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Life In The Minors - Chapter 8: Coaching the Future

by DJ Sixsmith, Nick Logerfo
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WFUV focuses on the NYPL coaches

For the 12th straight year WFUV is taking a look at what life is like in the Short Season Single-A NY Penn League...a close-up view of the Baby Bombers and Junior Mets as they attempt to climb the ladder to Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. It's Brooklyn and Staten Island. It's the Cyclones and Yankees. It's Life in the Minors: How the Other Half Lives.

DJ Sixsmith - Brooklyn Cyclones Beat Reporter

In the New York Penn League there is nothing more important than coaching. Luckily the Brooklyn Cyclones have a wily veteran at the helm in Rich Donnelly. Signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1967, Donnelly has 27 years of Major League experience. His most notable year in the bigs came in 1997 when the Brooklyn skipper was a coach on the Florida Marlins team that won the World Series.

After spending 14 seasons under current Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, Donnelly knows a thing or two about developing young talent. The former major league catcher has faced his biggest coaching challenge this year as the 2012 edition of the Cyclones is the youngest in the history of the franchise.

For the second year Brooklyn manager, the most important message he can relay to his squad is resilience. Donnelly spends a great deal of time comparing baseball players to boxers as he believes that getting back up after you’ve been knocked down is the toughest thing to do in sports.

This is one of the main points that Donnelly instilled his team while the Cyclones spent 103 days down in Florida for extended spring training. The hard work by the manager has obviously paid off as the Cyclones are 13 games over .500 and leading the New York Penn League Wild Card by 4.5 games.

The true testament of Donnelly’s success can be seen in the progression of 2011 Mets first rounder Brandon Nimmo. After struggling for the majority of the first half, the Cyclones centerfielder is now batting .282 with seven homers and 31 RBI’s. In fact in his last 10 games, Nimmo is tearing the cover off the ball with a .400 average. The Wyoming native had his best game of the season on Friday when he hit a grand slam and drove in six against Tri-City. Many scouts believe that Nimmo could be the next great Mets prospect and a big reason for that is the mentorship of Rich Donnelly. Mets GM Sandy Alderson would be hard pressed to find a better teacher of young men than the Cyclones skipper in all levels of baseball. That is why Donnelly will most certainly be back again in Brooklyn next year.

Nick Logerfo - Staten Island Yankees Beat Reporter

 

The game of baseball is full of various trials and tribulations. In the minor leagues a player’s career is often a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows that one day could lead them to a major league career. It takes someone with experience and patience to lead these young players through their highs and lows, in other words it takes a manager.
 
Justin Pope, manager of the Staten Island Yankees, has witnessed his players struggle throughout this season, but is not fazed by the challenges his team has faced. Pope views struggle as a way for players to grow and learn, which creates a good work ethic. Pope has been a patient manager with the Yankees allowing players to work through their struggles rather than bench a player for struggling. Matt Duran and Claudio Custodio are two players in particular who have struggled defensively in the field. Pope attributes their struggles to youth and encourages them to play to work out their kinks. Pope’s experience in baseball gives him insight into how to affectively manager his squad.
 
The Staten Island Yankees’ manager, Justin Pope is in his first year of managing the team. Pope served on Staten Island’s coaching staff in 2010 and on the Trenton Thunder’s staff in 2011 before being named Staten Island’s manager in 2012. Along with his coaching experience Pope also racked up several years of playing experience from college and playing in the minor leagues as a pitcher. Throughout his minor league career Pope played for the Cardinals, Yankees, and Phillies organizations respectfully. Pope retired after the 2008 season from playing on the field. Although Pope never made it to the majors there is no doubting his baseball knowledge and experience as skipper of the Staten Island Yanks. 

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