This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Before 2001, the borough of Brooklyn in New York City went without its own baseball team for more than forty years. As part of a revitalization plan, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani brought two teams to the city; the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees. Like their big league counterparts, the Cyclones and “Baby Bombers” have developed a rivalry over the last decade that matches only the one between the major league affiliates in the same city. With only 13 miles between the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees, they play closer to each other than any two baseball organizations.
Though the Cyclones are officially the New York Mets Single A affiliate, there is a great deal of connections made between the Coney Island squad and the major league Brooklyn Dodgers who left decades earlier. Their mascots, Pee Wee and Sandy The Seagull, are named in honor of famous Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers Sandy Koufax and Pee Wee Reese. Along the rows of seats, the ends are emblazoned with the interlocking “NY” symbol and the original Brooklyn Dodgers “B”.
Outside of MCU Park, there is a bronze statue of Pee Wee Reese putting his arm around Jackie Robinson. The statue commemorates the time during the 1947 season when Reese showed his support for the future Hall of Fame second baseman who was the first player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
With the recent opening Luna Park,an amusement park located right next to the famous Cyclone roller coaster and down the street from the home of the Cyclones, the team is located in the middle of a major revitalization of Coney Island. With the original Cyclone and the Parachute Jump as a backdrop to MCU Park, the great past of Coney Island seems to quite literally touch the great future of the area.
On the field, the Brooklyn Cyclones are playing more closely to the level of talent of the old Brooklyn Dodgers than the current New York Mets. The Brooklyn Cyclones lead the New York-Penn League with a 35-16 record, 4 wins more than the closest team. They have lost just 5 times at home this season, and hold a 9 game lead over the second place Hudson Valley Renegades in the McNamara division.
Like most minor league teams, the Cyclones have long had great promotions to bring fans to the ballpark, and it seems as though this season they’re leading the league in promotions as well as wins. Several weeks ago the Cyclones hosted a “Jersey? Sure!” night, complete with a jersey giveaway featuring Sandy the Seagull fist-pumping on the back. Over the years, they have held bobblehead giveaways, had medieval knights sword fighting between innings, and at one time changed their name to the Baracklyn Cyclones in honor of President Obama.
The Cyclones have always had a way with paying tribute to their Mets and Brooklyn connections, and not just off the field with promotions and stadium designs. The current manager of the Cyclones, Wally Backman, was a long time member of the New York Mets during the 1980s, playing second base. The .283 career hitter with the Mets rose to the occasion during the 1986 World Series, hitting .333 against the Boston Red Sox. Backman follows in a trend by the Mets to hire former players to manage in the minors, specifically the Cyclones. The first skipper of the team, Edgar Alfonzo, is the older brother of Edgardo Alfonzo, who logged 7 seasons at second base for the New York Mets. Howard Johnson, Tim Teufel, and Mookie Wilson round out the list of former players who have donned the Mets uniform and the Cyclones uniform later as managers. In addition to having a major league influence at the helm, there have been 25 players who have played for the Cyclones that have reached the Major Leagues, including current New York Mets Ike Davis, Angel Pagan and Jenrry Mejia.
Between BaseballDigest.com’s and GothamBaseball.com’s coverage of the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees, there is no shortage of outlets for finding out what’s happening with the rising stars of both New York City minor league teams. Most recently, GothamBaseball.com highlighted the “New York Feel” that the upcoming NY-Penn All Star Game that will feature 8 Brooklyn Cyclones and 5 Staten Island Yankees on the roster as the Baby Bombers host the sixth annual all star game.
The Brooklyn Cyclones are among the teams that have latched onto the social networks of Twitter and Facebook to reach their fans. They have utilized Facebook to offer fan-only prizes and giveaways. As the dog days of summer are here, catching the Brooklyn Cyclones after a trip to Nathan’s for a hot dog seems like a no brainer, considering they may be the hottest team in Single A baseball.
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Stay Tuned: Keep an eye on Baseball Digest.com for an all-new Minor League Spotlight next week featuring the Frisco RoughRiders, the Double A Affiliate of the Texas Rangers!