South Jersey Baseball:
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
By Dan Loney
The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, has announced their coaching staff for the 2004 season. Stump Merrill will return for his second consecutive season as Manager. Hitting Coach Steve Braun, Pitching Coach Gary Lavelle and Trainer Greg Spratt will also return to the Thunder after spending last season with Trenton.
Merrill, 59, will enter his 28th season with the Yankees organization. One of the highlights for Merrill in 2003 came on August 15th as the Thunder beat the Erie SeaWolves, 5-4, for his 1500th career win as a Manager. He has led Yankees Minor League teams at all levels of their system, including a season and a half as the skipper of the New York Yankees (’90 & ’91). The 2004 season will mark the seventh for Merrill with a Yankees’ affiliate in the Eastern League. He led Trenton to a 70-71 record last season and had the team in the hunt for a playoff spot until the last week of the campaign.
“I am excited to come back to work with the Thunder again next season,” said Merrill from his home in Topsham, ME. “It was a great experience to be in Trenton. The area supports the team very well, which is one of the reasons why the Yankees love being in Trenton.”
Thunder General Manager Rick Brenner added,” We are pleased to have Stump, Steve, Gary and Greg join the Thunder family again for the 2004 season. They are all quality coaches and quality individuals. It was a great experience to work with them last season and I am looking forward to even more excitement in 2004.”
Merrill spent 2001 and parts of 2002 with the Norwich Navigators in the Eastern League and helped them to the Eastern League Northern Division Championship Series in 2001. His coaching career started with West Haven in the Eastern League in 1978 and 1979. Merrill enters the 2004 season with a 1507-1228 record.
Merrill has career records of 1387-1073 (Minors) and 120-155 (Majors). He has led his teams to first place finishes eight times including back-to-back times in 1996 and 1997 with Columbus. He is the Clippers’ record holder with 573 wins over nine seasons.
Stump Merrill’s Managerial Record
Thunder Announce Coaching Staff For 2004
Mercer County native Steve Braun returns to Trenton for his fifth season as Thunder Hitting Coach and his second with the Yankees system. Prior to 2003, Braun had spent five seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals system and 12 seasons with the Red Sox organization.
The Thunder hitters finished 4th in the Eastern League in runs scored (664), 3rd in home runs (106) and 2nd in walks (513). INF Brian Myrow set a Trenton record with 113 walks. He was among the league leaders in four categories, including 1st in runs scored (99) and extra-base hits (57). OF Mitch Jones was 2nd in the Eastern League with 23 home runs and T-3rd in RBI (91). 1B Aaron Rifkin was 5th in the RBI (90). OF Kevin Thompson finished the season 2nd in stolen bases (47), a Trenton record, in only 86 games.
Braun is a 15-year Major League veteran, spending time with the Cardinals, Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. He played in 1,425 Major League games and had a .271 batting average with 52 home runs and 388 RBI. His career also included 113 career pinch-hits, which is 10th on the all-time Major League list. Braun had a career .281 BA as a pinch-hitter and his 60 pinch hits with St. Louis ranks second on the Cardinals’ all-time list.
Gary Lavelle will return to the Eastern League for the third consecutive season as a Pitching Coach for the Yankees. His Thunder pitching staff battled injuries all season, but still managed to send two representatives to the Eastern League All-Star Game (David Shepard & Chien-ming Wang). LHP Brad Halsey posted seven wins with the Thunder after joining the team in mid-season. His combined 17 wins between Trenton and Tampa were the best of any pitcher in the Yankees Minor League system.
Prior to last season, Lavelle was the Pitching Coach for Norwich (2002) and Class- A Greensboro (2000 & 2001). Lavelle spent 11 seasons as coach of Greenbrier Christian Academy varsity baseball team in Chesapeake, VA before joining the Yankee organization.
Lavelle was a three-time National League All-Star Pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and recorded 20 saves in a season three times. He is the Giants all-time leader in appearances with 647. He spent 13 seasons in the Major Leagues including 11 with the Giants, two with Toronto and six games with Oakland.
2003 Eastern League Trainer of the Year Greg Spratt has been has been part of the Yankees organization since 1990 and has spent eight of those years as a trainer at the Double-A level. Spratt was the Trainer for Norwich from 1993-1997 and was also named Eastern League Trainer of the Year in 1995. He spent the 2001 and 2002 seasons with Norwich and spent the previous three working with the Yankees Single-A teams in Florida. In 1992, he was voted Trainer of the Year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society. Spratt earned his Bachelors Degree from the University of Louisville and his Master’s Degree in sport medicine from Ohio University.
INDIVIDUAL TICKETS ON SALE STARTING FEBRUARY 2
By Phone and Internet February 2 at 10 AM; In Person February 7 at 10 AM
Individual game tickets will be available by phone, 609-394-3300 and online through www.trentonthunder.com starting on Monday, February 2 at 10:00 AM. For fans who would like to place their order in person, the Thunder will be accepting orders at Waterfront Park starting Saturday, February 7 at 10:00 AM. The ticket office will be open from 10 AM until 3 PM every Saturday beginning February 7. Mini Ticket Packages, group outings and season tickets are all on sale now by calling 609-394-3300.
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