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Life in the Minors: Chapter 1 - First Impressions, High Expectations

by Anthony Pucik, Brendan Bowers
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Bob Ahrens : WFUV Sports 

The Mini Mets and Baby Bombers get their first crack at professional baseball.

For the fourteenth consecutive year, WFUV talks to the members of the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees in the New York Single-A Penn League about the trials and tribulations of being minor league ballplayers. The long bus rides, the low pay, 76 games in 80 days. This is a look into Life in the Minors: How the Other Half Lives.

This week,  Brendan Bowers and Christian Goewey talk about the expecations these young ballplayers have to live up to and how important it is to make a good first impression.

The Staten Island Yankees with Brendan Bowers:

With a new summer comes another season of Staten Island Yankees baseball. Leading the way is new skipper, former New York-Penn League home run leader, Mario Garza, a young manager only 33 years of age, Garza spent last season managing one the Gulf Coast Yankees 2 (The Yankees field two teams in the Gulf Coast League).

The Staten Island Yankees open the year with a 33-man roster, of which two thirds of which are putting on the Staten Island pinstripes for the first time.  With such a large amount of the team new to the team, stadium, and city, I asked a few of them what their first impressions were.

Bo Thompson, a First Baseman taken in the 13th round out of The Citadel said it’s a great stadium, and pretty nice considering it is a step below the Charlestown River dogs (The Citadel and Charleston Riverdogs share a stadium in Charleston SC).  Similarly, the 10th round pick out of James Madison, second baseman Ty McFarland said,  “It’s probably the nicest ballpark I’ve ever played in, I’ve played in some ACC schools and this beats all of them.”  

Being several steps below the majors, these players cannot afford to have low expectations, and the players of the Staten Island Yankees certainly do not.   Pitcher David Palladino, a local boy from Emerson NJ, says that he wants to get out there and pitch, and to succeed as a team day in and day out.  Chris Breen has his eye on the prize as the first baseman wants to make the playoffs and bring the title back to Staten Island, and as for himself, put up good numbers. 

Although they are wearing pinstripes for their home games, it is not the pinstripes they have dreamed of wearing.  They all know that it will take hard work and dedication to make it to the Big Show, and that it is no guarantee that they will one day don the pinstripes in a packed house at Yankee Stadium.

The Brooklyn Cyclones with Christian Goewey: 

Kids are out of school, everyone is soaking in the sun and looking forward to their next vacation where they can ignore the stresses of everyday life and more importantly enjoy baseball.  America’s favorite pastime at its best: the simple enjoyment of going to a game at an affordable cost, eating a world’s famous Nathan’s hotdog and watching future major league ballplayers grow inning by inning with the hopes that their Cyclones will pull out the win. This is New York Penn League baseball, where it all starts.

Many presume that these games are irrelevant to the residents of Brooklyn, but it is quite the opposite. The Cyclones have now led the league in attendance for 13 straight seasons. These games provide joy to youngsters that are thrilled to enjoy the simplicity of a ballgame and see these future Mets, as well as for the adults and elders who still miss and crave a major league team like the glorious Dodger days. The attendance and fan base is remarkable and reflective of the successful recent history. Before last season, the Cyclones had reached the postseason five consecutive years and although they did not reach it last season, the “mini-Mets” still managed an above .500 record at 38-37.  

Manager Tom Gamboa is the successor to Rich Donnelly, who spent three seasons managing Brooklyn.  While Gamboa is new to being the head manager of the Cyclones, he is not inexperienced in coaching. Tom Gamboa has managed nine seasons with Minor league teams at most levels, most recently the Angels Class-A Advanced affiliate and some stints as a base coach in the majors. With regards to the veteran skipper’s first impressions of his new home, he was very pleased and boasted about the professionalism of the field as well as the facilities inside the park. The only difference that Gamboa acknowledged was the size of the park, which is to be expected.  As far as players go, Tyler Moore, rookie catcher from LSU, was surprised but pleased at how nice the park is.  Having played at an elite program with the Tigers, Moore knows a proper baseball atmosphere when he sees it.

The players’ expectations are high and yet simple. Front end of the rotation starter, Casey Meisner, not only wants to pitch the Cyclones to victory but he also desires popularity. The 6'7 Texas native aspires to be a fan favorite in his first season with Brooklyn. Tyler Moore even reminded us that a goal of his is maintain the joy of playing the game.  Moore, like Meisner, wants to progress his game while not forgetting the reason he started playing; to have fun. While most of these players and even the coach are rookies, they all bring strong goals and expectations to the table. Though jitters and nerves are to be expected, the exciting and professional atmosphere of the Cyclones’ home, along with a packed schedule, creates a great opportunity for these ballplayers and coaches to grow to their full potential.  Get ready for what should be another exciting year of Cyclones baseball because I know I am.           

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