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Brooklyn Still a Pure Baseball Experience a Decade Later

By Mike Silva ~ June 21st, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, NY Baseball Memories.

I was in attendance last night for the Brooklyn Cyclones/Aberdeen Ironbirds game at MCU Park in Coney Island. I decided to take in the game as a fan, electing to avoid the chaos an event such as “Angel Pagan Bobble Head Night” creates when you have tons of mainstream media in the building. Taking in the atmosphere made me remember my first visit to MCU, which was then called Keyspan Park, back on September 8th, 2001.

That night, the Cyclones would beat the Staten Island Yankees to advance to the NY-Penn League Championship Series. It was an atmosphere like no other. The fans were just as intense about this mini Subway Series, as they were a year earlier when the Mets took on the Yankees in the World Series. That’s no exaggeration either; ask anyone who was in the building that night and they will talk about how the intensity level heightened as the game moved into the later innings. If I remember correctly, then NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was also in attendance. Chants of “Let’s go Cyclones” and “Let’s go Yankees” serenaded throughout the night. You probably know by now the Cyclones beat the Yankees that night 4-1.I found the details earlier today via the Queens Gazette:

On Saturday night, Staten Island played much better defense, but the Cyclones got a great game from catcher Brett Kay, who hit a clutch two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Cyclones a 4-1 cushion. Earlier in the top of the seventh inning with the Cyclones nursing a 1-0 lead, the Yankees looked like they tied the game up when Jason Turner headed toward home on a base hit. But left fielder John Toner threw a perfect strike to Kay, who decoyed Turner and tagged him out just before he reached home plate.

Kay acted as if the ball was too late coming from Toner, and Turner didn’t slide, but Kay caught Toner’s peg and applied the tag. It was a big play. Outfielder Angel Pagan, who had a great series, drove in the Cyclones’ second run in the last of the seventh with a sharp single to left field. Now it was a 2-0 game and time was running out for Staten Island.

Starter Ross Peeples got the win, going seven strong innings. Lefty Blake McGinley gave up a run-scoring hit to the dangerous John-Ford Griffinin the top of the eighth inning to make it a 2-1 nail-biter, before Kay’s blast sealed the deal. McGinley got into gear in the ninth and struck out the side to send Brooklyn into the NYPL championship round against Williamsport this week.

When the final out was made, there was a celebration on the field. The kids, many whom would never sniff big league ball, acted as if they just won the World Series. The fans did as well since they built such a connection with this new franchise throughout the season. Alas, the final step was one that was never taken as the 9-11 tragedy a few days later forced the League to name them co-champions with Williamsport. It was the first professional championship in Brooklyn since the Dodgers beat the Yankees in 1955. It was baseball at its purest form; in front of fans that really loved their team; something that rarely happens with the fan/team relationship in professional sports.

It wasn’t as “new” or “intense” last night, but the fans still are into this team a decade later. The crowd is there to see the home team win, not just develop players. The atmosphere is still pure since, to quote Kevin Kernan of the NY Post, “the game isn’t muted by constant bombardment of the video board like Citi Field or Yankee Stadium.” Sure, just like their Dodger brethren from over fifty years ago they seem to fall short in winning it all-they haven’t won since that shared title of ’01- however that never stops the fans from coming to the ballpark in droves, enjoying themselves, and connecting with the players. Some of the most beloved Mets are those that make a stop in Brooklyn. It seems they remember the experience very well. Recently, Dillon Gee told Steve Serby of the NY Post how “it was a blast to play in Brooklyn” and “the fans were unbelievable.”  It’s not uncommon to see long time Cyclones season ticket holders chatting with members of the team, not just to get autographs, but take a real interest in their well being at a very transformative point of their baseball career. There was such a buzz last night as one of their alumni, Angel Pagan, threw out the first pitch with his daughters. He’s become the most successful alumnus of that team. In a strange way his success is their success.

I won’t ever forget being in attendance that night. As a matter of fact, a banner commemorating the event hangs above me as I write this column in my office. So much has changed in baseball since that Saturday night in September of 2001. One that hasn’t is what goes on throughout the summer at that tiny ballpark in Coney Island.


Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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