Cyclones get richer with return of ex-manager Donnelly
Former Brooklyn manager to serve as Baby Bums’ bench coach
In his third and final season as manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones, Rich Donnelly missed the playoffs for the first time.
He also won the hearts of Brooklyn baseball fanatics for life during that summer of 2013.
Sitting in the home team dugout with tears streaming down his face, Donnelly spoke of the devastation he witnessed in the aftermath of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, a violent and unforgiving storm that ravaged the tri-state area and put MCU Park under water the previous winter.
“When that happened, I felt like it was my family,” Donnelly noted as the Cyclones prepared for their first season following the devastating storm after a massive renovation project had been completed on their previously water-logged facility by the sea.
“All we do is play baseball. I saw what happened. I saw the devastation to people that I know,” he added. “We have people at the office here that still don’t have their homes. Our job is to provide some entertainment for those people who have been through hell. If we do that, regardless of wins and losses, that’s our goal for this team.”
Donnelly sent a truck full of supplies to the ballpark, aiding in the Coney Island community’s recovery before the 2013 season.
He also lamented that he wasn’t in Brooklyn when the storm hit.
“They showed some film of the places that were hit,” Donnelly recalled. “They showed the place where I park every day. There was a trailer there passing out supplies and food and it just really hit me.
“We think what we do is important, but it’s not. It’s entertainment, not real life. It feels like my family. I’ve been here three years. I wish I could have done more.”
Though Brooklyn went 38-37 that summer and missed the postseason for the first time in five years, Donnelly’s impact on the organization wasn’t lost on the fan base, or on the Cyclones themselves.
Future Mets regulars like Brandon Nimmo, Hansel Robles, Kevin Plawecki and Robert Gsellman cut their teeth in pro ball under Donnelly’s guidance before he tipped his cap to the Coney Island crowd one last time and made his way back to the big leagues as third-base coach for the Seattle Mariners in 2014 and 2015.
But beginning Friday night in Staten Island, the 71-year-old baseball sage with better than four decades of Major League-affiliated coaching experience will be back in the Brooklyn dugout.
The Cyclones announced this week that Donnelly was returning to the organization as bench coach under second-year manager and former Mets icon Edgardo Alfonzo.
Donnelly will also fill-in as manager during the traditional Opening Weekend home-and-home series with the arch rival Yankees as Alfonzo will be away from the team getting inducted into the Latin American Baseball Hall of Fame.
One of only two Cyclones skippers to pile up at least 100 wins at the helm and the last to guide them to the playoffs, Donnelly will be a perfect fit on Alfonzo’s staff alongside pitching coach Royce Ring and batting instructor Marlon Anderson.
His ability to teach fledgling big leaguers fresh out of high school or college the “right way” to approach the game has been heralded throughout the sport since he began his coaching career in the Texas Rangers’ organization in the early 1970s.
Cyclones fans who will be on hand for Saturday night’s home opener against the Yankees on Surf Avenue will doubtlessly rise as one to welcome back one of their own.
An honorary Brooklynite, and more importantly, an honorable man.
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In other local baseball news, Long Island University Brooklyn’s storied run to the NCAA Baseball Regionals apparently attracted some Major League attention.
Blackbirds first baseman Andrew Turner, who finished off his senior year in style by batting a team-high .346, was selected in the 39th round of the MLB Draft by the Derek Jeter-run Miami Marlins.
It was the second year in a row that Turner, who paced LIU to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1972, was picked by Miami.
He was selected in the 40th round by the Marlins last year, but instead returned to Brooklyn to help the Blackbirds on their historic run to last weekend’s Conway, South Carolina Regional, where the team dropped back-to-back games to host school Coastal Carolina and the University of Connecticut.
“I am extremely excited again for Andrew and his family,” Blackbirds head coach Dan Pirillo said of Turner beginning his path toward a potential big league career.
“He has shown tremendous growth and leadership over the past two seasons and I am proud to see him take the next step,” Pirillo added of one his three departing seniors. “After the season we just completed and the team we have coming back, I really hope that more LIU-Brooklyn players can learn from Andrew’s example and put themselves in this position in the near future.”
Turner will likely find himself with one of the Marlins’ low minors affiliates in the coming month if he signs a contract with the team, which is rebuilding from the ground up after Jeter’s ownership group took during last year.
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