Cyclones hope to bounce back from slow start
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Cyclones have become quite adept at gathering speed down the stretch during their first two seasons under manager Rich Donnelly.
That's why an 0-2 start to this campaign, albeit at the hands of the rival Staten Island Yankees, shouldn't give the Brooklyn faithful reason for concern as the team prepares to host "Re-Opening Day" at MCU Park on Thursday evening.
"These are babies, colts running in the field.” Donnelly said of his young roster of Mets prospects, each of whom is eager to climb the Minor League ladder toward the ultimate dream: a shot at the Majors.
"We just try to come out and play the game right," added the 66-year-old veteran with more than three decades of pro coaching experience. "This is [their] first year of pro ball. Hopefully they can improve, and someday I can watch them when I’m sitting on my couch."
That couch should be vacant for at least a few more summers.
Donnelly has established himself as the Met organization's primary "colt-breaker", having led Brooklyn to back-to-back playoff appearances in his first two seasons while compiling nearly 100 wins. He's also been instrumental in developing potential big leaguers like Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plawecki, Cole Frenzel and Jayce Boyd, each of whom earned South Atlantic League All-Star honors at Class A Savannah this year after playing for Brooklyn last season.
“I watch them every night and I told [Sand Gnats manager] Luis Rojas that if they had hit .340 for me, we would have won the pennant," Donnelly quipped.
With his stable filled with a fresh batch of players, Donnelly understands it may take a turn or two for these Cyclones to hit their stride.
Especially when considering the media spotlight and large crowds the professional neophytes will confront on a nightly basis at MCU Park on Coney Island.
“I think not only [in] Brooklyn, but pro ball, playing every day [is an adjustment]," Donnelly noted. "You’re not going to class. You don’t have a calculus test, but you’ll be tested every day with the lifestyle and the traveling. But the coolest thing is someone from Oklahoma is going to meet someone from Santo Domingo, and they’re going to be best friends for life. Just like the guys last year,"
The Cyclones' resident "Okie", first baseman Matt Oberste of Saginaw, Okla., belted his first pro homer during Wednesday night's 5-2 loss at Staten Island. LJ Mazzilli added a double and a run scored for Brooklyn, which dropped its season opener Monday night at Richmond County Bank Ballpark for the first time in six years.
In each of Donnelly's first two seasons, the Cyclones have made strong late-August pushes to the playoffs, and came within a single win of reaching the New York-Penn League Championship Series last summer.
Shortstop Gavin Cecchini, one of two first-round picks by the Mets in 2012, got a taste of Surf Avenue during last year's run to the postseason.
“Obviously, last year I got called up for the playoffs and it was a blast," noted Cecchini, who is 0-for-7 with two walks thus far this summer. "I’m happy to be back here and playing in New York. Right now, I don’t want to be anyplace else. This is a great place to play and playing for Rich, he’s a great manager. It’s gonna be a good year. We’re looking forward to it.”
In recretational sports news, the Staten Island Touch/Tackle Football League is seeking participants from our fair borough for their long-running league just across the Verrazano Bridge.
League organizers Charles and Michael Margiotta are imploring Brooklyn natives to join the "full contact", 8-on-8 circuit, which is entering its 58th season. Games are normally played between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday mornings with night games during the week at 6:30 p.m.
Players must be at least 18 years of age. Registration is open now for the 2013 Fall campaign, which begins in September.
Those interested can call 718-761-8321 or check out the league's website at http://www.statenislandtouchtackle.com.