Edgardo Alfonzo is back, and so are the 2017 Cyclones
Mets Icon Hopes to Lead Brooklyn Back into NY-Penn Playoffs
You can talk about player development all you want, but here in Brooklyn, Cyclones fans are hungry for a winner.
Former Mets second baseman Edgardo “Fonzie” Alfonzo hopes to produce one in his managerial debut with the big league club’s Class A short-season franchise by the sea.
“As a manager, you want to win,” Alfonzo admitted this weekend as the Cyclones met the local media for the first time in advance of their 17th season on Surf Avenue.
“You also want to develop guys in pressure situations,” he added. “This is a good place to do that.”
It has been since the Cyclones began playing beneath the shadow of the old parachute jump back in 2001, shattering New York-Penn League attendance records, developing dozens of Major League ballplayers and earning their first, and thus far only, championship during that inaugural campaign here.
But Brooklyn has missed out on the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, by far their longest postseason drought during their 17-year history, and the Baby Bums have also finished below .500 in each of the past two campaigns.
Alfonzo, a 12-year big league veteran who spent eight of those seasons with the parent club in Flushing, has been on Brooklyn’s staff as a bench coach for the previous two years.
Now it’s finally Fonzie’s turn to steer the big ship after learning his craft from 40-year baseball veteran and former Cyclones skipper Tom Gamboa.
“I think I was ready when Tom walked away,” said Alfonzo, who was reluctant to jump into managing during his first few years with the Cyclones.
“I [wanted] to learn as a coach how to deal with the guys.”
He’ll have a fresh bushel of recruits hanging on his every word come this week as Brooklyn was prepping to finally open its campaign Tuesday night in Coney Island against the arch rival Staten Island Yankees.
The teams had their scheduled season opener washed out in Staten Island on Monday night, meaning former 11th-round draft pick Jake Simon had to wait an extra 24 hours to make his Brooklyn debut.
“I’m excited to see what we can do this year as a team,” Simon said on the team’s website in advance of his first start in a Cyclones uniform. “We expect big things out of each other. We just have to come together and play as a team.”
“It pumps you up that much more and it gets the adrenaline going,” he added of pitching in front of the Brooklyn crowd at MCU Park. “It’s great for the overall city and the team.”
For Alfonzo, the connections in Brooklyn run very deep.
His brother Edgar managed here during the 2001 championship campaign, and also helmed Brooklyn to the NY-Penn Finals in 2007 before they were swept by Auburn in the title round.
“He taught me everything I know about the game,” Alfonzo said of his older brother. “It’s important that I can call on him whenever I need to.”
Another family connection and possible reunion here in Brooklyn may be in Alfonzo’s not-too-distant future.
The Mets selected his son, Daniel, a standout at Bayside High School in Queens, during the 38th round of last week’s MLB Draft.
After Daniel puts in some work in the instructional league, it is quite possible that father will manage son at some point this summer right here in Brooklyn.
“He’s a really, really talented kid. He plays third base, can hit, can do a little bit of everything,” Mets vice president of amateur scouting Tommy Tanous said of the young prospect.
Ultimately, Alfonzo will be judged on his ability to find the next Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto or Hansel Robles, a young player who can make his way up the minor league chain and contribute to the big league club sooner rather than later.
But for the approximately 200,000 fans who will fill the seats at MCU this summer, watching winning baseball is what they pay for and want after four straight years of sitting out the playoffs.
And it’s Fonzie’s job now to deliver that winner.
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In other local pro sports news, the Brooklyn Nets made a move in advance of Thursday night’s much-anticipated NBA Draft at Barclays Center by shoring up their staff with a new assistant player development coach.
Travon Bryant, who played 11 professional seasons abroad in Japan, Greece, Italy, Germany, Ukraine and France, has been added to head coach Kenny Atkinson’s staff.
The Long Beach, California native played collegiately at Missouri from 2000-04, and will doubtlessly aid Nets general manager Sean Marks in his search for talented players outside of the United States due to his vast international experience.
Bryant spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach for the NBA Developmental League’s Oklahoma City Blue.
The league-worst Nets, who lost control of the first overall pick in Thursday night’s draft via their 2013 deal with the Boston Celtics, will select 22nd and 27th in the opening round, and will likely use one of those picks to draft a foreign import.
Brooklyn is reportedly also in the thick of the hunt for EuroLeague star Milos Teodosic, formerly of CSKA Moscow, a team that was once run by Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
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