One minute you’re standing in front of a cluster of TV cameras getting whipped cream smeared all over your face, the next day you’re yesterday’s news.
Such is the life of a minor-league ballplayer.
Cyclones fans were crushed to learn that Michael Piercy, whose outspoken personality and easy wit made him the team’s first “star,” was released a couple of weeks ago — even before he had recorded an official at-bat.
Not that Piercy is bitter (is he even capable of bitterness?).
“This is baseball,” he told The Brooklyn Papers. “The Mets were first-class all the way. They just didn’t have a spot for me anywhere else in the organization.”
The affable New Jersey native had impressed many Met scouts with his speed and consistent, though not flashy, hitting. But when the team finally made it to Brooklyn, it was Piercy’s showmanship and maturity — he’s 24 — that made him the team’s marquee player.
It was Piercy, after all, who stood gamely while Joel Zaragosa — the man whom Piercy had nicknamed “Gogo” — smeared whipped cream all over his face during an interview. It was Piercy, after all, who became the reporters’ favorite with Berra-esque quips like, “This team has great chemistry. They oughta send 12 chemistry professors from Brooklyn College to learn something from us.”
It was Piercy, after all, who said he loved the game of baseball so much that he’d play in Beirut if someone would give him a contract.
The good news is that after wandering in the desert of tryouts and negotiations, Piercy has landed a spot on the roster of the Allentown Ambassadors, a respected Northern League team. In three starts with the team, he’s 2-8 with a run scored.
The bad news is that the man who hit a sacrifice fly and walked in his two plate appearances is still missed in Coney Island.
“He was the best guy in the clubhouse,” said ace pitcher Luz Portobanco, who, like Piercy, is a devout Christian. “He was my brother and he got me through everything.”
Zaragosa was more philosophical: “Baseball is a cutthroat game and on any day, it can be the guy sitting next to you [who is released],” he said. “The front office has a plan for everyone and they do what they think is best. This is not like a regular job where you can go into the office and demand a raise.”
Fans have missed Piercy, too, if only for his charm and visibility, but have latched onto new favorites like Jay Caligiuri, Joe Jiannetti, Brett Kay, Vladimir Hernandez and Angel Pagan — all of whom were picked up after the beginning of the season.
“Hey, an old guy like me didn’t have much of a chance in this league,” Piercy said. “Fonzie [Manager Edgar Alfonzo] didn’t know he was going to be handed six guys who needed to get starts. There was just no room for me. But that’s baseball.”
Peeples and cream
Sure, pitcher Ross Peeples is burning up the New York-Penn League with his 90-plus fastball, his small-town Georgia charm and his confidence, but it wasn’t always that way.
One of the mistakes Cyclones players make is inviting their parents to visit them in the big city and take in a few games. This allows nosey reporters to sidle up to the proud parents and walk off with a notebook full of juicy items from the star’s childhood.
No one has provided better copy than Orion and Connie Peeples, who journeyed from Cordele, Ga., to see their son pitch. Orion watched the game not only with the proud eye of a father, but also the critical eye of a coach — and he liked what he saw in his son’s fourth victory of the year.
“He was a little nervous at the start, but I think that’s because mommy and daddy were here,” Peeples said.
Oh yeah? What would he have to be nervous about, Peeples was asked. With very little provocation, the father launched into a tale about the son.
“He probably wouldn’t want me telling y’all this, but we packed up Ross for college and sure enough, two days later, he was so homesick that he called up saying, ‘Daddy, I’m ready to come home. I don’t think God wants me to be a pitcher.’ So I just said, ‘Ross, I’m talking to the same God you’re talking to and he wants you to stay with it and do your best.’ He stayed at college it was all peaches and cream after that. He makes friends so easily.”
And he’s taking a shine to New York. “I love Manhattan,” said Peeples (now 5-0) when told of his father’s storytelling. “I’m a big city guy now.”
Already, Peeples has been on MTV’s “Total Request Live” and been photographed for an upcoming spread in GQ magazine’s annual October sports issue.
“We’re treated like VIPs wherever we go,” Peeples said. “I’m not a country boy anymore.”
But, don’t worry, there’s still one bit of country left in Ross Peeples. You can see it when he takes off his uniform and reveals the sweat-soaked “Nothing Without Christ” T-shirt underneath.
And inside his baseball cap is a handwritten mantra: “Do your best and let God do the rest.” He has to replace it every game because the writing gets smeared by his God-loving sweat.
“That’s one thing my parents taught me: God is the reason you’re here,” he said. “You can only go so far in life without God in your heart.”
Pitcher Bryan Braswell (1-0, 2.08 ERA, 13 Ks in 13 innings) was promoted to the Mets’ Port St. Lucie Class-A affiliate.