Three weeks after the New York Yankees dumped the Trenton Thunder as an AA affiliate in favor of the Somerset Patriots, Major League Baseball announced that the Thunder will become part of a new draft league that will groom baseball’s top prospects.
Players coming out of high school and college will play in the draft league and sharpen their skills in the hope of being selected for the 2021 Major League Baseball draft.
“We are thrilled to share with our fans and sponsor partners the exciting news that your Trenton Thunder will be a founding member of the new MLB Draft League for the 2021 season and continue to bring family fun to Arm & Hammer Park,” said Thunder General Manager Jeff Hurley in a written statement.
Hurley said the family experience at the ballpark will continue as the Thunder team becomes part of the draft league. The Thunder’s beloved bat dog, Rookie, will continue to retrieve bats for the draft league team. The other Thunder bat dog, Dash, will make his debut with the team this summer.
“The new MLB Draft League will showcase the best prospects in baseball eligible for the MLB draft,” Hurley said. “Thunder fans will get to know these players as they begin their path as future stars of Major League Baseball.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy applauded the new draft league affiliation for the Thunder at his regular press briefing on Monday as good news for the struggling capital city.
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said the news was a win for the Thunder, the county, the city, and baseball fans.
“For legions of Trenton Thunder fans, the development of a new league showcasing up and coming talent will be a real thrill,” Hughes said. “Major League Baseball’s success is built on a thriving minor league system, and for 27 years Thunder supporters have visited our Capital City, warmly welcoming new players and proudly cheering others on to the big leagues.”
According to Major League Baseball, the new draft league’s schedule will run from May through August. The team’s schedule will include 68 games, with an All-Star break in July.
Five teams have been chosen for the league so far, with a sixth team to be named soon. In addition to the Trenton Thunder, the teams so far include the Williamsport Crosscutters, the State College Spikes, the Virginia Black Bears, and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
“With more than 150 scouts and operations personnel coast-to-coast at the high school, collegiate and junior college levels, we take great pride in our ability to identify the nation’s top amateur draft prospects, which will ultimately make the MLB Draft League the preeminent league for draft-eligible players,” said Sean Duncan, president of Major League Baseball partner Prep Baseball Report.