Don Zimmer, the New York Yankees bench coach, is the last player from the Brooklyn Dodgers who is still in uniform every day. Soon a new person with Brooklyn on his resume will be in the majors.
This year, the New York Mets are starting three rookies in their infield: Jason Phillips at first base; Jose Reyes at shortstop, and Ty Wigginton at third base. Each is playing good baseball — even if the Mets aren’t.
The Mets recently traded two second basemen, Roberto Alomar and Rey Sanchez, and have been using utility man Joe McEwing at that position. Their last-place position in the National League East has disappointed many fans, but there is a silver lining — especially for younger players.
Might the Mets call up a minor league second baseman to give them an all-rookie infield? If so, Danny Garcia is getting ready in Norfolk, Va., the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate. He could be the first Brooklyn Cyclone to make the majors — and it could happen soon.
Already, a 6-foot-1 guy from Brooklyn’s Marine Park was the first Cyclone staffer to make the major leagues — Mike Herbst. Herbst — who’s name sounds like that of a journeyman left-handed pitcher — is now the assistant trainer for the New York Mets. Mike was the Cyclones’ trainer during the second half of the 2001 season, before making the majors in 2002.
Mike’s a fine trainer, but he would be the first to admit that the honor of being the first true “Cyclone” to make the majors should go to a player.
And while Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Tom Martin and Joe McEwing all had rehab stints with the team, they weren’t real Cyclones.
Brooklyn fans from the inaugural season should remember the 6-foot-1, 175-pound right-handed Garcia. The Anaheim, Calf., resident was a fifth-round 2001 draft pick out of Pepperdine University who played with the United States National team before his junior year in college. He was only with the Cyclones for a few weeks early in the season, then was quickly promoted to the Mets’ next rung on the minor league ladder, Capital City.
How does Garcia feel about his time as a Cyclone?
“The biggest thing that I say about my Brooklyn stay was that it was too short,” says the 23-year-old. “It was great in Brooklyn. It was my first pro-ball experience. I just came out of the draft. One thing I remember was the packed house, 8,000 fans every night, just going crazy that there was baseball back in Brooklyn.”
Garcia hit .321 in 15 games for Brooklyn, with a home run and three stolen bases. He was a joy to watch because of his outstanding fundamentals. Those Cyclone fans who are also Met fans will enjoy watching Garcia because he breaks up double plays, turns double plays, bunts very well, is outstanding on the hit and run and does all of this with hustle and intelligence.
Cyclones manager Tim Teufel, who worked with Garcia when he was a roving instructor for the Mets, says he might have what it takes to make it in the majors.
“He’s a talented young man. He works hard, he hustles. Danny’s kind of a blue-collar player,” Teufel said. “The only thing we worked with him on was his throwing mechanics and on turning the double play. He deserves all the credit.”
At Capitol City, Garcia continued his fine play, hitting .301 while still executing all the fundamentals.
Last season, he was moved to the next step, Port St. Lucie in the Florida State League. There, he struggled compared to his earlier days, as he hit .273 with five home runs and 13 stolen bases.
He entered spring training this season thinking about winning the second base job with the Mets — the Binghamton Mets — the next step toward the majors.
He did just that, and was hitting the cover off the ball (.333) at Binghamton, when a chain of events resulted in his promotion to Triple-A Norfolk.
“A few guys got hurt in the big leagues, and a few guys got hurt in Triple-A, and it was my thought to come up to Triple A for a few weeks. I hit .400 for the first three weeks and then .350 for the next two weeks, and I kind of forced them into making a decision on me.”
Danny is currently hitting .279 and it’s becoming obvious that his time in the minors is drawing to a close. How is he handling the situation while he waits in the wings for his time on center stage in New York?
Garcia thinks for a few seconds.
“It’s nice being close — one phone call away — I try not to think about that as much as possible. I take a lot of pride in playing hard every day and doing my job and that’s gotten me here.”
Cyclones fans are currently enjoying the neck-and-neck race with Williamsport for first place in the McNamara Division of the New York-Penn League. But the number one purpose of a farm team is to produce major league players, and the Brooklyn Cyclones are about to bear fruit with the first player to reach the big leagues — it looks like Brooklyn alumnus Garcia will soon be at Shea Stadium.
“Not everyone knows who I am. I tend to sneak up on people a little bit,” adds Garcia.
Don’t let his debut sneak up on you. His hustle and smart play are what Brooklyn fans have always appreciated. There will eventually be many former Cyclones in the big leagues, but there is only one first Cyclone to make the majors, so pay attention and enjoy it.
Against Yanks, let cooler heads prevail
The final three games of the 2003 regular season between the Staten Island Yankees and the Cyclones will be played this weekend — on Friday, Aug. 1 at Keyspan; Aug. 2, in Staten Island, and on Aug. 3 back in Brooklyn.
As most Cyclones fans are aware, there was a brawl at the July 17 game on Staten Island after Yankees pitcher Matt DeSalvo hit Cyclone Andy Wilson in the head with a pitch.
The brawl lasted over 25 minutes and had to be broken up by the New York City Police Department.
Eleven suspensions were handed out by the New York-Penn League, six to the Cyclones.
So what will happen when these two teams face each ofther for the first time since the brawl?
All of the Cyclones suspensions have been served and with the end of the suspensions should be the end of the brawling.
The conventional wisdom in baseball, that players have to “protect” each other, is bunk — especially at this low-level of professional play, where pitchers are still learning how to control their stuff.
While it is totally unacceptable for a pitcher to purposly hit an opposing player with a pitch, we should give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt.
In short, the Cyclones should not “retaliate” by intentionally hitting a Yankee. To do so would be idiotic.
Let’s come out to the ballparks this weekend, and have fun watching baseball — not basebrawl. We would like to see the players get back to playing the game, not fighting each other.
These are good young players, and we want to watch them try to make the majors some day in baseball, not boxing.
Both stadiums are fan friendly and family friendly. Let’s keep it that way.