TRENTON – After a long winter,
the offseason officially ended on Tuesday when the Thunder met the media at Arm
& Hammer Park. And while the players, especially touted outfielders Tyler
Austin, Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores, were the star attraction, the park’s
renovations also were on display.
Shortly after signing a
naming-rights deal with Arm & Hammer over the winter, the team quickly went
to work fitting the ballpark with massive renovations and upgrades that would
benefit both the players and fans alike.
Among the most superficial
changes are the two new videoboards in right and left-center field. At 21 feet
tall by 68 feet wide, the right field board is now the widest in Double-A and
the second widest in minor league baseball, behind only the Buffalo Bisons of
the International League.
The video board in left-center
field stands at 20 feet by 16 feet, a 400 percent increase over the previous
The Thunder’s radio booth was
moved to accommodate an expanded production room, which is awash in new,
top-shelf equipment. The additional bells and whistles include HD cameras and a
new audio center. The improvements will also benefit the fans, who will be able
to watch expanded instant replay and, for the first time at the ballpark, see
pitch speed displayed.
Because of the makeover, the
Thunder players themselves now find themselves surrounded by a far more luxurious
The clubhouse itself was expanded
to hold 12 new lockers, and what had previously been the manager’s office now
houses lockers for the coaches and additional staff. Manager Tony Franklin will
now reside in what was the umpire’s room.
|The weight room|
The expansion was especially
necessary after last year’s flood of injuries left the clubhouse overflowing at
times. It got the point where lockers had to be removed from the manager’s
office to accommodate reliever Jon Meloan’s arrival.
“I think the whole renovation of
the clubhouse is very, very nice,” Franklin said. “Obviously they sunk a lot of
money into it to make these improvements, and the clubhouse area, the eating
facility in there, the new weight room, it’s all done to make us feel better
about ourselves and the franchise. I think all the moves are very, very good.”
Part of what a was an excess
merchandise storage area has now become a new, spacious weight room and
represents a size bump of nearly double the previous workout area. Besides
extra space and new equipment, the workout area also includes rubber flooring
and two flat-screen televisions.
The other part of the former
merchandise room has become a video center, where players and coaches can go to
dissect their latest at-bats and, if necessary, implement quick changes to
The hallways under the stadium
also were replaced, and new flooring, paint and an industrial washer and dryer
The Thunder’s season begins on
Thursday, but Arm & Hammer Park won’t host a game until a week later, when
the Flying Squirrels come calling from Richmond. When the first pitch is
thrown, fans from all over the area will see just how the Thunder plan to kick
off their celebration of 20 seasons of baseball.
NOTES: The Thunder also announced
their initial starting rotation on Tuesday. They’ll hand the ball to Nik Turley
on Thursday at Hadlock Field. He’ll be followed by Zach Nuding, Francisco
Rondon, Matt Tracy and Caleb Cotham. If everything goes as planned, that means
Rondon, a reliever with the Thunder last year, will start the team’s home
opener on April 11. … Tracy threw a simulated game during the Media Day
festivities on Tuesday.