June 19, 2004 / Sports / Brooklyn Cyclones / The Play’s the Thing

Opening Cyclones summerhouse

The Brooklyn Paper
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DID YOU EVER have a summerhouse to which you returned each year, after a wait that seemed interminable? Perhaps your annual summer return was to a camp, or to grandma’s place in the country, or your favorite beach, be it near or far.

On June 13 at Keyspan Park, the Cyclones’ “summerhouse” was opened for the first time this year to season ticket and mini-plan fans, and the ritual was observed on both the physical and personal levels.

New green stadium seats had replaced the straight benches down the foul lines. The red, blue and yellow Cyclone logo behind home plate and brightly painted outfield advertisements splashed a pallet of colors. And before the start of the 4 pm practice, George Reeder, a veteran grounds crew member, could be seen demonstrating to several new members of the grounds crew the technique to place the rods to properly support the back of the batting cage.

The tall, thin Reeder moved his hands in graceful, yet emphatic patterns. Even an observer up in the Catbird Seat, the radio booth of Keyspan Park, too far away to hear George, learned a silent lesson in batting cage assembly.

Fans entering the free practice session were given disposable cameras and rosters were distributed to them, but the roster was changing almost hourly as newly drafted players signed with the Mets and were assigned to Brooklyn. Practice began.

The Cyclones were on the field taking infield practice. Some of them were familiar, such as Travis Garcia, the infielder from the Bronx who started last season at Brooklyn, and David Housel, an infielder from New Jersey who also played part of last season with the Cyclones.

Several hundred Cyclones fans milled about on the concourse and in the seats behind the first base home dugout. Mark Lazarus, the” Mayor of Section 14” was an early arrival.

“It’s always good to reconnect with the people you spend the summer with,” said Lazarus. ‘It’s like going back to camp at the start of summer when you again see all the people that you know.

After catching up on the winter’s events, fans began to drift down to the first base railing. In between infield drills, players chatted with the fans and signed autographs, and posed for pictures.

Down on the field, Cyclones pitching coach Hector Berrios and the team’s batting coach, Donovan Mitchell, were working with players, as were numerous New York Met system instructors.

Recently named Brooklyn manager Tony Tijerina was attending a long-planned family reunion.

Edgar Alfonzo, the Brooklyn Cyclones’ first manager, was also helping out.

“Seeing Edgar there was a good omen,” said Lazarus. “It brought back memories of the first season.”

Marty Bromberger, a Coney Island resident and Cyclones aficionado, said, “I enjoyed saying hello to [returning Cyclone] Stacey Bennett. I’m glad to hear he will get more of a chance to catch this year and I enjoyed talking with [returning Cyclones pitcher] Ryan Danly. For us, coming out to the ballpark again is like coming out of hibernation.”

Up in the Catbird Seat, Warner Fusselle, the Brooklyn radio announcer, was surveying the scene from his perch. Behind Fusselle, on a blackboard in the press box, were the lineups from Brooklyn’s last game, on Sept. 10. This was the game in which the McNamara Division-winning Cyclones lost the New York-Penn League title to the Williamsport Crosscutters. On the blackboard was the name of Anthony Bocchino, the Bensonhurst resident playing for Williamsport who helped push Brooklyn out of the playoffs.

Bocchino is now at Hickory of the South Atlantic League.

The Cyclones were set to open their season in Williamsport on Friday night, June 18.

As the Cyclones open their fourth season, many from the borough will be traveling four hours each way on a road trip to root them on.

The gathering out at Keyspan for the opening of the house was, as one rooter phrased it, “spring training for fans.” And it the annual beginning of the summer baseball with the Cyclones, which is, as Mark Lazarus terms it, “Like a summer romance.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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