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Two of the greatest Cyclones of all time — Joe Jiannetti and John Toner — returned triumphantly to Brooklyn last week.

OK, maybe “triumphantly” is a bit overstated: Jiannetti rejoined the team because he injured his shoulder while playing for the Mets’ class-A (full-season) team in Columbia, S.C., while Toner, who was tearing up the South Atlantic League for the same team, returned to Brooklyn to get more at-bats.

“I was only playing every other day,” Toner said.

Despite the mundane circumstances of their return — a rehab assignment and a bid for more playing time — the pair were treated to stronger-than-normal applause during their plate appearances.

“It’s nice to be remembered,” Jiannetti admitted, “but.” When his voice trailed off, it was clear that he never thought he’d be back at Keyspan Park, which, despite the sellout crowds and memories of last year’s championship season, is still a half-step back on the inexorable path to the big leagues.

Toner, meanwhile, was more optimistic about his new assignment.

“Last year, I was just a confused, mixed-up kid,” he said. “This time, I can take more away from the experience.”

None of the current Cyclones were all that impressed to be playing alongside last year’s champions.

“I must say I’m honored just to be in the dugout with Cyclone legends like John Toner and Joe Jiannetti,” joked infielder Chase Lambin.

On the field, it appears that Toner is enjoying the experience even more than his once and present teammate, Jiannetti. In six games as a re-’Clone, Toner is hitting .231. And on Saturday night, in front of the biggest crowd in Cyclones history (8,552), he made a game-saving catch in right field.

Jiannetti had a key hit in the same game, but a costly error almost blew the game for the ’Clones. He’s hitting .174.

Of course, there are worse places to find yourself demoted to. Toner said that games in Columbia sometimes draw less than 100 people.

Relishing the contest

With the Cyclones on the road on July 4, pitcher Kevin Deaton, a true frankophile, was forced to watch coverage of the Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest on ESPN.

Although astounded that his hero, Japanese eater Takeru Kobayashi surpassed his own record by downing 50 and a half hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes to retain the Mustard Yellow International Belt, Deaton weighed in on the growing controversy surrounding Kobayashi’s win.

“If something comes out of your nose,” Deaton said, referring to allegations that Kobayashi vomited just as the final bell sounded, “that’s a hurl.”

When reminded that International Federation of Competitive Eating rules clearly state that a contestant can only be disqualified for a “Roman incident” — if the regurgitate hits the table — Deaton was unswayed.

“If you’re at a restaurant and the guy next to you starts blowing stuff out of his nose, that’s a Roman incident,” he said.

Deaton was saddened to not be able to attend the contest in person. Before the game in Williamsport, a local hot dog-eating contest was held. The winner ate a paltry four hot dogs in five minutes.

“It was depressing,” Deaton said, dismayed by the quality of the local gustatory athletes.

Comings and goings

Noel Devarez, a Cyclones holdover from last year, has been promoted to Columbia. Devarez hit .200 with 1 home run and 2 RBIs during eight games with the Clones this season. Brendan Mannix and Will Hudson have been sent to Kingsport (rookie league) to get more playing time.

July 15, 2002 issue  

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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