Archive for September, 2011

Thank You, The Year Four Edition

September 10, 2011

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 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

Pitching Machines

September 9, 2011

Aspire to Greatness: Training to Be a Baseball Player

If you or someone you know aspires to the greatness of many major and minor league all-stars over the years, they’ll need to train hard and have just a bit of luck (OK, they’ll probably need bucket loads full of luck). Sure, genetics and natural skills can make training much easier for some, but even someone who is perfectly built for the game of baseball will still need to put in years of intensive physical training to become one of the best. The tips provided in this article can’t make everyone into a baseball player, but if someone has the chops to get there as well as the innate talent, then these tips may help push that young one over the edge over time.

Keep Swinging

Rote memorization is often criticized in schools for requiring kids to remember flat statistics and data, but to which there is no significant knowledge gain. Rote batting practice, however, can improve someone’s skills, especially if this is a lacking area. Standing in front of a pitching machine in a batting cage, a rookie can practice his swings until technique is drilled in, until hand-eye coordination improves, and until he can better judge the speed of the approaching ball. All of these skill sets are critical to success in the game of baseball, so mastering all of these at a batting cage can be a big help (especially if you don’t have someone who can train with you every day).

Play with Others

Unfortunately for the aspiring pro, baseball pitching machines haven’t quite mastered artificial intelligence yet. Until they do, a player will have to rely on others for practice during team play. Playing with others provides a player with strategic advantages, as correct coordination on the field and effective interaction with other players makes for great fields and excellent teammates. Baseball can’t be a one-man show, so anyone who can work with a team well boosts his chances of being able to actually play on a team someday.

Don’t Hurt Yourself

Injuries can sideline a player for weeks, months, or even years at a time. While you shouldn’t simply avoid taking any risks while you’re training, you’ll want to avoid activities that could be immensely detrimental to your performance. Any activity that focuses hardcore on the use of your arms (particularly your pitching arm if you’re training to throw) should be avoided if they put you at a highly increased risk of injury.

FUTURE THUNDER: Staten Island Yankees Photos

September 6, 2011

Zach Arneson

Dante Bichette, Jr.

Bichette, Jr.

Bichette, Jr.

Cito Culver


Evan DeLuca

Benjamin Gamel

Angelo Gumbs

Dustin Hobbs



Will Oliver



Isaias Tejada

Phil Wetherell



Mason Williams


Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

FUTURE THUNDER: Staten Island Yankees Video

September 5, 2011










Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Thunder Turn Triple Play In Season Ending Win

September 5, 2011

(PR) (New Britain, CT) – Austin Krum knocked a two-run triple in the top of the eleventh inning to give the Trenton Thunder (68-73) a 5-3 win over the New Britain Rock Cats (72-70) in the finale of the 2011 regular season. In the finale of the five-game, season-ending set, Steve Garrison also hurled seven strong innings without allowing an earned run. Behind Garrison on Monday, the Thunder also completed a rare 5-4-3 triple play.

The Thunder scored a run in the top of the first inning for the fourth time in five games in the series, plating one run in Monday’s first frame. With two outs and a runner at second base, Zoilo Almonte lined a single into right field to give the Thunder an early lead. Trenton added one more run on another two-out single by Corban Joseph in the top of the second inning.

After Trenton scored a big insurance run in the top of the eighth inning on an RBI-double by Jose Gil, the Rock Cats score a pair of runs to tie the score 3-3. But, after two scoreless frames between the two teams, Austin Krum’s clutch triple in the top of the eleventh gave the Thunder a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Krum came to the plate with no outs and runners at first and second base and roped a triple down the right field line.

Wilkins Arias came on for the save in the bottom of the eleventh inning, and the Thunder won the 2011 finale 5-3 over the Rock Cats. New Britain, who was eliminated from playoff contention earlier due to a Reading Phillies’ win, needed a Reading loss and a win over Trenton on Labor Day to force a one-game playoff for the Eastern Division’s Wild Card spot on Monday.

The Thunder will not be in action again until early April in 2012 when the team kicks off the season with a six-game homestand against New Hampshire and Portland. Stay tuned to for all of the exciting offseason opportunities that the Trenton Thunder will be a part of at or away from Waterfront Park. From everyone at the Trenton Thunder, a big thank you goes out to all of our loyal fans that support us each and every baseball season!

Same Old Story In New Britain

September 4, 2011

(PR) (New Britain, CT) – Trenton Thunder (67-73) pitchers allowed a season-high 19 hits and the New Britain Rock Cats (72-69) picked-up an important 12-9 victory on Sunday to stay alive in the Eastern Division play race. Damon Sublett drove in three runs and Corban Joseph smacked his fifth homerun of the season, but the Thunder could not overcome a six-run sixth inning by the Rock Cats. New Britain now stands just one-half game behind the Reading Phillies, who are in action Sunday night in Binghamton, in the Eastern Division.


For the third time in four games in the series, the Thunder scored three times in the top of the first inning. On Sunday afternoon, the Thunder accomplished the feat all with two outs. With runners at first and second, Melky Mesa knocked a bloop single into centerfield to put the Thunder on the scoreboard first. Damon Sublett then roped a double down the line in right field to clear the bases, and the Thunder led 3-0 after the end of the top of the first.


The Rock Cats rallied to score five unanswered runs to take a 5-3 lead, but the Thunder answered back with two runs in the top of the sixth inning using a few familiar faces. Melky Mesa drove in his second run of the afternoon with an RBI-infield single, and Damon Sublett laced an RBI-single to right field to tie the score 5-5.


However, the Rock Cats broke the 5-5 tie with six runs off of Thunder reliever Pat Venditte in the bottom of the sixth inning. New Britain knocked seven hits in the frame that saw 11 hitters come to the plate against the switch-pitcher. The six-run frame proved to be too much for the Thunder to overcome in the end as the Rock Cats held on for a much-needed win to stay alive in the Eastern League Eastern Division’s playoff race.


The Thunder will bring their memorable 2011 season to an end on Labor Day with a 1:35 PM contest with the Rock Cats from New Britain Stadium. Trenton will send LHP Steve Garrison (4-8, 6.55) to the mound, while the Rock Cats will give the pearl to LHP Spencer Steedley (4-5, 4.78). All of the action can be heard on 91.3 WTSR-FM, WBCB 1490-AM and online at The SBLI Pre-Game Show with Hank Fuerst begins at 1:20 PM on Sunday afternoon.      

Montero Collects First MLB Hit In Yankees Win

September 3, 2011

BRONX, N.Y. — If Jesus Montero is somehow ever able to live up to the unfathomable amount of hype around him, today could turn out to be more than just a 6-4 New York Yankees victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the third at-bat of just his second big league game and first at Yankee Stadium after a long awaited promotion from Triple-A Scranton, the 21-year-old laced a single to left field off of Ricky Romero in an otherwise uneventful sixth inning.  What seemed like a routine play to the untrained eye will actually go down in the books as Montero’s first Major League hit. 

The ball was eventually thrown into the dugout, and it currently sits on the top of the Venezuelan-born catcher’s locker, already authenticated with a small Major League Baseball hologram.  The ball, Montero says, will be going to his mother, who was at the game.  She will then give it to Montero’s father, who was watching from home in Venezuela.

“It means a lot to me and my family,” said Montero of getting the baseball.

“It’s for my dad.  Many, many years ago, I told him that he was going to see me one day on TV.  And he saw me on TV a few days ago and was crying.  It’s going to be a big, big present for him.”

Montero told me after the game that, given the expectations that have been placed on him, it was a relief to get his first hit out of the way, albeit in just his second game.

“I was pretty excited, pretty happy to be on first base; not because of a walk or anything else, it was for a base hit,” said Montero, who was swarmed by reporters after the game.

“Thank God that I hit the ball well…I’m really happy.  Right in the moment, I was thinking about ‘Look at the signs, look at third base.'”

Although they’ve only been sharing the same uniform for the last three days, Montero’s new Yankees teammates seemed genuinely excited for him.  Count veteran outfielder Andruw Jones among them.

“It’s always special when guys get their first hit in the major leagues,” Jones told me.

“He’s something special.  He’s a good hitter, he’s always going to hit.  It’s more adjusting to the major leagues than anything for him.  They brought him here to see what he can do.  We were all excited for him, especially with winning the game.”

Montero, in an exclusive pre-game chat with the Democrat, said that while he’d obviously like to play in the postseason, he understands that it isn’t his decision and just wants to help the team win now any way he can.  He did, however, say that he’s hoping to get behind the plate for a few games before the season is over.

“They’re going to give me an opportunity, but I don’t know when,” Montero said.

“I’m going to try to do my best behind the plate and help my pitchers to win.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Marquez Masterful In New Britain

September 2, 2011

(PR) (New Britain, CT) – Jeff Marquez hurled eight, brilliant innings of one-hit baseball to lead the Trenton Thunder (66-71) to a 4-1 victory over the New Britain Rock Cats (70-68) on Friday night at New Britain Stadium. In game one of the five-game, season-ending series, Corban Joseph, Melky Mesa and Jose Gil also contributed with first-inning RBI-singles. Despite the win, the Thunder have been officially eliminated from playoff contention in 2011 because of a win by the Reading Phillies.

The Thunder jumped out of the gate early on Friday night against New Britain’s Pat Dean, who was making his Double-A debut for the Twins’ Affiliate. Austin Krum began the game with a double into the gap in left-centerfield and was immediately brought home one batter later on a Corban Joseph single to right field. Later in the inning, Melky Mesa and Jose Gil both knocked RBI-singles with two outs to complete a three-run, top of the first inning for Trenton.


The rest of Friday’s story belongs to Jeff Marquez, who put together a stellar outing in his second start against the Rock Cats in six days. The former Major League righty allowed just one hit, a leadoff homerun to Evan Bigley in the bottom of the fifth inning, in his eight frames, striking out seven. Other than the homerun, the Rock Cats never had a runner reach third base and left just one man on all night. Josh Schmidt came on for the save in a 4-1 game and spun two strikeouts and a groundout to clinch the win for the Thunder.


Eliminated from the playoffs, the Thunder will look to play the spoiler role during Saturday’s doubleheader in New Britain at 5:05 PM. Trenton will give the game one start to RHP Craig Heyer (10-8, 4.10) and send RHP Cory Arbiso (5-5, 4.98) to the mound in game two. New Britain will give the start to LHP Logan Darnell (1-1, 4.85) in game one. The Rock Cats have not named a starter in game two. All of the action can be heard on 91.3 WTSR-FM and online at The SBLI Pre-Game Show with Hank Fuerst begins at 4:50 PM on Saturday evening.

Game 136: Post-Game Notes

September 2, 2011

— Please check out my notebook and game story in The Trentonian…the notebook discusses Austin Romine’s potential call-up and the game story…uhhh, well…confirms said call-up and breaks down another bad second half loss at home for the Thunder.

— Something you won’t see in the paper is the lead to my running game story (only the “quoter” ran online or in print, which means that the version I send in after talking to players and the manager after the initial version which I have to send in immediately after the game).  I liked said lead.  As the season went on and continued to spiral downwards, I got snarkier and snarkier…and this is what would have run in the paper:


TRENTON — While the Trenton Thunder organization was busy giving away prizes to select lucky fans in attendance, their baseball team managed to give away an entire game.

On “Fan Appreciation Night,” the Thunder (65-71) gave the crowd more of the same sad second half song, losing 2-0 in their home finale to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in front of a packed house of 7,568.


Instead, with Romine heading up, I had to re-write things a little bit.  But, go read.  Enjoy.  Now it’s time for some notes.

— I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the Thunder found a new way to lose, but they certainly didn’t do much to put themselves in a position to win.  The first three innings pretty much dictated how the rest of the game was going to go.

— Shaeffer Hall had two outs in the top of the first, and gave up a single to Moises Sierra.  He then induced what seemed to be a routine inning-ending ground ball to shortstop Jose Pirela.  But no ground ball is routine for Pirela, it seems.  He made his 38th error…and that’s fine, it’s not like he isn’t trying.  It’s not like the guy wants to make errors.  But what made things different tonight was a lack of effort in getting to the ball after he booted it, which allowed Sierra to get to third base.

I’ll get to what happened after that in a minute, but Tony Franklin took notice of Pirela’s lackadaisical play and promptly removed him from the game after the first inning had ended.  Much of what he said can be found in the paper, but…

“It’s not something I enjoy doing, and it’s not something they want to have happen to them,” Franklin said. 

“But it does happen, and I think it was a pretty good time to do it.  The fact is, I don’t think he went about his business the way he’s capable of doing.  I know he’s a much better player than that.”

— The Pirela play wouldn’t have been that bad if not for what transpired next.  Travis d’Arnaud and Sierra combined for a double steal of second base and home, respectively, that put the Fisher Cats up, 1-0.  While it was very difficult to see whether Sierra was safe at the plate, it did seem as though home plate umpire Andy Dudones made the call before Sierra ever touched the plate.

“Of course, I felt that we had him.  I felt that he slid around the plate, but Andy told me he got his foot in,” Franklin said.

“I said, ‘Well, it’s kind of difficult to get your foot in if you’re sliding around the plate.’  We never see eye to eye on those calls.  It’s a difficult play to make for the catcher and the infielder, those are two tough throws.  I thought we made decent throws, we just didn’t get the call.”

— OK, so Trenton’s down a run early.  No big deal.  They had a chance in the second.  Damon Sublett and Yadil Mujica were walked by rehabber Dustin McGowan with two outs, which set up Jose Gil to drive in a run.  And Gil did his part, singling to left field…but Danny Perales fielded the ball cleanly and fired a seed to home plate that nailed Sublett at the plate after a nice tag by d’Arnaud.  There was some question as to whether third base coach Justin Pope should have sent Sublett or allowed Addison Maruszak an opportunity to hit with the bases loaded instead…Franklin, of course, did not have a problem with Pope sending his man.

“Absolutely not, I thought that was the proper thing to do,” he said.

“We’ve got two outs there.  The runners are off on the crack of the bat, and we’re in a really tight ballgame.  You make the guy throw him out.  I’ve gotten plenty of guys thrown out at home plate, as you guys well know.  Sometimes, it works out in our favor.  But I thought it was a decent play.  Perales made a heck of a throw, he came and got the ball well and I thought that made the whole play.  Popey came in and asked me what I thought about the play and I came in and told him it was perfect, because I would have sent him.”

— No big deal.  The Thunder had seven more innings to get on the scoreboard.  Why not the third?  Again, with two outs, they seemed to be poised to turn things around.  Corban Joseph, Romine and Rob Lyerly all reached base to set the stage for Melky Mesa.  He struck out.  That more or less did it for Trenton.  Shaeffer Hall did all you can really ask…kept his team in the game and went seven innings.  But he was the hard luck loser… 

— In the midst of the media chat time with Romine after the game, he was asked by John Nalbone and subsequently myself about the way things turned out for his now-former squad this season.

“I really couldn’t explain it,” he said.  “Even when we were good, we were hitting balls right at people.  I’m not trying to make excuses, we were bad a lot of the time.  Sometimes, that’s just baseball.  That’s all I can say about it.  It’s just baseball.”

I followed up John’s question by asking if he was surprised by the way things did ultimately play out for this team.

“I kind of was a little bit surprised, because there is a lot of talent on this team,” Romine said.

“It’s a young team, but I think it turned out a little bit different than I thought.  It’s still not over yet, you still don’t know what they can do.  This team can be up here one time and down there another time.  I don’t know, it’s a roller coaster team.” 

— Shaeffer Hall won the Thunder’s Pitcher of the Year Award, and Cory Arbiso won the Samuel J. Plumeri, Sr. Community Service Award.  I said this last year, I’ll say it again…not giving out the “Fan Favorite Award,” which had been a staple of the team since its inception in 1994, just because of a lack of sponsorship is weak.  I’m not as critical of the front office as some people perceive me to be…it actually sucked leaving there tonight knowing I won’t see many of my friends there until next season, if I return…but that was something that had run for 16 straight seasons.  It’s important to the fans.  Bring it back.

— I’ll have my “thank you” post up in a few days and will discuss 2012 plans then.  Spoiler alert: It’ll be overdramatic and reveal that I have no clue what the hell I’ll be up to in six months.  Seriously though, I will continue to update you on the team for the next few days, and will provide content from the big leagues starting on Saturday as well…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Romine Called Up To Triple-A Scranton…Finally

September 1, 2011

The day finally arrived for Austin Romine.  Really, today seemed like a tale of two days for him.

Word got out before the game that Romine was likely headed to Triple-A Scranton…which made it all the more surprising that he’d be playing to begin with tonight in Trenton.  But there he was, batting third and serving as the team’s designated hitter.

Romine, who was always gracious with reporters during the two seasons he was here, was a bit short in his answers before the game and seemed down.  I asked him about his reaction if I told him at the beginning of the season that we’d be having this conversation on September 1st about him still being here…

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t even really think about that,” he said.  “I’m just trying to have a good year here.”

After the game, however, after being serenaded by a round of applause from his teammates in the clubhouse, he was much more willing to talk about what had finally become a reality.  But at the same time, it was also a little bittersweet for him to leave a team he’d been with, for all intents and purposes, the last two seasons.

“I enjoyed playing with a lot of these guys on this ballclub,” Romine said.

“I’ve played with a lot of these guys for a long time, actually.  But I’m definitely looking forward to getting back with the guys I played with last year and getting back on track.”

The personable 22-year-old said that he hadn’t been made aware of any plans to possibly summon him to the Bronx following his stint in Scranton.

“Right now, I’ve got (five) games there, and we’ll go from there,” he said.

“I don’t know what their position is for the playoffs or anything like that.  They never say anything about (the big leagues).  Anything’s possible.  I didn’t think I was going to go to Scranton right now, and I’m going.”

Romine, who endured various injuries this season, said that he is physically fine to continue playing and hopes to get some time behind the plate over Scranton’s final five games.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT