Yankees 'betrayed' minor league affiliate with move to wealthy New Jersey town, team owner says

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The New York Yankees announced Saturday it would be reshuffling its minor league affiliations and dropping the Double-A Trenton Thunder in favor of an Atlantic League of Professional Baseball team.

The Atlantic League teams have remained independent from any major league affiliation since the league came into existence in 1998. But in 2020, the league became a partner with Major League Baseball and apparently opened its doors to official affiliation with one of the 30 clubs.

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The Somerset Patriots, who play in Bridgewater Township, N.J., became the first team from the Atlantic League to be affiliated with a Major League team. The Patriots have played in the Atlantic League since 1998 and at one point had Sparky Lyle as their manager.

Thunder owner Joe Plumeri ripped the Yankees for moving their affiliate to what he called the “affluent confines of Bridgewater Township.”

“Last night, we learned through the media, that New York Yankees management has made the calculated and ungracious maneuver to leave the urban setting of Trenton for the affluent confines of Bridgewater Township, leaving one of the finest facilities according to Major League Baseball without an affiliate,” Plumeri said in the statement. “For the last 18 years, Trenton has served as the Yankees’ AA affiliate with many of the contributors to the Major League team's recent success having first worn the Thunder’s navy and gold, and had their Louisville Sluggers picked up by Rookie, Derby and Chase — our team’s bat dogs, on their way to the Bronx.

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“This is about more than baseball; the Thunder is a pillar of the Trenton community. My heart breaks for the thousands of stadium workers, fans and residents of this great city. This move by the Yankees removes a key source of income for Trenton. Despite repeated assurances that the Thunder would remain its Double A affiliate over the last 16 months, the Yankees betrayed their partnership at the 11th hour. By doing so, the Yankees have misled and abandoned the Thunder and the taxpayers of Mercer County, who have invested millions of dollars over the years to ensure that Arm & Hammer Park remains one of the premier ballparks in America. While this community built the Yankees organization up and set minor league baseball attendance records, it seems the Yankees were only focused on trying to cut culturally diverse Trenton down in favor of a wealthy, higher socioeconomic area in Somerset.”

The Yankees said in their announcement that the “decision was made strictly on the basis of what we believe to be the best facility to develop our young players.” The team said the Thunder was made an offer to join the Atlantic League. It was unclear if the team was going to take it.

The Thunder came into existence in 1994 when the London Tigers moved to the New Jersey ballpark from Canada and renamed itself the Trenton Thunder.

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The team played in the Double-A Eastern League and were affiliates of the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and the Yankees. Players like David Eckstein, Nomar Garciaparra and Tony Clark have played in the organization.

"My father knew Trenton’s character and he wanted to develop a franchise that could be shared for generations to come. We know the character of Trenton — it represents what the Yankees purport to be, but are most certainly not. The Yankees' actions are nothing short of despicable. They may be abandoning Trenton, but we are not. We will continue to invest in Trenton and its people because Trenton deserves it — maybe more than any other place in America," Plumeri added.

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