The City of Trenton took a recent blow when the New York Yankees announced that they were dropping the Trenton Thunder as their AA-level Minor League affiliate.
The Yankees’ new AA team will be the Somerset Patriots, who play in Bridgewater. The move is part of a larger restructuring within Minor League Baseball, leaving it unclear if the Thunder will have a Major League affiliation going forward or join an independent league.
The Thunder have had a Major League affiliation since 1994 and were part of the Detroit Tigers, and Boston Red Sox organizations before becoming part of the Yankees’ farm system in 2003.
In a published statement, Thunder owner Joseph Plumeri criticized the Yankees and commented on the depth of the loss for the city.
“This is about more than baseball; the Thunder is a pillar of the Trenton community. My heart breaks for the thousands of stadium workers, fans, and residents of this great city,” he said.
“This move by the Yankees removes a key source of income for Trenton. Despite repeated assurances that the Thunder would remain its Double-A affiliate over the last 16 months, the Yankees betrayed their partnership at the 11th hour. By doing so, the Yankees have misled and abandoned the Thunder and the taxpayers of Mercer County, who have invested millions of dollars over the years to ensure that Arm & Hammer Park remains one of the premier ballparks in America.
“While this community built the Yankees organization up and set minor league baseball attendance records, it seems the Yankees were only focused on trying to cut culturally diverse Trenton down in favor of a wealthy, higher socioeconomic area in Somerset.
“On behalf of my fellow owners, Joseph Caruso and Joseph Finley, I want to thank Trenton and all of the Thunder faithful, along with our sponsors and our partners. To all Thunder players past and present — we thank you for your inspiring teamwork, your community involvement, and for bringing your very best to the diamond every day. You helped Trenton make memories on and off the field.”
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora was also disappointed by the decision and said, “Our city and many of our residents were shocked and heartbroken to wake up to discover that the Yankees had pulled their beloved AA affiliate, Trenton Thunder, out of the capital city for the more affluent suburbs of Bridgewater Township.
“The franchise has been an integral part of our landscape for many years. We were able to draw a loyal fan base from across the region with some of the highest attendance records in the country, taking full advantage of our strategic position between New York City and the Philadelphia Corridor. The fact remains the Trenton Thunder is a major part of our local economy and provides hundreds of badly needed jobs for our youth and families.
“But this decision was especially painful for the multigenerational fans who make up one of the most diverse cities in the country and grew up watching some of the all-time greats visit the stadium. Watching Thunder players was a living testament to what one can achieve regardless of race or economic background, a message that is more important than ever in these challenging times. I remember being in awe watching Roger Clemens pitch at the stadium or when Derek Jeter brought record crowds during his appearances — imagine what that meant to the children from our underserved communities.
“For an organization that has made it a point to highlight their contributions to diversity and inclusion, the Yankees struck out with this move. Gone will be the job opportunities for many of our youths and local small businesses who occupy Thunder’s concession stands. When it came time for the Yankees to show their support for a Capital City that has supported them in every way possible, they still opted to make this decision to abandon us. We encourage the Yankees to reconsider their choice.”
The 2020 Minor League season was canceled due to COVID-19; no announcement has been made about plans for the 2021 season.
This article has been edited to correct an error about when the Thunder started play and which Major League clubs they have been affiliated with.