(Trenton, NJ) – The Trenton Thunder, presented by NJM Insurance Group, are pleased to announce their new coaching staff for the 2023 season in the MLB Draft League under third-year manager Jeff Manto. 2006 Thunder alum Shawn Chacon returns for his second season as pitching coach after four Thunder pitchers were selected by Major League teams in the 2022 MLB Draft. Hitting coach Adonis Smith is no stranger to the league after serving in the same role with the Williamsport Crosscutters last season. Joining them on staff as a coach is Major League veteran and Vineland, New Jersey native Darren Ford, who was a part of the San Francisco Giants 2010 World Series team.
“I’m excited to be back and grateful for another opportunity,” Chacon said. “The Trenton Thunder organization and its fans are first class. Last season was both a lot of fun and successful, and I learned a lot about what our players needed. I look forward to improving on last season’s success and can’t wait for Opening Day on June 1st at Trenton Thunder Ballpark.”
Under Chacon, four Thunder pitchers were selected in the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft: RHP KC Hunt (12th Round, Pittsburgh Pirates), RHP Roel Garcia (14th Round, Tampa Bay Rays), RHP Cole Patten (17th Round, Detroit Tigers), and RHP Javier Ramos (18th Round, Colorado Rockies). Additionally, righthanded pitcher Joe Joe Rodriguez had his contract purchased by the New York Mets during the final month of the season. Rodriguez was one of the Draft League’s workhorses last season, going 2-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) with the Thunder. He ranked among the Draft League leaders in ERA (5th), starts (T-2nd), and innings pitched (37.1, 3rd) after winning his final start on July 31.
In the past two MLB Drafts, a total of 17 Thunder players have been selected by Major League teams, with over 15 additional players signing free agent contracts with professional teams.
Adonis Smith comes to Trenton after spending the 2022 season as Jesse Litsch’s hitting coach with the Williamsport Crosscutters. In addition to coaching in the greater St. Louis area since 2004, Smith oversaw a Crosscutters offense that ranked third in the league with 425 runs scored (5.6 per game) and second with 399 walks. The Crosscutters had the fewest strikeouts, led the league with 170 stolen bases in just 75 games, and also ranked second with a team on-base percentage of .369.
Joining the Draft League coaching ranks for the first time is Vineland, New Jersey native Darren Ford, who won a World Series in 2010 with the San Francisco Giants. A three-sport star at Vineland High School, Ford last played professionally with the New Britain Bees in the Atlantic League in 2019. He played at Trenton Thunder Ballpark during two stints with the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels from 2010-11 and in 2016. A veteran of 1,600 games during a 15-year professional career, Ford earned the nickname “The Bullet” with the Giants after becoming a favorite of three-time World Series winning manager Bruce Bochy.
The Thunder kick off our 30th season at Trenton Thunder Ballpark on Thursday, June 1 at 7:00 PM against the Frederick Keys. The Opening Night Party will feature a Postgame Fireworks Show, sponsored by NJM Insurance Group. And the first 1,030 fans will receive a commemorative inaugural ticket celebrating our very first home opener on May 9, 1994.
For full ticket pricing and information, partnership/sponsorship opportunities, and information about special events at Trenton Thunder Ballpark, please visit trentonthunder.com or call the Thunder Box Office at (609) 394-3300, opt 4.
New Jersey's Baseball Team | Big League Futures. Major League Fun.
The Trenton Thunder have drawn over 10 million fans over 30 years and have won the three major awards that Minor League Baseball teams can win; the Johnson Trophy for the "Nation's Best Franchise", the Larry MacPhail Trophy for Outstanding Club Promotion, and the Bob Frietas Award for Long-Term Success (Given by Baseball America). The team has given back over $8 million worth of goods, services, and monetary donations through Trenton Thunder Charities, under the Grand Slam We Care Foundation umbrella. The Thunder can be found online at trentonthunder.com, facebook.com/trentonthunder, twitter.com/trentonthunder, and on youtube.com/AATrentonThunder.