(Trenton, NJ)- The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, announced on Wednesday that Tony Franklin will be back as Manager for his fifth consecutive season in Trenton.
Franklin will be joined in the dugout once again by pitching coach and former Major Leaguer Tommy Phelps. Julius Matos and Justin Pope will both make a return to Trenton in different organizational roles. Matos, who was a coach for Trenton in 2008 will serve as the Thunder Hitting Coach while former Trenton pitcher Pope will make his Double-A coaching debut. Athletic Trainer Tim Lentych will return for his fourth season and strength coach Kaz Manabe joins the Thunder after spending 2010 with Charleston (Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees).
"We are thrilled to welcome Tony and his staff back to Trenton," Thunder General Manager Will Smith said. "Since Tony arrived in Trenton four years ago, he has made many positive contributions on the field and in the community."
Franklin guided the Thunder to back-to-back Eastern League Championships in 2007 and 2008. Last season under Franklin the Thunder finished with the the best record in the Eastern League (83-59) and another Eastern League Championship Series appearance.
The 2008 Eastern League Championship was Franklin's third title as manager. In 1993, he led South Bend (Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) to the Midwest League Championship. Prior to his time in Trenton, Franklin spent most of the last 11 years as the Minor League Infield Instructor for the San Diego Padres. His managerial career began with the White Sox organization as the manager for Geneva (NY) of the New York-Penn League in 1982.
Franklin spent four seasons in Geneva, making the playoffs in 1985. After one season with Wytheville (Appalachian League), he guided the White Sox affiliate in the Florida State League, the Sarasota White Sox, to a playoff appearance in 1989. Franklin spent two years as the skipper of the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League, including 81 wins in 1991 and a berth in the Championship Series.
While in Birmingham, Franklin was the manager of former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson. Before Trenton, his last managerial stint came with Las Vegas in 2000. Franklin filled in for Duane Espy and guided the Stars to a 43-50 mark.
Franklin was honored by San Diego in 1997 with the Jack Krol Award for Outstanding Minor League Instruction in the Padres' organization. He and his wife, Haiba, have three children Derrick, Wayne and Shelby.
Tommy Phelps will embark on his third season as the pitching coach for the Thunder. Phelps pitched for the Florida Marlins in 2003 and 2004. During 2003, he went 3-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 27 games (seven starts) for Florida. He was part of a Marlins team that won the World Series over the Yankees. He pitched in 29 games for Milwaukee in 2005. He went 7-4 with a 4.45 ERA in 2006 with Columbus (Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). Phelps was originally an 8th round pick by Montreal in the 1992 draft.
Julius Matos makes a return to Trenton as the 2011 Thunder hitting coach, replacing Frank Menechino. Matos made his coaching debut in 2008 with the Thunder and has spent the past two seasons as the hitting coach for the Tampa Yankees (Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). Originally selected by the Indians in the 16th round of the 1994 draft, Matos played parts of 13 seasons for the Cleveland, Arizona, San Diego, Kansas City, Toronto and Montreral organizations. Matos played 104 games at the major league level with the Padres (2002) and Royals (2003) and batted a combined .244 with four home runs and four doubles.
Justin Pope begins his first season as a coach with Trenton after spending 2010 in the same capacity with the Staten Island Yankees (Short Season-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). Pope played parts of three seasons with Trenton ('05-'07) and currently holds the franchise record in career saves (58). A first-round draft pick by St. Louis in 2001, Pope played for eight seasons in the minor leagues and was acquired by the Yankees in 2003 as part of a trade that sent Sterling Hitchcock to St. Louis.
Tim Lentych returns to Trenton for his fourth season as the Athletic Trainer. The 2009 Eastern League Athletic Trainer of the Year spent the prior three seasons as the trainer for the Charleston RiverDogs (Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). In 2004, he began his stint with the Yankees organization as the trainer for the Staten Island Yankees. Lentych received his B.S. from Ball State University in 2002, and his M.S. from the University of Tennessee in 2004. He has completed internships in athletic training with the Baltimore Orioles in 2001, and the Tennessee Smokies (former Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals) in 2003.
Kaz Manabe joins the Thunder as the Strength and Conditioning Coach, after spending the previous two season with Charleston. A native of Japan, Manabe graduated from Hiroshima University and earned his Master degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Northridge.