The Thunder, presented by NJM Insurance, are pleased to annouced that Jay Bell will lead the team during the 25th season of play at ARM & HAMMER Park.
Bell will be joined by Pitching Coach Tim Norton, Hitting Coach Ty Hawkins, Bullpen Coach Luis Dorante, Defensive Coach Raul Dominguez, Athletic Trainer Jimmy Downam, and Strength Coach Anthony Velazquez, in 2018.
Manager Jay Bell led the Tampa Tarpons (New York Yankees, Advanced-A) in 2017 to an 85-50 overall record and a berth in the Florida State League Playoffs. Tampa won the first and second-half North Division titles for the first time in their history and Bell was named the Florida State League's Manager of the Year in his lone season at the helm. 2018 will be Bell's second season with the Yankees and second as a professional manager.
Bell played 18 Major League seasons as a shortstop and second baseman with Cleveland (1986-88), Pittsburgh (89-96), Kansas City (1997), Arizona (1998-2002) and the New York Mets (2003). He batted .265 with 195 home runs and 860 RBI in his career which included a pair of National League All-Star selections (1993, '97), a National League Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award in 1993 and a World Series Championship with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. Bell was selected eighth overall in 1984 by the Minnesota Twins and made history when he homered on the first pitch he saw off Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, whom he had been traded for the previous year, during his Major League debut with the Indians on September 29, 1986.
Following his playing career, Bell has filled various coaching roles for the Diamondbacks, Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, USA's National Team and The World Baseball Classic. Prior to joining the Yankees, Bell spent the 2014 and '15 seasons as the Major League Bench Coach for the Reds and spent 2013 as the Hitting Coach for the Pirates. Bell's previous Minor League coaching experience includes a Southern League Championship Ring as the Hitting Coach for the Mobile Baybears, Arizona's Double-A affiliate, in 2012. Bell spent five seasons on staff with the Diamondbacks, serving as Bench Coach for two seasons (2005-06) and as an advisor for three (2007-09). Bell's experience on a national level includes two seasons on staff with the USA National Team in 2010 and '11 and as Bench Coach for Team New Zealand in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Pitching Coach Tim Norton joins the Thunder after spending the previous two seasons as Pitching Coach for Tampa and enters his sixth season as a coach in the organization. Norton was selected in the seventh round of the 2006 draft by the Yankees out of the University of Connecticut and spent five seasons in the minor league system combining to go 9-7 with nine saves and a 2.41 ERA (197.2 IP, 53 ER) in 85 games (20 starts). Norton pitched for the Thunder in the 2010 and '11 seasons and recorded a 1.38 ERA in 39.0 innings pitched. Norton becomes the third player in franchise history to later return as a coach, joining Justin Pope (Pitching Coach, 2011) and PJ Pilittere (Hitting Coach, 2015-16). As Pitching Coach for Tampa in 2017, Norton led a staff that had the top ERA in the Florida State League (2.81) and the most strikeouts (1,215).
Hitting Coach Ty Hawkins returns to the Thunder after spending 2017 with GCL Yankees West. Hawkins enters his 20th season as a coach in the system which includes stops in the GCL (1999-2001), Single-A Greensboro (2002), Single-A Battle Creek (2003), Single-A Tampa (2004) and the Thunder (2005). Hawkins spent ten seasons as the Hitting Coach for short-season Single-A Staten Island and served as a hitting instructor for the Yankees in 2016. Prior to joining the Yankees organization, Hawkins coached at Vanderbilt University and the University of Illinois after a collegiate playing career at Old Dominion University where he helped his team advance to the 1990 NCAA Central Regional as a senior.
Bullpen Coach Luis Dorante spent 2017 as the Manager for the Pulaski Yankees (Rookie, Appalachian League) where he led the team to a 41-26 record and a berth in the Appalachian League Championship Series. Dorante spent the previous three seasons as Manager for the Charleston RiverDogs (Single-A, South Atlantic League) where he recorded 213 managerial wins; the second-most in franchise history. Dorante spent two seasons as a coach with the Thunder in 2012 and '13, aiding the team to their third Eastern League Championship in franchise history in '13. Dorante spent six seasons as a minor league catcher in the Boston Red Sox organization after signing as a non-drafted free agent in 1986. Dorante was a minor league coach and manager for 13 seasons in the Miami Marlins (2002-07) and Montreal Expos (1995-2001) organizations before he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 as their Major League Bullpen Coach. Dorante spent three seasons as Bullpen Coach with the Pirates and one season as Latin American Field Coordinator before joining the Yankees in 2012.
Defensive Coach Raul Dominguez served under Bell as the Defensive Coach for the Tampa Tarpons in 2017 and enters his 12th season with the organization. Dominguez was a manager for the previous eight seasons, with the GCL Yankees East (2016), DSL Yankees 1 (2011-15) and DSL Yankees 2 (2009-10). Dominguez began his coaching career in 2008 following four minor league seasons in the Yankees organization as an outfielder.
Athletic Trainer Jimmy Downam returns for a second season with the Thunder and sixth overall in the organization. A native of Somers Point, N.J., Downam spent the 2013-15 seasons with the Charleston RiverDogs and the 2012 campaign with the Staten Island Yankees. Downam spent 2012 as an intern with the Philadelphia Phillies organization at the team's rehabilitation facility in Clearwater, Fla. A 2009 and 2012 graduate of Liberty University (Va.), Downam resides in Lynchburg, Va.
Strength and Conditioning Coach Anthony Velazquez returns for a second season at ARM & HAMMER Park and his fifth season overall with the Yankees. Velazquez spent the previous three seasons with the Charleston RiverDogs and the 2013 campaign in the same position with the Clearwater Threshers, Single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Prior to his positions in minor league baseball, Velazquez held strength and conditioning positions at the University of Michigan, University of South Florida and the University of Maryland.
Your Thunder, presented by NJM Insurance, will begin the 2018 season, the 25th in franchise history, on Thursday, April 5 when they host the Richmond Flying Squirrels (San Francisco Giants). Season tickets, Pic-A-Plans, Mini Plans and Group Tickets are on sale now at www.TrentonThunder.com and by phone at 609-394-3300.