Coney Island

Cyclones more likely to be promoted than contracted in 2021

Mets' short-season affiliate could climb to Double-A

October 22, 2020 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Our borough has already suffered through a summer without Brooklyn Cyclones baseball due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

But with Major League Baseball ready to slash a swath of its existing minor league teams before next season, could the Baby Bums be in line for extinction or at least lose their affiliation with the New York Mets?

Fuhgeddaboudit! No freaking way!

At least that’s what a tried and true Cyclones fan would say, especially following the team’s stirring 2019 New York-Penn League championship season.

Fortunately for Brooklynites, the Mets’ long-time Class A short-season affiliate by the sea isn’t likely to get caught up in MLB’s upcoming contraction in which the league is looking to alter or drop up to 42 teams.

In fact, the Cyclones, who saw their entire 2020 campaign canceled, may even benefit from this sea change as they have already been rumored to be moving up as far as Double-A in the Mets’ chain.

The Brooklyn club, which has been here since 2001 and has captured at least a share of two New York-Penn League titles since moving to Coney Island, has been one of the most successful and lucrative franchises in the history of the league.

With attendance figures topping the NY-Penn virtually every season and Mets All-Stars like Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto cutting their teeth at the pro level along Surf Avenue, the Cyclones have been nothing but good for the National League franchise and our borough.

MCU Park’s proximity to Citi Field in Flushing, New York, a simple 21.2 mile jaunt that begins via the Belt Parkway, also makes the Baby Bums a good fit for the Mets’ higher level prospects as they will be a phone call and a short limo ride away from the MLB squad.

Brooklyn has also served as a convenient place for Mets players to rehab on their way back from injury.

Noah Syndergaard has made starts for the Cyclones in each of the previous three seasons (2017, ’18 and ’19) while working up to his return to the big leagues.

Though the NY-Penn might not survive MLB’s drastic reduction of minor league teams — the short-season, 10-team Appalachian League has already been relegated to a college-level, wood-bat 54-game summer program — the Cyclones figure to beat the cutdown.

They have proven themselves worthy not only at the box office, but fit the bill geographically for what an MLB franchise would want in a Double-A affiliate.

Most importantly, Brooklyn baseball fanatics may now get to see the Mets’ top prospects in action while they are on the verge of getting called up to the big leagues rather than at the formative stage of their development.

Of course, there is always the alternative that Cyclones baseball will cease to exist in Brooklyn.

But nobody from Dumbo to Sheepshead Bay is buying into that scenario.

Mets hurler Noah Syndergaard is just one of several notable players to have made rehab outings in Coney Island over the years. Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP

In local college sports news, the Long Island University men’s hockey team still hasn’t played a single game since being added as a Division I sport in April.

But the Sharks did find a conference for their much-anticipated inaugural campaign, which is slated to begin on the weekend of Nov. 13-14.

Last week, the Atlantic Hockey Association announced that the Brookville, New York-based Sharks, who are still affiliated with the original campus here in Downtown Brooklyn, will be a schedule partner of the AHA.

Though they won’t be permitted to compete in the league’s postseason tournament in their first year, the Sharks are just happy to have teams to play against once the season kicks off.

“We could not be more excited to open our inaugural season by partnering with the Atlantic Hockey Association for this scheduling agreement,” LIU head coach Brett Riley said.

“This agreement is a monumental moment for our program, and will allow us to play a competitive schedule in our opening season of Division I hockey. I would like to thank Commissioner Robert DeGregorio and all of the AHA’s coaches and administrators for including us as an independent, which will allow our program to get off the ground in a safe and exciting setting.”

The Sharks won’t be traveling too far if they do get on the ice this year.

To mitigate some of the risk factors regarding COVID-19 during travel, the AHA has separated the league into eastern and western pods, with the Air Force Academy team standing alone as the geographic outlier, according to a league-issued release.

The eastern pod will consist of American International College, Army, Bentley, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart.

The western pod features Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagara, Rochester Institute of Technology and Robert Morris.

In all, the Sharks will get to play at least 22 league contests, but are still awaiting their non-conference schedule, which is still in the works.

The AHA welcomed LIU aboard, but only after the Sharks agreed to abide by all protocols for the season, including COVID-related testing, screening, sanitization and other preventative measures.

Riley, who took the job as the first-ever coach in Sharks Hockey history back in May, came to LIU via Colgate University, where he served as an assistant last year.

He also has some experience in program-building as he built a first-year team at Wilkes University in Pennylvania that wound up going 16-8-2, earning Riley conference coach of the year honors.

The AHA was also pleased to add a new team to its schedule.

“First off, I’m extremely excited to be announcing we have an approved league schedule for the 2020-21 season. It’s been a long process, and involved quite a bit of discussion, but it’s a testament to all those involved that we have managed to get Atlantic Hockey on the ice in 2020-21,” said AHA commissioner Robert DeGregorio.

“We put this schedule together to maximize the student-athlete experience during such uncertain times. We found a way to schedule up to 28 games while maintaining a focus on the health and safety of all parties by reducing travel times and overnight trips as much as we could.”

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