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Kevin Deaton threw five innings of two-hit ball in the Cyclones’ opening night victory on Tuesday. He’s 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, and shaking Deaton’s hand feels like dancing with a grizzly bear. Yet there’s one Coney Island sport that even he doesn’t think he’s man enough to handle.

“That Japanese guy ate 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes! I saw it on a documentary,” Deaton said, launching into a poetic tribute to the gustatory gladiators who compete every July 4 in the hot dog-eating contest at Nathan’s, just down the block from Keyspan Park.

“I may be able to throw a baseball, but I’m not blessed with that talent,” Deaton said, clearly impressed, though dubious that a small man like Takeru Kobayashi — the greatest eater in world history — could down that many hot dogs without medical or medicinal assistance. “I think he’s taking something to break down the food.”

George Shea, president of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, which runs the contest, denied the allegation, but was pleased that Deaton considered Kobayashi a sporting colleague.

“Kevin Deaton is clearly impressed with these athletes,” Shea said. “It tells you something that a gifted professional baseball player like Kevin Deaton is humbled in the presence of the world’s greatest eaters.”

For his part, Deaton was just happy to be playing ball in such a historic neighborhood.

“It’s an honor to be part of the same Brooklyn history as that contest,” he said, adding that he was sad that the Cyclones would be out of town on July 4, forcing him to miss the event.

Like they always said in Brooklyn, Kevin, “Wait ‘til next year!”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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