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Life in the Minors: Welcome to the Pros

Another season of New York Penn League baseball is underway and WFUV's Life in the Minors is back! (Flickr)

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For the 15th consecutive year, WFUV talks to the members of the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees in the New York Penn League. The long bus rides, the low pay, 76 games in 80 days and more. This is a look into Life in the Minors: How the Other Half Lives.

This week, Tom Terzulli and Matt Breen preview the 2016 season in Chapter 1: Welcome to the Pros. Listen to the audio feature below.

The Staten Island Yankees with Tom Terzulli

While baseball has been going on in the Majors for quite a few months now, mid-June signals the dawn of another season for the Staten Island Yankees. On a squad laden with players just getting their start in pro ball, their manager is sure to be a calming presence. Dave Bialas, although he is in his first year with Staten Island, brings with him 15 years of managerial experience in the minor leagues in the Cardinals, Angels, Mariners, Cubs and Yankee organizations. His first year with the Yanks came last year in Single A Tampa, where he guided the team to a 66-72 record. In addition, he spent 10 years in the minors himself, reaching as high as Triple A. When asked about the time he spent as a player he said that he was just trying to survive and emphasized how important it will be for him to get his players comfortable in Staten Island.

Although the roster itself is very young, a majority of players already have professional experience. According to Bialas, the group has already been indoctrinated to the fundamentals, something the new draftees will have to learn from scratch.

One of those players is second year pitcher Kolton Mahoney, who spent last year in Staten Island. He’s taken the responsibility of helping some of the young guys adjust to life as a pro ball player. His biggest piece of advice — always have fun — because having fun equals success.

With a new season many new goals are set. The Yankee players expressed a wide range of aspirations for the coming season. Some, like third baseman Mandy Alvarez, aim for a statistical mark, to hit .300. Others, like Emerson, New Jersey native David Palladino, seek to improve their mechanics to more consistently hit the strike zone.

The New York Penn League season is just underway. Hopes are at their highest. Players are eager to take the field. This summer, once again, Staten Island serves as the starting point for Yankee dreams.

The Brooklyn Cyclones with Matt Breen

The sun is shining, school is out and it’s summertime. And there’s no better summer activity then going to a ballgame.

For Brooklyn residents, that means going to a Cyclones game in Coney Island. Affordable tickets and world’s famous Nathan’s hot dogs are some of the appeals of heading out to the park. But let's not forget the opportunity to watch some future Major League ballplayers. For these young players, many of them just drafted by the Mets, their journey to the Majors starts in Coney Island, in the single-A New York Penn League.

Fans of all ages love coming to Coney Island for their Cyclones, whether it's young fans curious about future Mets or older fans who miss the old days of the Dodgers in Brooklyn. Because of the fun atmosphere at MCU Park, the Cyclones usually lead the Penn League in ticket sales. It does not seem like that trend will end this year as many have been saying the Cyclones have a very good club this season. However, you never know what can happen in Single-A ball. 

76 games in 80 days. Very long bus rides. That’s tough for almost anyone to deal with. Mets 13th round draft pick, catcher Dan Rizzie, says his goals are simply to stay healthy throughout the grueling season and establish a good routine in order to perform well. Gabriel Llanes, 15th round draft pick and right handed pitcher, aims to simply help his team collect wins.

This young squad is managed by experienced veteran Tom Gamboa, who is in his third year managing the Cyclones. Gamboa has managed for almost every level of the Minor Leagues, as well as a few stints as a base coach in the Majors. Because many of these players are playing for their first time in professional baseball, Gamboa talked about the importance of getting the players acclimated and not changing too much. 

76 games in 80 days is difficult, and Gamboa wants them to be as comfortable as possible. Nervousness is to be expected, though, especially in a ballpark as fun and professional as MCU Park. This season the Cyclones have a lot of talented prospects, and it’s looking like another year of exciting baseball on Coney Island.