The Trenton Thunder have cast a decisive vote in one of New Jersey’s hotly contested debates: pork roll or Taylor ham?
“I call it pork roll. I don’t call it Taylor ham. Taylor ham is the brand. Pork roll is the actual meat itself,” explained Sayreville resident Keith Gotta.
To celebrate the team’s 25th anniversary, every Friday during the 2018 season, the Trenton Thunder will become the Thunder Pork Roll. And there’s a new look to go with the new name.
“The uniforms are great, they got the pork roll, they got the little slits in them which people don’t know… It’s very important to cook with slits in it,” said Ben Ruta, outfielder for the Trenton Thunder. “If you just cut a pork roll and you don’t put a slit into it, it just bubbles up. You need to have that in there, so that’s a good detail that no one knows about. It’s a great look and I’m excited to see how we do today.”
Tom Dolan, president of Case’s Pork Roll, works with the team year-round. He says pork roll is a staple in the state capitol.
“Trenton is where pork roll comes from, both us and Taylor brand pork roll are still the only big Trenton factories that are around, so pork roll has always been affiliated with Trenton,” he said. “So it’s a great fit together. We’ve been growing with them for the last five years. We’ve been getting bigger and bigger. We’re hosting the home run derby contest, they are having the All-Star game here, so it’s a really big year for both the Trenton Thunder and Case’s Pork Roll.”
Trenton even hosted the world-famous Case’s Pork Roll Eating Championship for the last three years. Dolan believes that the contest might have contributed to the rebranding of the team.
“Pork roll is Trenton pork roll. They wanted to just market the name. I believe that’s how it all came about,” he said.
Even those who aren’t originally from New Jersey have heard about the Taylor ham versus pork roll controversy.
“I’m from South Carolina, I know it’s a big thing in New Jersey,” said James Reeves, relief pitcher for the Trenton Thunder. “I was talking with Ben Ruta, who is one of our players, and he said it’s this big debate over what you call it… I haven’t tried it yet, I plan on trying it after this game. It’s almost like galvanizing the whole community. You can tell everyone is fired up about it.”
The first 1,025 fans in attendance took home a special pork roll apron. All fans could celebrate with $1 pork roll sandwiches at Case’s Pork Roll concession stand. Fans even purchased rare pork roll merchandise such as t-shirts, plush toys or even caps at the team store.
“I come to a game like once a year. I always have a great time, and the fact that it’s pork roll night makes it even more special,” said Gotta.
To top it off, a special appearance was made by the new mascot, Slice, and during the seventh inning stretch, some fans were even caught singing a new version of take me out to the ballgame.
“Besides peanuts and crackerjacks, now we have to add pork roll to the song,” said Dolan.
The team won 2-0 over the Bowie Baysox.