Archive for October, 2011

Eastern League Holding Charity Auction

October 31, 2011

(EL PR) The Eastern League is pleased to announce the league will be launching an online charity auction starting this Tuesday, November 1st at 1 p.m.  All proceeds from the auction will be donated to the relief efforts from the devastating flooding that took place in Binghamton, New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania earlier this fall.  To view the items being auctioned off or to place a bid on any of these items visit


The list of items that will be available when the auction starts on Tuesday afternoon are:

 • Game worn Akron Aeros Cory Burns jersey
• Autograph Pack featuring LaMarr Woodley of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins
• Derek Lee autographed baseball
• Jacob Turner autographed baseball
• Tyler Moore game worn autographed hat
• Paul Molitor autographed baseball
• 2011 Eastern League All-Star Game team autographed baseball set (Eastern Division baseball and Western Division baseball)
• Autographed Jose Iglesias Portland Sea Dogs jersey
• 2011 Reading Phillies Opening Day team autographed baseball
• Richmond Flying Squirrels Prize Pack (various giveaway items, a t-shirt and hat)
• Set of 2011 Trenton Thunder Bobblehead Dolls (Cano, Hughes, Pettitte home, Pettitte road, Jeter, Banuelos/Bettances, Pettitte statue)

New items will continue to be added to the auction through its completion in December so be sure to visit the site often to see what is available.  Some of the items that will be added along the way include:


• Derek Jeter authenticated autographed baseball
• Portland Sea Dogs honorary bat kid for a game
• Carlos Santana autographed bat
• Andrew McCutchen autographed bat

This is just a small sample of the items that will be added over the coming weeks so make sure to visit the site regularly and put a bid in for some these great collectibles while also helping out two Eastern League communities.

FUTURE THUNDER: Bichette, Jr. Ringing In Successful First Pro Season

October 20, 2011

GCL MVP, two championship rings...yeah, 19-year-old Dante Bichette, Jr. is off to an impressive start with the Yankees (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Dante Bichette, Jr. has been in the Yankees organization for just a few months now, and has already won a league MVP award and two championship rings.  Suffice it to say, the future seems quite bright for the personable 19-year-old, who was drafted in the first round (51st overall) by New York this year.

The next in a long line of “future Yankees third basemen,” Bichette may very well jump to the front of that line sooner than you think.  After posting a silly .335/.440/.507/.947 line with four home runs and 48 RBI in 52 games with the Bronx Bombers GCL affiliate and leading them to a championship, he was called up to Short Season-A Staten Island, where he appeared in two games and was shut down prior to their successful postseason. 

The son of well-known former big leaguer Dante Bichette, the Yankees farmhand will likely start his 2012 season in Low-A Charleston, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think he could be calling Waterfront Park home as soon as the following year.

But for now, his professional career is just starting out, and I was fortunate enough to catch up with Bichette prior to a Staten Island game in Brooklyn.  So, before he gets to the capital city, here’s an interview with the future Trenton Thunder third baseman.

Mike Ashmore: Getting selected by the Yankees in the first round, that must have been quite an experience…take me back to that day, what was that like for you?

Dante Bichette, Jr.: “I was sitting in my living room with all my family and my close friends, and we had a feeling it was going to be the Yankees.  It turned out to be the way that we wanted it to go.  It was the greatest feeling.  I was speechless for a while.”

Ashmore: You mentioned that you thought it might be the Yankees…had they been following you for a while in high school?

Bichette: “They were good at staying under the radar and not letting me know that they were there too much.  But towards the end, about a week before the draft, I knew that it was going to be either them or a couple teams.”

Ashmore: The numbers are impressive, certainly…but how would you describe your experience in the GCL this year?

Bichette: “Things were great.  I had a great start to my career, I think.  It was a great team to be with, with a great manager and coaches throughout the whole time there.  I loved it.  We ended up winning the whole thing, and I played well.  My hitting started off slow, and I worked with Gonzo (Former Thunder OF Edwar Gonzalez).  He’s the man.  He helped me with so much stuff.  Him and my dad, talking to my dad every night, that helped a lot.”

Ashmore: Was it a goal of yours to get to Staten Island at any point in the year or after the GCL season was done, or did that not really cross your mind?

Bichette: “You know, it’s not really a goal of mine to move anywhere.  I’m just going to play my game, and if they think I’m ready to go, then I’m ready to move.”

Ashmore: What was it like to win a championship in your first pro season?

Bichette: “Oh, it was great.  It was the greatest feeling that I’ve had on a baseball field ever.  Just the feeling of knowing that you’re the last one standing out there on the field, and all the hard work that the whole team put in…coming out on top is great.

Dante Bichette in 2004 (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Ashmore: You mentioned your dad, and I’m sure you’ve been asked 20,000 questions about him…but what kind of influence has he had on you and your career?

Bichette: “My dad and my mom, both of them, they are the greatest resources that I could ask for.  My mom helps me with the mental aspect and my dad, of course, with the physical and also the mental part of hitting.  Both of them just help me, and I couldn’t ask for anything more from them.”

Ashmore: People compare you to your dad all the time, I’m sure.  But I’d be curious to see your take on how you think you two compare as players…

Bichette: “We’re very similar.  The weaknesses that he had are the ones that I have, and the strengths…he could hit and I can hit.  That’s not a bad thing to have, I’ll take that any day.”

Ashmore: You’ve played third base coming up this season, is that kind of where you project yourself to end up long term?

Bichette: “I’m working real hard at being more agile and all that and playing a good third base.  If I keep progressing how I think I’ve been…the coaches don’t seem to mind putting me there, so as long as I keep working, I should be fine.

Ashmore: I haven’t seen you play yet, and the majority of the people who are going to read this probably haven’t either.  If someone asked you to describe yourself as a player to someone who hasn’t seen you play, how you would do it?

Bichette: “I’d say that I’m looking to learn, really.  I just started, so I’m still going to try to learn a lot.  I can hit a little bit and I think that’s good, but with the other stuff, I still have a lot to work on.”

Ashmore: Just in general, what’s the transition been like coming out of high school and going to pro ball?  That must have been a pretty big jump…

Bichette: “It was a big transition going to playing every day, and the better pitching and all that, a faster game.  But I was ready for it, and I was looking forward to it like three years before the draft.  I’m ready now.”

Ashmore: Is it difficult to stay patient in the minor leagues?  Obviously, like you said, you are just starting and you do want to learn, but you also want to progress as quickly as you can as well…

Bichette: “Not really.  I’m having a blast out here, and I love every single day getting up, especially now playing in front of a whole bunch of people in a fun atmosphere.  I’m loving it.  I’m as a patient as can be.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Your Entirely Sporadic And Unplanned AFL Update

October 18, 2011

You guys voted for the feature on Dante Bichette, Jr.  So, you can look forward to that on here at some point over the next two weeks.

In the meantime, here’s an update on the Yankees farmhands playing for the 4-8 Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, complete with a relatively unnecessary photo of David Phelps from 2010:

Corban Joseph: 8 GP, .212, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1 E
Ronnier Mustelier: 3 GP, .300, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K
Rob Segedin: 9 GP, .324, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K

Danny Burawa: 4 GP, 5.0 IP, 1-2, 5.40 ERA, 9 H, 2 BB, 3 K
Preston Claiborne: 4 GP, 4.0 IP, 0-0, 2.25 ERA, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 K
David Phelps: 2 GP, 6.0 IP, 0-2, 9.00 ERA, 8 H, 4 BB, 5 K
Chase Whitley: 4 GP, 6.0 IP, 0-0, 1.50 ERA, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Champagne And Coke

October 8, 2011
Phil Coke celebrates Detroit’s ALDS win in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium

BRONX, N.Y. — Of those in the visiting clubhouse Thursday night, few knew better than Phil Coke how difficult it is to come into Yankee Stadium and beat the Bronx Bombers in their house. 

Before being dealt to Detroit prior to the 2010 season in the Curtis Granderson deal, Coke was a member of the 2009 Yankees World Series team, getting to celebrate earning his first ring in the spacious confines of the home clubhouse.  The scene after Game 5 of the ALDS was a little different, as Coke was popping bottles of non-alcoholic sparkling wine with the rest of his teammates in the visiting clubhouse after a shocking 3-2 win over his old team.

“This is unbelievable,” said Coke in an exclusive clubhouse interview with the Democrat.

“It’s one thing to do it as a Yankee, it’s another to be able to come in and have an opportunity to be able to win in their house and that’s what we did.  They’re a class organization, they have no reason to hang their head.  They’re a great organization and I love all the guys on the team, they’re great guys.”

Coke, who exchanged greetings with many Yankee players before games in this series, including Austin Romine during BP before Game 2, is one of just three “true” Thunder alumni left playing in the postseason, all on the Tigers.  Coke, Austin Jackson and Omir Santos make up a trio of former Trenton players who advanced to the ALCS, despite many counting Detroit out even after they got out to a 2-1 series lead.

“You can’t count anybody out in playoff baseball, and we just showed why,” said Coke, who was called up to the big leagues before being able to pitch in the postseason for the Thunder in 2008.

Octavio Dotel and Lance Berkman, both of whom wore Thunder colors on rehab assignments, are the only two remaining former Thunder players in the postseason.  Inbetween splashing teammates and…ahem, reporters in a very wet and wild clubhouse after Game 5, Coke said he isn’t look too far ahead to possibly facing them in his second World Series, instead focusing on the task at hand in the upcoming ALCS against defending American League champion-Texas.

“We’re enjoying this at the moment,” said Coke.  “But then it’s all about the next day and preparing for the next round with the next team.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

POLL: What Story Should Be Next?

October 6, 2011

AFL: Joseph, Whitley Get Desert Dogs Off To 2-0 Start

October 5, 2011

2011 Thunder players 2B Corban Joseph and RP Chase Whitley are playing in the Arizona Fall League

Corban Joseph and Chase Whitley are among the players who have the Phoenix Desert Dogs off to a 2-0 start in Arizona Fall League play.

Joseph went 1-for-4 with a three-run homer, two runs scored and a walk in his AFL debut against Mesa yesterday.

Whitley made his first appearance today, and escaped damage despite allowing two hits, a walk and a hit batsman in an inning and a third.  He also struck out two.

Both players were on the Trenton Thunder this season, with Joseph staying in Double-A the whole season and Whitley having joined the team following a mid-season promotion from High-A Tampa.

Ronnier Mustelier (2 games; 3-for-7, 1 RBI), Rob Segedin (1 game; 1-for-4, 2 runs scored) and Danny Burawa (1 appearance; 1-0, 5.40 ERA, 1 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) are the other Yankee farmhands to have played so far for the Desert Dogs.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Jackson Remembers Thunder Playoff Runs

October 4, 2011

Austin Jackson was named Eastern League Playoff MVP in 2008

BRONX, N.Y. — Austin Jackson is no stranger to making a name for himself in the postseason. 

One of the hottest prospects in the New York Yankees farm system at the time, the center fielder wowed the Trenton Thunder faithful with his defense in both the 2007 and 2008 postseason that played large roles in his team winning back-to-back Eastern League championships.

Now a member of the Detroit Tigers, Jackson’s in the Major League playoffs for the first time in his career, playing against his former organization in the American League Division Series.  But he said that the series carries no extra meaning for him based on the opponent.

“It’s just exciting to be in the postseason, really,” said Jackson in an exclusive post-Game 2 chat with the Democrat.

“It’s my first time, and I’m just pumped up for it.  I’m glad we got a chance to get in here and get a win.”

Jackson seemingly single-handedly led Trenton to several postseason wins during his two playoff runs there, with several game-saving throws from center in the 2007 ELDS vs. Portland and his incredible home run-robbing catches in the 2008 ELCS against Akron coming to mind.

While it’s ridiculous to think there’s much of a comparison between playing in the Double-A playoffs and those at the big league level, the now-24-year-old says those games did help him know what to expect for his first October experience.

“I think it definitely prepared you and gave you a little taste of the playoffs, even though it’s not to that magnitude,” he said.

“At the same time, it is the playoffs.  Just the atmosphere, it’s good to get that feeling.  Here, there’s bigger ballparks, the games mean more now.  It’s just at that level that I always wanted to get to, and I’m having fun and I’m enjoying it.”

Jackson, who has struggled so far in the ALDS, was understandably excited to come out of Yankee Stadium with a 1-1 series split after dropping Game 1.

“It’s tough to come in here — in anybody’s house, really — and get wins at this time of the season,” Jackson said.

“To split going back into Detroit and have a little momentum going there, it’s definitely going to help us out.”

Detroit defeated the Yankees, 5-4, in Game 3, and Jackson is now one win away from advancing to his first career ALCS.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT

Coke Hoping For A+ Effort In ALDS

October 2, 2011

Phil Coke went 9-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 23 games for Trenton in 2008

BRONX, N.Y. — “B plus.”  It’s a phrase that I’ve heard from Phil Coke ever since doing this report card on the Thunder midway through the 2008 season.

The jokes are good natured, as that’s the kind of guy Coke is.  But when I asked the now-Detroit Tigers reliever how he’d progressed since he last pitched in Trenton, he couldn’t resist one more opportunity at a jab.

“I think I’m above a B plus,” Coke said with a smile.  “Just saying.”

Perhaps one of the biggest personalities ever to set foot in the Trenton Thunder clubhouse, Coke did eventually talk about his development since his stay at Waterfront Park in 2008.

“The ability to repeat my delivery has been very key for me,” he said.

“When I was here in ’09, I wasn’t able to go about it the way I was hoping to.  There was kind of a touchy, feel around thing to see what’s cool and what’s not cool thing.  I’ve been able to figure myself out and do my own routine to do what I need to do to be prepared every day.”

Coke spent seven seasons in the Yankees organization — including being a member of the 2009 World Series team — before being dealt to Detroit as part of the three-team deal that shipped Ian Kennedy to Arizona and netted the Yankees Curtis Granderson.

Speaking after the Tigers Game 1 loss in the ALDS, Coke said things aren’t quite the same now that he’s in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.

“Of course it’s a little different on the other end of the spectrum,” he said.  “But at the same time, we’re all out there trying to do a job, so that’s all I’m really focused on doing.  If my number’s called, it doesn’t matter what color the uniform is or who you’re playing.  You’ve got to go out there and do your job.”

The Tigers as a whole need to do their collective jobs and do them well if they hope to dig out of their 1-0 series deficit.  Coke, who warmed up yesterday but did not pitch, says that Friday night’s rainout didn’t affect his team negatively and that he believes his team can turn things around for the rest of the series.

“We don’t quit.  We don’t roll over for anybody,” he said.

“We need to come out ready to go, that’s pretty much all you can do.  Put this behind you and go out there (today).  That’s the beautiful thing about baseball, there’s always another day.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT