjoyed working with Hank and Jay this season…those are two guys whose booth I’d basically crash every day, knocking on the door to see what was going on or how they were doing. Such a talented group, and as fun to work with as they are skilled. Two really good dudes, hope to hang out with them this off-season. As for Ben, he’s a real talented kid too. I don’t know what the hell he’s going to do down the road, but only because he has so many options.
For the remainder of the staff, I genuinely enjoy talking with each of you whenever I get a chance…I know most of the people in the Thunder front office, and they’ve all been so welcoming in making me feel like a part of their family for the past eight seasons as well. From Will Smith all the way down to the interns this season, thank you all so much.
And to the amazing people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet thanks to this job…thanks to all of you for your support.
As for my plans, I’d like to come back next season, which is as definitive as I’ve been in one of these things over the past few seasons. I am freelance, I am a free agent, and I am not tied down to the Democrat or The Trentonian by any means, so I will be aggressively pursuing opportunities for a full-time position, as I should. But should nothing arise…well, when nothing arises, I’d love to come back for one more year. Hopefully by the end of the day, this blog will have surpassed a million hits since I started it up in 2008…and for a Double-A blog, I’d say that’s pretty impressive. I feel like I’m doing something right and that I’ve got a good thing going here, and that eventually it will pay off.
I plan on posting some alumni features and hopefully some content from the MLB Postseason in the Thunder off-season. I won’t just throw up content for the sake of having something on here…but there will be stuff to keep you guys entertained until the first pitch thrown in Mercer County in 2012.
Until then, you guys can always, always, always get a hold of me via e-mail at mashmore98 AT gmail.com or on Twitter at @mashmore98. And if you see me out at a game, don’t be afraid to say hello.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com