TRENTON, NJ – Will Smith, closing out his career as the Trenton Thunder general manager after seven years, thanked this writer for scheduling this interview at a better mutual time.
“I really appreciated it,” said Smith, who will soon turn 42. “We were looking at houses in North Jersey. I am from there, but this is not the easiest thing I’ve done.”
Following the Thunder’s season, which concludes Sept. 7, Smith will leave the Yankees Double-A farm team to join the Bombers’ Short-Season Class-A club, the Staten Island Yankees. Actually, he’s joining the ownership of the SI Yanks
Smith, who will assume the role of Staten Island’s CEO, as well as that of Operating Partner for Nostalgic Partners, the holding company for the Staten Island Yankees.
“I had been approached, and I really think this is a good time for me to make such a move,” said Smith. “It’s a good time in my career as a baseball executive and a good time for my family.
“This is something I’m really looking forward to, working with Jane (Staten Island President and GM Rogers), and I can’t wait to see what I can do both with the team and the ownership.”
Smith came to Trenton seven years ago, succeeding Brad Taylor, now the GM of the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas after a stop with the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods. Smith had done a solid job with the Class-A Hagerstown Suns that attracted the invitation to Trenton.
Under Smith, things have run well, as the Thunder are now in their 22nd season.
“When I came to the Thunder, I just wanted to keep things going in the right direction for the ownership,” he said. “It is an honor to work for one of the recognized top minor-league teams in the country.
“Those before built something great over the previous 15 years. I just wanted to continue that, and the person who comes after me will feel the same way. This team is certainly something special.”
Smith moves from one park with a body of water beyond the outfield to another – Richmond County Bank Park, with a view of Lower Manhattan beyond left field. Many a young Yankees prospect has felt so close to Yankee Stadium, yet so far when playing for the Baby Bombers.
Which is something Smith appreciates.
“It’s also nice that I’ll still be in the Yankees organization and watching the younger guys perform. It’s quite a road for the players, from that level, through Trenton and hopefully to the majors.
Smith will still be involved in game-day matters with Rogers and her staff, but also will occupy an important liaison position with the ownership.
“I’ll do what’s needed in both areas,” Smith said. “I’ll take a look at how everything is being done and see what I can offer. I want to make the owners’ investment as sound as it can be.”
Staten Island and Nostalgic Partners are getting a seasoned baseball man, one who has grown during his seven seasons in Trenton. This is a perfect job for Will Smith at this point, and we wish him the best.