Coaching Shuffle In Trenton For 2005

The Trenton Thunder, the Yankees Double-A affiliate, announced on Thursday that none of their coaching staff will return with the club in 2005 and instead will be relocated within the organization. That includes manager Stump Merrill, who came on board as the skipper of the team prior to the 2003 campaign.

Also departing are the team's hitting coach, Steve Braun, pitching coach, Gary Lavelle, and coach Dan Radison.

"The Thunder family is sorry to see our professional relationship with these gentlemen end," said Thunder General Manager Rick Brenner through the team's website. "They were great individuals to work with both on and off the field and we certainly wish them well in the future."

Merrill, now 60, saw his Thunder finish at 64-78 in 2004, good for last place in the Northern division. He has been managing in the Yankee system since 1978, which included a stint as the New York Yankees manager in 1990 when he replaced Bucky Dent. He was fired following the 1991 season and resumed his role in the minors. He owns a 1571-1306 record in the organization.

When asked during the season, at a time when his team was struggling, whether he was ready to retire, Merrill responded, "It's a good question. The good Lord's testing me."

"The only satisfaction you get in this business is seeing a guy get better and hopefully get to the major leagues," said Merrill to the Trentonian. "You can only hope you can be a small part of helping them achieve their goals."

Certainly Merrill has seen his fair share of talent with the Thunder, most recently catcher Dioner Navarro, who reached the big leagues before the regular season's conclusion, and infielder Robinson Cano, who saw a promotion to Columbus.

Pitching coach Gary Lavelle, 55, spent thirteen season in the majors, eleven of which were with the San Francisco Giants. He appeared in 745 games, all but three of which were out of the pen, and had a 80-77 record with 136 saves and a 2.93 ERA in 1085 innings. He was selected to the 1977 and 1983 All-Star teams.

Steve Braun, 56, who grew up in Trenton, played with the Twins, Mariners, Royals, Blue Jays, and Cardinals during his fifteen-year career. He finished as a career .271 hitter with 52 homers and 388 RBI in 1425 games.

Dan Radison, who managed the Double-A team in Norwich for a period of time as well as the GCL Yankees, came on board during the middle of the season when the organization reassigned coach Brad Elwood to Battle Creek.

Other Notes...
The team announced that they have shuffled their schedule so that the Thunder and Reading Phillies will meet at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Monday, May 9 at 7:05PM EST. That date was an original off day for both clubs, but to compensate it will take the place of the originally scheduled July 11th game at Reading. Therefore July 11th will now be the off day for the teams, right before the All-Star break is set to begin... Zac Womack, who spent time at Battle Creek, has been named the head Thunder trainer for 2005. He will replace Greg Spratt, who left the team to become the head trainer for the National Basketball League's Toronto Raptors...

Christopher Guy covers the Trenton Thunder for and you can reach him at

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