For players, All-Star break just a day off

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This isn’t about winning streaks or keeping a good thing going, Cyclones pitching coach Bobby Ojeda reminded me Monday night.

And it certainly isn’t about All-Stars.

This is the minor leagues - the very minor leagues - and here, the game is about playing time and good at bats and throwing strikes. It’s not so much about winning streaks.

So, despite the fact that the Brooklyns happened to be riding one, the bigger picture has to remain in sight.

"It’s great that we’re playing well," Ojeda said. "But this is about development. It’s nice to win - and with this group of guys we should be doing that. But winning here is a double-edged sword, you win, and guys move up the ladder."

Who knows, maybe some day one of these guys will make it to the big leagues. Maybe one will hit some game winning home runs, or pitch a shutout, or lead the league in fielding percentage.

Heck, maybe one will be an All Star.

That’s what was dancing through the heads of some of the players Monday evening, one day before the team’s first official off day of the season - which happens to fall on the same day as the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

It’s strange how the people who schedule the New York-Penn League dangled that carrot in front of the players.

"Actually, we’re a bit upset about missing the home run derby tonight," joked first baseman Jay Caligiuri before conceding some dreams. "But we’ll watch the game knowing that some day, we might have the chance to play on the same field with these guys."

In fact, he pointed out, some players already have - during spring training in Florida.

Still, here in the NY-Penn, the thought of just playing in the National League is dream enough for these players, all of whom are more worried about making it to the next road trip than making one of the major’s most prestigious two teams.

That’s called keeping the big picture in sight.

Instead, they get to watch the big game at their home away from home away from Keyspan Park - usually a dorm at St. John’s University in Queens (from which many of them call their moms and dads after a game).

That’s the plan for catcher and designated hitter Mike Jacobs.

"I’ll probably watch it from my room," he said. "I’ll get a lot of rest, get a good meal, and just lay low and enjoy the day off."

Still, some guys, like left-handed pitcher Michael Cox, planned on using the day off as a bit of an adventure. A group of players, he said, had planned on taking the subway into the city to see what it was like over there. A lot of them, he said, had never been there before.

"I’ve seen the twin towers," claimed Caligiuri when I had spoken to him earlier, "but just from the bus."

They couldn’t pinpoint where they would be going - or maybe they just couldn’t say - but they were sure they would be catching the All Star game somewhere on Tuesday night.

Ojeda said he wasn’t that interested in the All-Star Game, said he hadn’t been since 1986 when, with a 10-2 record and pitching the best he’d ever had in his career, he wasn’t chosen.

Here, though, in the New York-Penn League, no one has to worry about being picked for such a team no matter how well you play, because here, there is no All-Star team.

There’s just 76 games in 73 days and the constant worry of hearing your coach pull you into his office, shut the door and say "Kid, this is the toughest job a manager’s got to do"

Here, it’s about getting into the game, throwing the ball over the plate and leveling out that swing.

When you do that, you can really enjoy that precious day off.

July 16, 2001 Issue


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