TRENTON – The Thunder return for their final homestand beginning tonight, eight games featuring four with New Britain and four with New Hampshire.
Our favorite team is stumbling toward the finish a bit, but there were some marvelous moments as far as the 2011 campaign is concerned:
• First was the fact Tony Franklin remained in the Thunder manager’s office. He’s been an all-time favorite and a steady hand. Whether he comes back for 2012 is unknown, but, should he choose not to, he will be missed.
• Lefty Manny Banuelos was a pleasure to deal with. He was 4-5, 3.59 in 20 starts with the Thunder. He takes nothing for granted and knows he has a “gift.’’ Don’t be shocked if the Yankees give him a September call-up.
• Righty Dellin Betances, who was 4-6, 3.42 in 21 starts with the Thunder, was another guy the media enjoyed talking to. He made no excuses if he had a tough game. His recovery from surgery has been remarkable.
• Outfielder Ray Kruml, who hit .290 (131-for-452) and stole 37 bases before advancing to Triple-A Scranton, kept getting better and better as the season went on. He put himself on the radar, and with his speed, could wear Pinstripes in a year or two.
• Utility player Addison Maruszak, like many of his teammates, found Double-A was a big step from Single-A. A versatile sort who can play every position but pitch, he was always upbeat. Chances are he’ll be back in Trenton in 2012.
• Outfielder Melky Mesa is another fun guy to be around. He also struggled in his Double-A debut and should get a return trip in 2012. A potential five-tool player, he still is looking to harness all that talent.
• So what if righty Craig Heyer had a tough outing the other night. He’s pitched well, making 22 starts and is 10-7, 3.88. He proved to be dependable and able to adjust. Also another great guy to deal with in the clubhouse.
• Also at 10-7, with a 4.40 ERA in 22 starts, is Shaffer Hall. There were some bumps in the road, but the man has talent – as well as quite the Twitter following from the Midlands.
• Righty Ryan Pope, who is 0-1, 2.16 in 19 appearances with the Thunder, is battling back, He has someone special on his side now in his wife, Charlotte, who brightens up the ballpark with her smile when she is in attendance.
• And aren’t those loyal gals from Staten Island around for fun and baseball fellowship, given their favorite, outfielder Austin Krum, is finishing the 2011 season in Trenton.
• The atmosphere at the ballpark again was a lot of fun, a spring and summer gathering place for all of us. That is due to the work of the Thunder front-office people, who make Waterfront Park that friendly place. As many of you know, I further developed that appreciation through my work with another major Trenton sports operation.
• The two games Derek Jeter rehabbed, drawing crowds of over 9,000 and turning Waterfront Park into a big-time media gathering. Here again, the Thunder staff did its usual great job in handling both local and national media.
• There was never a dull moment with the talented folks I share the Waterfront press box with when gathering information for this piece on a weekly basis. What a composite of Minor League Baseball knowledge.
• What fans are the most fun to watch at Waterfront Park? Try the little guys, who grow up to be bigger guys over the last dozen years, sitting with us in Section 6.
So maybe our favorites stumbled in the second half of the season. Maybe a playoff berth will elude them. For all of us, Waterfront Park is part of our community and our lives.
Next March, under Florida sunshine, it will start all over again. What would we do without it in the spring and summer? I’m glad that’s not a factor.
SWB YANKEES ON THE ROAD IN 2012: One advantage players returning to Trenton in 2012 will have over their Triple-A counterparts is a home field.
A decision was made to have the SWB Yankees play the 2012 season on the road while a $40 million renovation is done to their ballpark, PNC Field, in Moosic, Pa. International League president Randy Mobley would like the team to stay “within the International League footprint.’’
The way it looks, and a final decision will be made in September, is the club’s home schedule could be split among Rochester, Buffalo, Allentown and other IL cities when the home team is traveling.
This corner would love to see a series or two in Waterfront Park. The ballpark houses a Yankees farm team. Most players are familiar with the excellent facilities. The ballpark has a third clubhouse the team could use and, chances are, the games might draw fairly well.
Say SWB and Lehigh Valley met in a series in Trenton. The ballpark would be lively.
FROM MAINE TO OHIO AND VIRGINIA: The Akron Aeros are running a re-branding contest, with the Aeros moniker and four others – Gum Dippers – This has to do with impregnating tire cord with rubber, reflecting Akron’s heritage as a tire-producing region; Tire Jacks – Combine that tradition with an Akron team “jacking’’ the ball out of the park; Rubber Ducks – The team states this symbolizes the importance of rubber in Akron, the Tire City. It is also whimsical, which could catch on with fans and Vulcans – The name emulates power, also connected with the manufacturing of tires and other rubber-based products. For 2012, the Akron club could have a new nickname … Richmond will be playing in The Diamond at least three more seasons, as Richmond-area officials feel gathering funding for a ballpark that will open in 2015.
Baselines appears weekly on http://www.trentonthunder.com. Comments are suggested and welcomed below, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jedleyq.