Our next interview is with Mike Ashmore who covers the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees Double-A affiliate, at Thunder Thoughts, for the Hunterdon County Democrat.

When you aren't doing something related to or depending on the Yankees or the Thunder, what are you up to?

I'm currently in my first season of covering the Trenton Devils for the Democrat, but the coverage is online only. I'm basically using the same layout as I am for the Thunder coverage, as that proved to be pretty successful. When I'm not working, I'm usually just taking in a hockey game for fun or hanging out with friends and so on. During baseball season, when I'm not covering the Thunder, I'm covering the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League. So I'm always busy doing something.

How long have you been blogging about the Yankees or the Thunder?

This will be my fourth season as the Trenton Thunder beat writer for the paper, but I've only been doing the blog since January of 2008.

What's the best and worst part of blogging?

Best... one of the fundamental principles of journalism isn't to necessarily have it first, but to have it right. But when you know you're right, it's always best to have it first. So with the blog, I can reach literally thousands more people than I could just with my print coverage, and can provide them with the information they want before they could find it in the next day's paper. The best part, for me, of doing this particular blog is that I have total control of the content on there... basically, my paper has nothing to do with it. So I can do the blog the way I think the blog should be done, so I try to think of what I like to see when I'm reading other beat writers' blogs, which I do all the time. I want up-to-the-minute information, I want photos, I want video, I want audio, I want quotes, I want to feel like the writer is accessible to me... and those are all things I feel like I've been able to accomplish with the blog.

Worst... I wouldn't say this is necessarily a bad thing, but it makes you work super hard because you're expected to know everything about the team, inside and out. Ideally, for what I post on that blog, I would have someone else alongside me doing it. And I've had several people offer to help me with that. But while my paper has nothing to do with the blog, the credential that the team provides is through my paper... so that's not a situation that would be possible. There just isn't really time to relax during a game, which gets a little frustrating at times.

How did you end up at the Democrat?

I started there occasionally submitting photos for my colleague Scott Stanchak's coverage of the Patriots and Thunder. When Scott moved on to bigger and better things, he recommended me to take over for him on both beats. This is my fourth year with the paper, and my seventh as a sportswriter overall.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a sportswriter?

It's something that I felt like I always wanted to do, but never necessarily had the outlet to do the right way. Even when I was a little kid, I would type up my own play-by-play during televised games or I would turn on my tape recorder and do play-by-play for my video games or when I was playing with my toy wrestlers... yes, this was a while ago. And I always had a big interest in sports and knew I'd love to work in sports one day. So when the opportunity to do it kind of fell in my lap after a chance meeting with my colleague Scott Stanchak in college in 2003, I jumped at it.

Besides your own, what are your favorite Yankees or Thunder blogs?

I read Chad Jennings and Pete Abraham every day. Tyler Kepner does a great job with his stuff, same with Bryan Hoch. I like to check out NoMaas for more of a humorous take on things. I'll check out the NYYfans.com forums every so often. Robert Pimpsner's Baby-Bombers.com stuff is a good way to keep up on the some of the kids I'll be seeing in a few years. River Ave. Blues has always been kind enough to send a lot of people my way, and they do a fantastic job over there. There isn't anywhere I won't go to learn more about the Yankees organization and specifically the minor league guys, but those are the ones that come to mind right now.

What are some of your earliest memories of the Yankees?

I went to a few games there when I was younger... I think the first one I ever went to was a game against the Orioles. I remember thinking it was neat that Deion Sanders was playing baseball, and still recall Joe Orsulak getting mercilessly heckled by one of the fans there. I must have been about 7 or 8. After that, the game I probably remember going to the most was back when Hideki Irabu had just joined the Yankees... he was a big deal at the time, and I was excited that I was going to get to see him pitch. As it turns out, I got to see pretty much everyone hit a home run that day off of him... Griffey, A-Rod, Buhner. We had decent seats in the lower level in right field, so I got to see quite a few of the home runs land up close. I think memories like that was what made it all the more special to get to cover a game there for the first time back in 2007.

What baseball team did you root for as a kid?

I think both the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. The first big league game I ever went to was at Shea Stadium, and I got to meet a few of the players and go on the field before the game. I remember walking on the warning track on the outfield and seeing if I could stick my glove over the wall if I jumped high enough. I also remember waiting in line at a shoe store near my house to meet Kevin McReynolds... the poster he signed remains on my wall to this day. As for the Braves, they were just always on TV because of the deal with TBS, and my dad really liked them as well. So we'd watch a lot of Braves games together, and we'd always try to go out to the Vet in Philly once a year to see them play. For the record, I don't follow either one of those teams now. Don't really "follow" the Yankees, either.

Was someone in your family influential in making sure you pulled for them?

Think I pretty much covered that one in the previous answer... but I don't really think my dad follows the Braves anymore. He grew up following the Brooklyn Dodgers and his favorite player was Sandy Koufax, who I think only pitched there for two or three years before the team moved... but in any event, I've always wanted to take my dad to a Brooklyn Cyclones game, but I haven't gotten him to go just yet.

But I will, Dad. Ha!

Do you admire anyone (doesn't need to be a player) in the Yankee and/or Thunder organizations?

Brian Cashman is the first name that comes to mind for me... just considering where he started and where he is today, that's something that's really admirable and something I will hopefully one day be able to relate to.

In terms of the Thunder, I think just as a whole, I have a lot of respect for their entire organization. They really are a first-class group over there, and they couldn't possibly be any better to me than they already are. I really do look forward to going back there again in April, not only for the baseball, but to see so many of the people who I really got to know a lot better during last season. I make it a point to walk through the front office when I arrive at the ballpark, just to say hello to everyone and to see what's going on, and I'm sure I'll continue that in 2009.

What are you most looking forward to, and least looking forward to, about the new Yankee Stadium?

I'm most looking forward to seeing the new press box there. I know that next to nobody else cares about that, but considering I hope to cover a handful of games there this year so I can do my usual Thunder alumni pieces, I'll be curious to see what it looks like. Hopefully there's a little more room in there than there was in the old one.

I'm also very curious to see what the home clubhouse will look like... I'd have to imagine it will be the nicest one I've ever set foot in.

Least looking forward to? Honestly, I can't really think of anything.

I'm really curious about all of it. I'd say maybe the food prices or the difficulty in getting tickets, but I'm very grateful for the fact that I haven't had to pay to get into Yankee Stadium for a few years now... although I would love to just go to a game and check the place out from a fan's perspective one day.

I know you are a not just a baseball writer, but a sportswriter in general, that has covered several different sports, but do you have any particular passion or interest in the Minor Leagues? For example, if you move on to another beat in a different sport or in a pro league, will you still follow Minor League Baseball?

I do have a great interest in Minor League Baseball, and have often wondered if I'd prefer to cover the Minor Leagues for the length of my career or eventually move on to the big leagues. Professionally speaking, just the access you get to the players and to the field, and just how everyone feels like one big family with the Thunder... I can't imagine that's replicated on the big league level. For example, I could pretty much get as much time as I needed with Joba Chamberlain when he was pitching in Trenton a few years back. Now? I'd be lucky to get five minutes.

If/when I do move onto other beats, I'd imagine I'd still follow my old ones. This will be my fourth year in Trenton and seventh in Somerset, and I've been fortunate enough to make a lot of great friends on and off the field. So I'll always be curious to see what they're doing.

Who are the most interesting personalities that you have covered?

Matt DeSalvo comes to mind first for me. He was just a very interesting guy... we sat down for about 15 minutes for a feature I did back in 2006, which remains one of my favorite pieces I've ever written.

Where do you predict the Thunder to finish this season?

That's so hard to say right now, because nobody even knows for sure who's going to be on the roster yet... but given the team's finishes over the past four seasons, it would be hard not to predict that they'll finish in the top 2 of the division yet again.

If you had to pick a dark horse, a player who could make a surprise contribution to the Major League Yankees in 2009, from the Thunder roster, who would it be?

Assuming Eric Hacker starts the season in Trenton, I'd say him. I think it will be difficult for him to jump over guys like Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and so on to get that big league call-up... but if he ever does get up there, he's got good stuff and a similar attitude to Phil Coke, and you see what that got him last season.

Have you been surprised by the interest shown in your blog, and in your writing about the Thunder, given the often times small attention paid to the Minor Leagues?

Yes and no. I think in general, there isn't a whole lot of mainstream interest in the Minor Leagues. But Yankee fans are a different breed, and want to know everything about every one of their players, whether it be A-Rod or their last pick in this year's draft. The amount of interest the blog has gotten has really been flattering, and I really enjoy the correspondence with my readers and answering all their questions and hopefully bringing them a little closer to these guys.

Out of all current Yankee hitters, if you need someone to make something happen, who do you want?

A-Rod. Yeah, he hasn't been the most clutch guy over the past few seasons and he tends to end up on the side of a milk carton come October... but nobody on that team right now, Mark Teixeira included, can single-handedly change a game like A-Rod can.