Life In The Minors - Chapter 1: A Time Of Transition
For the thirteenth consecutive year, WFUV talks to the members of the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees in the Short Season 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 on WFUV's Life in the Minors, Kelly Kultys and Anthony Pucik discuss these youngsters adjustments to the city.
By Anthony Pucik - Brooklyn Cyclones Beat Reporter
The summer is upon us, and that means it is time for the beach, the sun, but more importantly, baseball. The Brooklyn Cyclones have just begun their season in the New York Penn League, looking to improve on an impressive season last summer. The Cyclones had a record of 45-31 and entered the postseason as the wild card winner. This was the Cyclones 12th straight season with a winning record, and their fourth straight postseason appearance.
The Cyclones eventually ended up losing to the Hudson Valley Renegades in the NYPL Semi-Finals, but they should not hang their heads based on the season they had. The Cyclones had the best pitching staff in the New-York Penn League, with a 2.62 ERA, and led the league in attendance at their beautiful ballpark in Coney Island, an amazing total of 249,009. Third year Head Coach Rich Donnelly knows how well his team did last year, and he is certain that they can get back to the playoffs again with the drive and dedication he already sees from this team.
Donnelly is going to have some new faces to work with this season, as does every manager of a short season summer ball club, but one might appear a bit more familiar than the others. Second baseman LJ Mazzilli, son of former Mets’ player Lee Mazzilli, was drafted in the fourth round of this year’s MLB June Amateur Draft by his father’s former club. Aside from being a splitting image of his father, Lee says that LJ is even more talented than he is, which can only mean good things for the both LJ and the Cyclones. Another newer face in Brooklyn is shortstop Gavin Cecchini, who was drafted in the first round by the Mets last season. Cecchini played in five games at the end of last season with the Cyclones after spending most of the season with the Kingsport Mets in the Appalachian League. Now, both he and LJ are centering the Cyclones’ infield and looking to make a big impact.
It will not be easy for Cecchini, Mazzilli, or any of the Cyclones for that matter. Adjusting to playing the game of baseball every single day is hard enough, but with the added pressure of getting adjusted to a city like New York it becomes even harder. Bus rides, low pay, and living in New York are now a part of these young men’s lives, and they are going to have to get used to it. This is what it’s like to play baseball for a living, and the journey for these young men starts right now.
Kelly Kultys - Staten Island Yankees Beat Reporter
As we reach the middle of June, we reach the start of Staten Island Yankees baseball. Manager Justin Pope enters his second season in charge of the team after finishing a mere 30-45 last year. The team looks to rebound this year and Pope believes the experience on this year’s roster will contribute to that goal.
As of their opening day roster, the team includes 7 members of last year team as well as 7 other players who were a part of the Gulf League Yankees. According to Pope, the experience and knowledge these players have to offer will benefit some of the younger guys out of college, such as third-round pick outfielder Mike O’Neill, the nephew of Yankees legend Paul O’Neill.
Still, no amount of knowledge or familial ties can prepare these youngsters for all the challenges they have to face in their summer of Penn League baseball. Besides the wear and tear of constant travel and a condensed schedule of 76 games in 80 days, they have to deal with off the field challenges such as handling the pressure of playing in the Big Apple.
The expectations have never been greater for these young guys than now. This year’s team boasts a talented group, especially from their 2013 draft class, which includes the aforementioned O’Neill, as well as opening day closer Tyler Webb, starting shortshop John Murphy, and starting second baseman, Derek Toadvine.
Pope said a team is built from the middle up so he has high goals for the Murphy-Toadvine tandem. They aren’t the only ones facing the pressure though. All of these young men strive to one day reach the major league level and that dream begins here and now with this season.