Franklin returns to lead Thunder in 2009

Manager to be joined by a trio of new coaches in Trenton

By Trenton Thunder | December 22, 2008 11:00 AM

TRENTON, N.J. -- The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, has announced that Tony Franklin will be back for his third season as manager. He will have a trio of new coaches join his staff including former Major Leaguers Tommy Phelps (pitching coach) and Frank Menechino (hitting coach) and former Eastern Leaguer Vic Valencia (coach). Returning to the Thunder dugout will be Trainer Tim Lentych for his second season with Trenton.

Franklin has guided the Thunder to back-to-back Eastern League Championships, the first two titles in franchise history. The Thunder finished the regular season with the best record in the Eastern League (86-54) for the second straight season. Trenton defeated the Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) in the Northern Division Championship Series (3-0) and the Akron Aeros (Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians) in the Eastern League Championship Series (3-1).

The 2008 Eastern League Championship was Franklin's third title as manager. In 1993, he led South Bend (Class 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 13-year managerial career began with the White Sox organization as the manager for Geneva (N.Y.) 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. Franklin becomes just the second Thunder manager to have a three year tenure with the club. DeMarlo Hale managed Trenton for the 1997-1999 seasons.

Tommy Phelps will embark on his first season as a pitching coach. In 2008, he was the Yankees' Minor League Rehabilitation Pitching Coach. Phelps is a former Major League pitcher and has also spent time in the Yankees Minor League System. He 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 and 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 eighth round pick by Montreal in the 1992 draft.

Frank Menechino will be Trenton's new hitting coach. This will be his first coaching position. Menechino played for the Oakland Athletics (1999-2003) and the Toronto Blue Jays (2004-2005). Menechino had his best season with the Athletics in 2001. He hit .242 in a career-high 139 games with 12 home runs and 60 RBIs. Menechino spent time in the Yankees Minor League system with Columbus (Triple-A) in 2006. During 2008, he played professionally in Italy.

Vic Valencia will join the staff as a coach. He played in the Yankees Minor League system from 1995-2000. During 1999 and 2000, he spent time with Norwich (Double-A). In 1999, he hit 22 home runs and contributed 72 RBIs for the Navigators. He also played in the Eastern League with Akron (2003-04) and New Hampshire (2004).

Tim Lentych returns to Trenton for his second season after the prior three seasons as the trainer for the Charleston RiverDogs (Class 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 (New York-Penn League). 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.

Thunder season tickets, half-season tickets, Mini Ticket Packages and Pic-A-Plans are on sale now by calling 609-394-3300 or online at The Thunder hosts the Binghamton Mets (Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets) in the 2009 home opener on Wednesday April 8th at 7:05 p.m.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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