Keyspan Park is normally a pretty happy place. After a 44-year absence, the return of professional baseball in 2001 to Brooklyn was greeted with open arms. Those arms aren’t so open right now, and here’s why.
In the flurry of New York Mets trades on the day before the July 31 trading deadline, three of the Mets’ most promising players were involved in trades for major league pitchers Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson. The three promising players all had once played for the Brooklyn Cyclones. Catcher Justin Huber and pitcher Matt Peterson played for the Cyclones inaugural team, and hurler Scott Kazmir played for Brooklyn in 2002.
Did the Mets improve their 2004 team with the trade? No question, they did.
But did the trade make Cyclones fans happy? Yes, it did! And if you believe that statement, there’s a beautiful suspension structure built by Roebling over the East River, and have I got a deal for you!
So let’s see why the mention of the Mets trades brought grimaces to the faces of Cyclone supporters and statements that don’t belong in a family newspaper.
One of the selling points to minor league baseball is the advertised opportunity for fans to see future major league players develop and eventually rise to the majors.
According to a study by Allan Simpson, the editor-in-chief of Baseball America, the Bible of baseball fans, only 10 percent of minor league players ever make it to the major leagues, a fact of which most neophyte minor league fans aren’t aware, but a truth that Cyclone fans are becoming increasingly aware of.
I have been present at many minor league ballparks over the years, but I have never seen the personal interest in their teams’ players as I have seen exhibited by Brooklyn fans for the members of the Cyclones.
There are always a few diehard fans rooting for each minor league team, but many of the fans in other minor league cities are rather casual about their team. These aficionados enjoy the game, become aware of a few players, grab a hot dog and a few beers, and go home happy.
It’s much more than such a casual level of involvement for many Cyclones fans. And the tendency for Brooklyn fans to be personally involved with their baseball team goes back to the Dodgers.
Brooklyn had a personal attachment to their players. Most of the Dodgers lived in Brooklyn during the season, many of them in Bay Ridge.
Some of the Cyclone fans remember those days, some do not. But there is a sort of residual memory ensconced in Brooklyn fans that means that being a true fan requires a personal connection.
Thus, current Cyclone fans don’t just root for the Brooks; they know them. And they keep on knowing the Cyclones as the players move up the farm system ladder. And when they get traded away
“As fans of the Mets and Cyclones in 2002, we had not so great seasons for both teams, but when we saw Kazmir’s fastball, and his good attitude and the way he interacted with fans, we had hope,” said Patrick Witt, a Cyclones season ticket holder and the operator of a Cyclones’ web-site. “Now we have nothing!”
Besides, trading young talent is normally the work of a certain other New York baseball team.
“As Cyclone fans, we would look at moves that the New York Yankees were making in trading off these young, potential stars of their franchise and we’d snicker at them,” said Witt, “And now their fans are laughing at us.”
Other fans concur.
“The trades of the former Cyclones were ridiculous,” said Marty Bromberger of Coney Island. “We knew the guys when they played here, and it’s like losing friends.”
“We’ve seen the effect it’s had on the players here,” Bromberger continued. “I’ve talked to them and some of the players are demoralized, figuring that they’ll someday be traded as well, before they get a chance with the Mets. It’s affected their moral. They feel that if the Mets need a batboy, they’ll be traded.”
Donna and Don Byrnes, Cyclones fans from Bay Ridge, were disappointed in a different way
“My husband, Don, looked on the Internet in the morning and he said to me, ‘Hey, Donna, want to take a ride up to Binghamton? Scott’s pitching tonight,’ ’’ said Donna, who, along with her husband, has been following the team since its inaugural season.
So the two of them drove over three hours from Brooklyn to see Kazmir pitch, something they had never seen, although they have met Scott numerous times in Brooklyn and in the Mets spring training home in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
“Just as we walk in the door to the Binghamton ballpark, we heard all the fans talking about the trades,” recalled Donna. “All of a sudden the door to the players’ entrance opened, and Scott [Kazmir] came out and we took one look at him and we knew the trade rumors were true. He should have been in uniform, he should have been preparing, and he had this look on his face, you had to see him. Like he was in space. He looked like a kid lost on a beach. I remember once I was little and lost on a beach and I was scared, and that’s the look he had on his face.
“My husband said to Scott, ‘Is it true? Have you been traded? I can’t believe it!’ And Scott noded his head and said to Don, ‘You can’t believe it? I can’t believe it!’ ”
“I gave Scott a hug, and I thanked him for all the autographs he gave us,” said Donna. “He even apologized to us when he found out that we drove from Brooklyn to see him pitch.”
Of the two “real” Cyclones who’ve played in the majors only one is still with the Mets. Danny Garcia, the first Cyclone player to make the majors, has flip-flopped between Norfolk, the Mets top farm club, and the Mets. Lenny Dinardo, the second Cyclone to make the majors, pitched for the Boston Rec Sox earlier this season, but he is now on their disabled list.
Cyclones fans are well aware that baseball is a business. But fans don’t root for businesses; they root for human beings. And a lot of the fun that the fans had in waiting for the Cyclones to reach the majors has been lost since Justin Huber, Matt Peterson, and Scott Kazmir were traded.
“It definitely bothers you when the former Cyclones are traded,” said Donna. It’s like watching your own kids grow up. You want to be there when they finally grow up and make it in life.
“You want to be there for the wedding day.”
©2004 Community News Group
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