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Franklin Set To Defend Title; Returning For 8th Season

January 2, 2014

(Trenton, NJ)- The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, announced on Thursday that Tony Franklin will return to ARM & HAMMER Park to manage the Thunder for an eighth consecutive season. Franklin, already the longest tenured skipper in the Thunder's 20 year history, is coming off his third Eastern League championship.  

Franklin will be joined in the dugout once again by pitching coach and former Major Leaguer Tommy Phelps who returns for a sixth season, as well as Strength and Conditioning Coach Orlando Crance who returns for a second year in Trenton. The coaching staff will include new additions Hitting Coach Marcus Thames, Coach Orlando Mercado and Trainer Lee Meyer

"Tony Franklin is a great asset to the Thunder and our community," said Thunder General Manager Will Smith. "The success that we've enjoyed on the field during his tenure is unprecedented and we're excited to see Tony back to defend last season's championship."

Franklin guided the Thunder to the 2013 Eastern League Championship in a run that included a perfect 6-0 record in the playoffs. He was at the helm for Trenton's back-to-back Eastern League Championships in 2007 and 2008 and has reached the EL Championship Series in five of his seven seasons. He owns a career managerial record of 1,160-1,040 (.527) including a record of 568-457 (.554) with Trenton (records include post-season). The skipper recorded his 1,000 career managerial win and was named Eastern League Manager of the Year in 2012.   

The 2013 Eastern League Championship was Franklin's fourth 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 was 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.

Tommy Phelps will return for his sixth season as the Pitching Coach for the Thunder. Phelps pitched for the Florida Marlins in 2003 and 2004 including a 2003 season in which he went 3-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 27 games (seven starts). He was part of a Marlins team that won the World Series over the Yankees. Phelps pitched in 29 games for Milwaukee in 2005 and 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. 

New Thunder Hitting Coach Marcus Thames spent the 2013 season as the Hitting Coach for the Tampa Yankees. He played in 640 games over 10 years in the Major Leagues after making his MLB debut for the Yankees in 2002. He played for the Yankees (2002 and 2010), Rangers (2003), Tigers (2004-2009) and the Dodgers (2011). As a Minor Leaguer, Thames spent three seasons in the Eastern League (1999-2001). 
Orlando Mercado joins Trenton as a Coach after spending the last three years as the Roving Catching Instructor for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Prior to that he was the Bullpen Coach for the Angels from 2003 to 2010. Mercado played all or part of eight seasons in the Major Leagues between 1982 and 1990 having suited up for the Mariners (1982-1984), Rangers (1986), Tigers (1987), Dodgers (1987), Athletics (1988), Twins (1989), Mets (1990), and Expos (1990). The former catcher spent all or part of 17 seasons in the Minor Leagues including one season in the Eastern League with the Lynn Sailors (1980).  
Lee Meyer joins the Thunder as Athletic Trainer following two seasons with the Tampa Yankees. He previously worked one season with the Charleston RiverDogs and one season with the Staten Island Yankees.
Orlando Crance returns to Trenton for a second season as Strength and Conditioning Coach. He served in the same capacity for the Florida Marlins AA affiliate in Jacksonville, Florida in 2010 and previously for the Savannah Sand Gnats (Class A, Mets). 

The Thunder will begin the 2014 season at ARM & HAMMER Park on Thursday, April 3. Season tickets, group outings, Pic-A-Plans, and Mini Plan renewals are on sale now. Single game tickets will go on sale on March 1, 2014. For more information about tickets, fans should call 609-394-3300 or visit