A Brooklyn baseball fan will say he’s going out to Keyspan Park to “see” the Cyclones game. But, with so many sounds associated with the game, a fan could just as well say that he’s going to “hear” it.
So, on July 17, I traveled to Keyspan Park not so much to watch the game between the Brooks and the visiting Hudson Valley Renegades, but to listen to it.
We’ll pick up the day with the arrival of the Renegades at the players’ entrance to Keyspan Park. We hear a soft rumbling of the motor as the visitors’ bus, driven by Rich Flood, pulls up to the curb at 3 pm, three hours before game time. We listen as Flood opens the bin underneath the bus and we hear scraping sounds as the players pull out their athletic bags. Sneakers on their feet, they quietly step up to the players’ entrance. There is no one to let the team into the ballpark, which brings about the knocks on the door to the Cyclones offices.
There are more footsteps as the Renegades head down the corridor to the clubhouse.
On the way, in the bowels of the stadium, Marty Delessio, an emergency medical technician supervisor with the Midwood Ambulance Service, is in the first aid station, announcing assignments to his crew like a manager announcing his line-up.
“[Walkie-talkie number] Two behind first, four, behind third ,” he announces.
A while later, we rejoin the Hudson Valley team behind the batting cage as they take batting practice. Chris Nowak, Renegade third baseman, is hitting. There is a sharp smack of the bat hitting a ball.
“Way to get the head [of the bat] down on that low one,” says a soft drawl from behind the cage. It’s New York speak, and the voice belongs to Ed Kranepool, one of tonight’s announcers on the Metro Channel telecast, and a former Met from their early years who made it to the big leagues when he was only 17 years old.
As the aspiring single-A players crack the ball out of the batting cage, the sound of their hits is dwarfed by the cranked-up sound of the speakers in left field where today’s Mets game is being shown on the giant television screen.
In the cyclones’ dugout, the players are resting on the bench. Aaron Hathaway, the team’s catcher, comes up from the tunnel and enters the dugout at the home plate end. It is quiet — too quiet, like when cowboys enter a mountain pass and they feel they’re about to be ambushed. Aaron Hathaway doesn’t feel that way. Perhaps he should. As the unsuspecting catcher walks past the bench, second baseman Bryan Zech launches himself into the air, grabs the roof of the dugout, and swings himself into Hathaway, knocking him sprawling.
Loud laughter and jeers fill the dugout.
Chatty again, the Cyclones head for the field for more throwing and stretching, and their steps create that unique sound of metal spikes clattering against a cement floor.
The buzz of the crowd increases as game-time approaches.
We fast forward a bit as the evening’s guest singer finishes the National Anthem: “ and the home of the brave!”
The Renegades’ Fernando Perez steps into the batter’s box against Cyclones pitcher Jeff Landing.
“Hey, get your beer! Get your ice cold beer here!” shouts a vendor in the aisle behind the third-base dugout.
Crack! Perez hits a shot to right-center field. Corey Coles, the Clones center fielder, seems to have trouble with the ball and Perez winds up with a triple. Scattered boos.
“Strike!” bellows the home plate umpire as Coles begins his at-bat as the Brooks’ leadoff hitter.
“Let’s go, Cy-clones!” the crowd chants.
“Hey, No. 27, you look like Ernie,” shouts a fan at Ernest Woodruff as the Renegades outfielder stands in his dugout, unaware that teammate Patrick Cottrell has surreptitiously applied two large pieces of pink bubble gum to Woodruff’s baseball cap.
“Go for three!” shouts another fan, encouraging Cottrell’s mischief. Finally, amid much fan laughter, Woodruff removes his cap, sees the gum and slinks down into the dugout to remove the pink piles.
The Renegades have already scored two runs in the inning.
“Strike!” yells the ump during the at-bat of Patrick Breen. Soon Breen strikes out.
“Strike three, Patrick!” taunts a fan as the Renegade batter heads back into the dugout.
Slam! Breen throws his bat into the wooden bat rack. There are amused chuckles from the fans behind the visitors’ dugout.
Two more runs later, the Renegades are finally retired to more scattered boos.
Later, in the second inning, 6-foot-4 Tyler Davidson, Brooklyn’s Tarzan, advances towards the plate. His theme song, “Welcome to the Jungle” is blasted over the speakers. Soon there is the crack of the bat quickly followed by a loud thud as Davidson’s lined rocket shot single to left field hits the Brooklyn Brewery sign.
As the game moves along, there is persistent clanging from Section 5 as “Monkey Lady” pinch hits for Nick Cunningham as the evening’s cowbell clanger.
Up in the Catbird Seat, Warner Fusselle, the Cyclones’ radio announcer, calls the game. It’s the sixth inning, the game intensity has slowed, the Cyclones trail 7-1, so Fusselle knows to bring some other things into the mix.
“On this day in Brooklyn Dodger history,” he says in his smooth voice with a little bit of the South in it, “Christy Mattewson made his debut, in Brooklyn, against the Brooklyn Dodgers, and no, it wasn’t in Ebbets Field. That hadn’t been built yet. It was in Washington Park.”
“Go ahead! Don’t be shy!” booms the voice that sounds, for this bit, like a cross between that of a burlesque announcer and God. “Kiss her! You’re among friends!” tempts the voice of Dom Alagia, the Cyclones’ public address announcer, as couples kiss on camera in an effort to win a dozen roses.
The game moves on.
In the seventh inning the crowd stands for the playing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
In the eighth inning, a young woman stands near the third-base dugout.
“I accept. I will marry you,” she says, happy and stunned, her voice coming over the field microphone as she responds to the proposal of her now-fiance and a mere 8,000 witnesses to the commitment.
The game ends with the Cyclones losing 7-2. Frank Sinatra sings “The Brooklyn Bridge” as fans leave the ballpark.
Outside, near the players’ entrance, Jose Rodriguez, visiting from Spain, proudly talks of his grandson, outfielder Fernando Perez, (who hit the opening triple of the Renegades big four-run first inning), from Princeton Junction, N.J., and Columbia University.
Flood, the Renegades’ bus driver, discusses the sound of this year’s Renegades.
“They’re the quietest team I’ve ever driven,” he says as some players, true to Flood’s word, victoriously, yet silently, board the bus.
The Cyclones aren’t usually such a quiet team, but they are tonight.
As they change in their clubhouse, the normal sounds of music and a ping pong game are absent. The Cyclones coaching staff spoke to them after the game about keeping their baseball concentration.
Sounds are heard from the Cyclones’ training room. They sound like slamming weights.
They are. Cyclone first baseman Jim Burt is lifting those weights. There is also a whirring sound. It’s pitcher Celso Rondon peddling on the stationary bicycle.
They’re inspiring sounds. They’re the sounds of quiet determination.