Brooklyn faces a summer without the Cyclones
Mets' affiliate unlikely to return this year due to COVID-19 shutdown
The Brooklyn Cyclones chased their first outright New York-Penn League championship for the better part of two decades before capturing the crown in dramatic fashion last summer here on Coney Island.
Unfortunately for the New York Mets’ Class A short-season franchise by the sea, the Cyclones won’t even get to take a victory lap following their miraculous run to the title in 2019.
With the COVID-19 pandemic putting all professional and amateur sports leagues around the world on pause, it’s hard to imagine that minor league franchises, like our Cyclones, would have a chance to begin play at any point this year.
Brooklyn players danced around the infield at MCU Park last September after completing a breathtaking run that saw the Cyclones use a regular season-ending sweep of arch rival Staten Island just to get back into the postseason for the first time since 2012.
By doing so, the Baby Bums clinched their first McNamara Division title in nine seasons.
They went on to win a pair of elimination games against Hudson Valley in the NYP semifinals before surviving a nail-biting three-game series with Lowell to grab the elusive title.
The Cyclones had won a share of the 2001 NYP championship during their inaugural season in our borough, but that accomplishment was marred by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that cut the final series short with Brooklyn holding a 1-0 edge on Williamsport.
The teams split the title after the remainder of the series was cancelled, and Brooklyn spent the next 18 years looking for one to call all its own until last summer.
“I hope they keep this feeling,” Manager Edgardo Alfonzo said on the field after the Cyclones’ series-deciding 4-3 victory over Lowell.
“Any time you win the championship it’s a good feeling … You teach the guys how to play the game, but at the same time, you have to learn how to win championships. It’s a big part of the development of players in the Minor League system of any organization.”
That development figures to be stunted this summer as the Cyclones and minor league organizations around the nation are unlikely to get their seasons started at all, or at least not until the Major Leagues begin in earnest.
Brooklyn is still officially scheduled to host Staten Island on June 18 at MCU Park for Opening Day.
But with the big leagues still pondering a specific path back to beginning their own season, presumably without fans at first, it’s hard to imagine the approximately 160 minor league teams around the country going back into action anytime soon, if at all in 2020.
The Cyclones, who have led the NY-Penn in attendance in virtually every year of their existence here in Brooklyn, don’t have television revenue streams to rely on to make a profit like their MLB brethren.
Instead, they rely on ticket sales and fans lining up to buy beer and hot dogs at the park to stay in the green.
A franchise that has earned numerous awards for its creative promotions, such as Seinfeld Night and Star Wars Night, can’t exist without fans in the stands.
The Cyclones could also get caught up in MLB’s plan to eventually contract at least 40 minor league franchises, but that doesn’t seem likely for a team that drew upwards of 175,000 fans for its 38 scheduled home dates last year.
Instead, the Brooklyn faithful will simply have to wait until next summer to get a peek at the next wave of up-and-comers in the Mets’ organization.
Until then, the Cyclones will remain outright NY-Penn champions.
This, that and the other thing: When and if they do get started again, the Cyclones will have a new look in the Brooklyn dugout. The Cyclones announced back in January that long-time St. John’s University baseball coach Ed Blankmeyer would be the team’s new manager going forward. Blankmeyer is the 12th skipper in the history of the franchise and he will be joined on the coaching staff by Josh Towers (pitching coach), Rafael Fernandez (hitting coach), Benny Distefano (bench coach), Anthony Olivieri (athletic trainer) and Wyatt Briggs (performance coach).