Double-A Trenton takes part in HOPE week

Double-A Trenton takes part in HOPE week

Double-A Trenton takes part in HOPE week
As players from the Trenton Thunder lined the maternity ward hallway at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital -- poised to deliver flowers to new parents -- they never thought their nice gesture would be shooed away by a new grandmother from Florida.

Patience Purdy, Thunder director of community relations, tried to declare the team's intentions to new parents, Jared Jones and Lyndsey Cox, but got no further than "Yankees" before she was interrupted by Sherry Sloan, Cox's mother.

"Ok, see you later," said Sloan who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and is a Miami Marlins fan.

After the hallway erupted in laughter, Purdy explained the Thunder were there as part of the New York Yankees Hope Week initiative (Helping Others Persevere and Excel). Players and personnel from the Thunder, the Yankees Double-A affiliate, will partake in a handful of events throughout the week to inspire others to give back to their communities and reward those who already have.

The New York Yankees will kick off their HOPE Week events on Monday, June 25. Sloan smiled as 22-year-old Thunder pitcher Brett Marshall presented flowers and congratulations to the Ewing Township couple as Cox lay in bed recovering, and Jones held his barely four-day-old daughter, Reagen, in his arms.

But it would be the arms of 25-year-old first-baseman Addison Maruszak that would become the most important as the Thunder moved on to congratulate the next couple. Christina Albanesius and her husband Ernie Albanesius were enjoying the company of their three-day-old daughter Sadie, when Maruszak came bearing his bouquet.

"Do you want to hold her?" asked Ernie Albanesius after some brief small talk.

After a few baby-holding tips by Albanesius, Maruszak cradled Sadie safely in his arms, prompting some ribbing from his teammates. After Maruszak handed the baby back to her father, 26-year-old pitcher Ryan Pope chimed in from the doorway.

"Did you tell them you lead the team in errors?" Pope said with a smile.

The Yankees began HOPE Week in 2009 to help highlight extraordinary people and inspire others to get involved in their community. Last year, the Yankees began the week by surprising students at Daniel's Music Foundation -- a non-profit organization that provides free music instruction to individuals with disabilities -- and continued to honor people with astonishing stories throughout the week.

This is the first season all five of the New York Yankees Minor League teams are participating. The Trenton Thunder players seemed to enjoy their time giving back, especially when they got to interact with youngsters from the Lakeview Child Center, their second stop on the RWJ campus.

"Anytime you can make a kid smile it's definitely worth your day," Pope said. "I have nieces and nephews and as much as it makes me happy to see them smile, it makes me just as happy to watch these kids I've never even met smile."

The Thunder players, along with their mascot Boomer, sat with the kids, played games and signed autographs.

"Being around kids is one of the things I love the most," pitcher Mickey O'Brien said. "I did a lot of baseball camps back home and I got to work with the kids so it's always fun for me."

It was also fun for 9-year-old Wade Hammitt, who was at Lakeview on his birthday and was pleasantly surprised when the Trenton Thunder showed up to his class. Hammitt is a Philadelphia Phillies fan whose favorite player is Chase Utley. But the visit from the Thunder undoubtedly earned them a new fan.

With stars in his eyes and a smile on his face, Hammitt summed up his birthday surprise, "It was really cool."

Aaron Carter is a contributor for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.