Tuesday night, however, Franklin spent part of the game in his Waterfront Park office, thanks to a difference of opinion on a ruling on the field resulting in his ejection. So, he turned on the radio to see how his team was doing.
Naturally he heard second-year Thunder broadcaster Jay Burnham.
“You know,’’ said Franklin, “Jay is pretty good. I had a chance to hear a lot of the game Tuesday night after I was ejected. Without a doubt, I knew what was going on.’’
Burnham picked up a major plaudit Tuesday, having been named 2011 Broadcaster of the Year by Ballpark Digest, a well-respected Web site that focuses mainly on Minor League Baseball.
“I was stunned when I first heard about it,’’ said Burnham. “There are so many guys in so many places that work so hard in the minor leagues. I know them from the Eastern League, South Atlantic League and other places. I’m humbled.’’
“It’s a nice honor. It’s such a privilege to be working for an organization like the Thunder. It’s an exceptional situation.’’
Burnham’s breezy style mixes well with 2011 partner Hank Fuerst’s more serious approach to the game. The two have been fun to listen to, and have a lot of fun and on-air chemistry working together.
The Thunder radio booth, having produced Major League Baseball broadcasters Tom McCarthy (Phillies) and Andy Freed (Rays) is part of the tradition of the franchise, which has flourished since 1994.
Burnham knows all about that.
“It’s always stressed, in our broadcasting, who has sat in those chairs before,’’ he said. “We have a high standard. I’ve been lucky to work with partners like Justin Shackil (now a broadcaster for the Southern League’s Tennessee Smokies) and now Hank.
“They have helped me become a better broadcaster.’’
Ballpark Digest acknowledged Burnham calls a “mean game’’ and mentioned his Baseball Haiku, a form of Japanese poetry with which he often involves the media, but noted what separated him from other broadcasters considered was his off-air work.
In the minors, a broadcaster is often not judged on his on-air efforts, but how he is in selling and bringing advertising dollars into the franchise. Many fans don’t realize, in the minor leagues in any sport, everybody in the front office sells.
The Thunder, prior to the 2011 season, was searching for a new radio station. Burnham put together a proposal that worked for WTSR, the College of New Jersey station, and things worked out. The Thunder also has many games broadcast on WBCB (AM 1490) when the Phillies are not playing.
“We needed a station, and I’m the Director of Broadcasting, so I thought it was my responsibility to arrange our broadcast package,’’ said Burnham. “It’s falls under what I do.
“WTSR has worked out great, and it’s a big plus to have our games on WBCB when there is not a conflict with the Phillies. We were really able to widen our listening audience.
“I feel we’ve had a real good year on the radio and, again, I can’t credit Hank enough for his contributions.’’
His 2011 highlights including calling Derek Jeter’s two-game rehab around the July 4 holiday – Burnham’s radio call was included in the HBO Documentary Derek Jeter 3K, and an on-air interview with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, now a special advisor with the Yankees.
Burnham knows the ropes, having called the independent Pensacola Pelicans, the Asheville Tourists and Hagerstown Suns of the Class-A South Atlantic League before arriving in Trenton.
“I am grateful to guys like (general managers) Will Smith, Kurt Landes, Larry Hawkins and (Thunder Director of Public Relations) Bill Cook, guys who always supported me throughout my career. That type of support makes a difference.’’
On top of that, Burnham has the Tony Franklin seal of approval, even if it takes an ejection for the Thunder skipper to tune in.
NOT DONE YET: Franklin echoing Yogi Berra, basically told his club before Wednesday night’s game, which resulted in a 7-2 win over New Hampshire that snapped a seven-game losing streak, “You’re not out of it until you’re out of it.’’
Eastern League playoff contention that is.
Franklin feels, if his 65-70 team can win tonight, then sweep five games in New Britain over Labor Day weekend, they could sneak into the playoffs.
“I told them to pack for New Hampshire (where the playoffs would start),’’ he said.
It’s a tall order, with the team standing 3.5 games out of a playoff spot and having to jump both New Britain and Reading.
FROM MAINE TO OHIO AND VIRGINIA: Franklin said he would be glad to return for a sixth season in Trenton if the Yankees asked him … Two groups in Ottawa are looking to bring an Eastern League club to Canada’s capital. They also want to the club to be a Toronto affiliate. A lot would have to be done to fit the pieces of that puzzle into place.