Calling it a “calculated and ungracious maneuver to leave the urban setting of Trenton for the affluent confines of Bridgewater Township,” the owner of the Trenton Thunder on Saturday ripped the New York Yankees’ decision to move their Class AA affiliate.
Joseph Plumeri indicated the team was caught by surprise by the move, which potentially will leave the organization and the city without a team for the first time in decades.
Plumeri called the team’s action “despicable” — one that will have far-reaching economic consequences for the city.
Trenton has played host to a Class AA team in the Eastern League since 1980 — the last 18 of which, the team was affiliated with the Yankees. The team’s new Double-A affiliate will be the Somerset Patriots, a member of the independent Atlantic League that plays at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Plumeri said the team was told the Yankees would remain in 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,” he said. “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.”
In a separate release, the Thunder detailed the potential economic impact on the city, which includes many low- and moderate-income families of color, with 51% of its residents identifying as Black and 31% as Hispanic. according to the latest U.S. Census data.
By comparison, the Thunder said, Bridgewater Township, the home of the Somerset Patriots, is an area of much more wealth and less diversity, where 2% identify as Black and 10% as Hispanic. This move comes just months after the Yankees publicly pledged stronger engagement on racial and social inequities inside and outside their organization.
Thunder officials said the city of Trenton relies heavily on the jobs, resources and community investments that the Yankees’ minor league team bring to the community. These have included:
- More than $7.5 million worth of goods, services and monetary donations through a variety of community programs in 2019. The Thunder have donated to and partnered with more than 20 area nonprofits, including the Boys and Girls Club of Mercer County, United Way of Mercer County, Down Syndrome Association of Central Jersey, Homefront NJ, Special Olympics of NJ and Trenton Area Little Leagues.
- More than 250 full and part-time employees, of whom 30-40% are recruited from the city of Trenton.
- Sponsorships and partnerships with Trenton businesses and organizations, such Case Pork Roll Co., Starr Bus Tours Co., Italian People’s Bakery, Crest Paper Products, Coopers Riverview, the Downtown Trenton Association and Greater Trenton.
- More than 70,000 free game tickets provided to children, and the hosting of community events such as the City of Trenton for Capital City Night, and the Fourth of July fireworks. This year, the Thunder’s Arm & Hammer Park became a popular outdoor venue due to COVID restrictions and hosted graduations, dance recitals, youth games and other organizational events.
Plumeri thanked the fans and sponsors of the team.
“On behalf of my fellow owners, Joseph Caruso and Joseph Finley, I want to thank Trenton and all of the Thunder faithful, along with our sponsors and our partners,” he said. “To all Thunder players, past and present — we thank you for your inspiring teamwork, your community involvement and for bringing your very best to the diamond every day. You helped Trenton make memories on and off the field.”
Plumeri is the son of Samuel Plumeri, a former Trenton city commissioner and local businessman who died in 1998. The field is named in his owner.
“My father knew Trenton’s character and he wanted to develop a franchise that could be shared for generations to come,” Plumeri said. “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.”