The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ)
Local fans thankful for Triple-A Jays’ temporary stay in Trenton
TRENTON » Season ticket holders pay for a quality ballgame when they come to the ballpark in Trenton. They thought they were going to see the hometown Thunder, the now former Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Instead, a unique confluence of events brought Triple-A baseball to the capital city for the first time ever. The Buffalo Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, have officially entered the chat. That changed things.
Once Major League Baseball shook up the minor leagues ahead of the 2021 season — the 2020 campaign was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the Yankees disassociated with the Thunder, leaving a vacant hole in Trenton. Many long-time fans now could not see the best Yankee prospects play for the local team that produced stars such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sánchez and Clint Frazier to name a few.
“We were disappointed. We would come two or three times a summer if not more,” said Rick Phillips, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, on how he felt about the shakeup. “We’re just over the bridge, so since (my son) has been 3 or 4, if not younger, we’ve been coming here a couple games a year.”
Coincidentally, the Bisons’ series this week was against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the Yankees. So fans were still treated to some talent in the Yankees’ farm system, including former Thunder players such as Deivi García and Hoy Jun Park who were a part of Trenton in 2019.
Rick and his 13-year-old son Ryan Phillips were elated to still see minor league baseball in Trenton, even if the home team did not belong to the Yankees. Rick said they were originally not going to come to a game at all, but
that changed when the TripleA Jays, who play as the Thunder in home games and the Bisons in road games, began playing at the ballpark.
“We’re excited to watch any baseball, so we’ll come to watch the Blue Jays’ Triple-A team no matter who they’re playing,” Rick Phillips said. “It actually elevated the game since you’re (substituting) a Double-A team with a Triple-A team. You’ve got players that you’ve heard of, you’ve got players that played at the major league level.”
Ryan has been a Yankees fan all his life and has gotten many pieces of memorabilia signed over the years from baseballs to jerseys. His favorite player is Gleyber Torres, who played for Trenton in 2017.
At the time, Ryan said he probably
did not know who Torres was. It is exciting to see players he watched get promoted to the big leagues and that stays the same whether it’s the Trenton Thunder or Buffalo Bisons.
“They don’t know who they’re going to be and then all of a sudden they become something,” Rick said. “We saw Miguel Andújar on a Friday night and on Sunday he was on the Yankees.”
Kelly Voorhees, of Woodbridge, has seen many ball games growing up. She wore a Thunder sweatshirt as she watched the downpouring rain washout Wednesday’s postponed game. But more than the players, she goes for the atmosphere. She is happy to see a team occupy the ballpark.
“I like the atmosphere better,” Voorhees said. “With a big-league
game, I feel like there’s … a lot more people and it’s a lot bigger. The smaller-league games are more homey and nice and people really genuinely care about their team and coming to see them.”
Wearing his Trenton Thunder pinstripe jersey, Dave Neuman has been coming to Thunder games since the stadium opened in 1994. While he was disappointed to see the club no longer be affiliated with the Yankees, it did not matter.
“It’s baseball and it’s affordable,” said Neuman, who is from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. “Especially this year, we weren’t expecting the Triple-A team but we were coming over here whether this was the (MLB) Draft League or not. I just enjoy watching the game.”