As basketball season winds down and football season begins to think about training camps, baseball is captivating Trenton residents of all ages, both on and off the field.
Trenton Thunder was coming out of an off day and a 1-3 start to the season, but things rapidly changed as they received the perfect homecoming in their 2022 debut at Trenton Thunder Ballpark.
“It’s fantastic; it’s been such a great start to the season. The crowd and opening night were awesome. To see people back at the ballpark and having fun, and that’s what it’s all about. And then a repeat here on our first firework night and pride night. So you know, it’s just great to see our fans coming back the community to rally around and want to be here and want to enjoy themselves and want to have a great night out with their family,” said Jeff Hurly, President & General Manager of the Trenton Thunder Baseball Club.
Trenton Thunder has drawn over 10 million fans over 28 years and have won the three major awards that Minor League Baseball teams can win. This includes the Johnson Trophy for the “Nation’s Best Franchise” (2005), the Larry MacPhail Trophy for Outstanding Club Promotion (2003) and the Bob Freitas Award for Long-Term Success (1998, given by Baseball America).
During their 4-2 homestand, Trenton Thunder averaged 6,541 fans per game, with Saturday’s crowd of 7,412 setting the high water mark. Laura Carrell, Yardley resident, is just returning to the ballfield with her husband and daughters. “June 27, 2019 was last time we were here. And we just had such a nice memorable night,” Carrell said. “We always just had such a nice memorable night…It’s such a great family environment.”
Her husband, Chris Carrell, Yardley resident, agreed, saying that it was great to be back in the stadium post-COVID-19. “I love hearing the crowd. I love being around the children. I love the sounds of baseball and I think it’s great to be with family and not worried about much and just enjoying our time,” Mr. Carrell said.
The team has given back over $7.5 million worth of goods, services, and monetary donations through Trenton Thunder Charities, under the Grand Slam We Care Foundation umbrella.
“So, we just want to make sure that we are always in the community,” Hurley said. “We’re always visible. You know, COVID obviously in 2020, we took a little bit of a backseat, but we’re back and we’re better than ever.”
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of Trenton, the Trenton T-ball season was continuing its tradition at the Cadwalader Park Field, and parents were more than happy to cheer them on from the bleachers.
Trenton resident Quianna Woolfolk stood on the field cheering as her five-year-old son was on first base. “I feel great. He’s enjoying it. I’m enjoying it. I enjoy seeing everybody play…So it’s amazing,” Woolfolk said. “It’s important because…kids need to learn sportsmanship, how to be a team player, and how to work with others.”
At home plate talking a batter through swinging was Eric Bullock, founder of Culture is Key and Commissioner of the West Trenton T-ball leagues.
“We teach them the fundamentals of the game. Where to run after they hit the ball, how to stand, how to hold the bat, how to throw, how to catch, what leg to step with, what arm to throw with,” Bullock said. Not only that, “they learn sportsmanship…they learn how to be a teammate, how to be a friend, how to show caring, how to show respect, and how to be honest. They learn a lot in this game.”
The game brought out residents across West Trenton. Charles Barlow, Trenton Resident, came to watch his nephew Noah play t-ball. “As far as I know, everyone who lives around here brings their kids out here to play… it’s very much so a West Trenton thing.”
“It’s a staple in the community,” Bullock said. “It’s right here in West Trenton. The lights are on. This is what’s exciting… Today’s Thursday night and we got a T ball game at seven o’clock. So I can tell you where our kids are and where our kids are not.”
The West End Little league boasts the largest Baseball League in the City of Trenton, though their numbers have decreased since the pandemic.
“We are the biggest League of Trenton, and we averaged, at our peak, between 200 and 300 kids prior to COVID, but we are just starting to get our numbers back up,” said Ronald Davis, President of West Trenton Little League. He explained that this is the kid’s first way of socializing in a non-school setting. “This is their first taste of socializing with other kids outside of school. You build camaraderie, friends that last two decades,” Davis said.
The team coaches about 25-35 kids a night. Jay Martin, a coach with the league, said he is not looking for recognition. “I’m just here to try to change the kids. This not as special, I’m not excellent, I don’t need no rewards, no recognition,” Martin said. “When kids want to get into it, and they want to learn that makes me feel good, and I see the progress from last year to this year. That’s my favorite part right there.”
Either way, baseball is a way for kids to have fun and show off what they learned. “My favorite part of tonight was everybody watching me. My favorite part about baseball is hitting and throwing,” said Madison Bullock, Eric Bullock’s five-year-old daughter.