Bocchino’s rise up the ranks good news for him — and for Cyclones

The Brooklyn Paper
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On Sept.10 of last season, the Williamsport Crosscutters beat the Cyclones tow win the championship of the New York-Penn League at Keyspan Park. A major contributor to the Williamsport cause was Anthony Bocchino, a Bensonhurst resident who hit .326 for the season at Williamsport, and .500 against the Clones.

This season, Bocchino has moved up in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system, and is playing for the Hickory (North Carolina) Crawdads of the South Atlantic League.

“I started the season as a kind of fourth outfielder/DH and I was only playing once or twice a week and I started off slowly,” Bocchino told The Brooklyn Papers. “After the all-star break, I started playing more, and I hope I can finish strong in the next few weeks.”

Bocchino’s average is now .256, up from .180 after his first 80 at-bats. He is looking forward to the playoffs when Hickory could eventually meet the Capital City Bombers, the New York Mets farm club that features many former Brooklyn Cyclones.

But could a game against the Bombers compare with his breakout performance in his hometown?

“Winning the championship was a highlight in anyone’s career, but the best thing about playing in Keyspan Park was just going home and playing in front of such an energetic crowd, people who know baseball. And the crowd always included a lot of family and friends, and that was the most important thing,” explained the son of Leo Bocchino, a member of the security staff at Keyspan Park.

On a personal note, Anthony has an important date on his schedule after the playoffs.

On Oct. 30, Anthony will marry Danielle Juiga, a teacher at PS 215 in Gravesend.

Bocchino will work in the off-season in Brooklyn and train to get ready for the next baseball season, but first he will take a few weeks off to help his fiancee with their wedding plans.

As popular as Bocchino was with the Cyclones fans, they don’t want to see him playing at Keyspan Park again for two reasons: They want to see him move up towards the major leagues, and having killed the Cyclones for two seasons, he should go beat someone else.

Booming voice

“Staten Island fans are Brooklyn wannabes,” proclaimed the voice of a man standing near the stairs as fans entered main gate at Keyspan Park on Aug. 27 before that night’s contest between the Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees.

The man held a small bullhorn, but his powerful and distinctive voice didn’t need much amplification.

Keyspan Park regulars were already familiar with Cowbell Man. Was this new person likely to become “Bullhorn Man?”

Not likely. The man has too many other obligations to be at Keyspan Park every night. But who was he?

He was Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, and he was psyching up the Brooklyn fans for that evening’s contest against their archrivals. And why wouldn’t he? The President’s Cup — the year-old trophy which goes to the winner of the season series between the two teams — was on the line. On that date, Brooklyn led the series 5-3, with four games left to play.

“Send the Staten Islanders back over the bridge,” proclaimed Markowitz over his bullhorn.

Were Markowitz’s words stirring up animosity between fans from the two boroughs?

No. It was all in fun and even some fans from Staten Island were laughing, getting a kick out of Markowitz enthusiasm and sense of humor.

Brooklyn won that night’s game and the next game in the series at Staten Island. Even though the Cyclones lost the last two games of the series to Staten Island, the Brooks had won the season’s series at 7-5.

On the next game at Keyspan Park, Markowitz appeared on the video screen at the ballpark.

“We beat them 7-5,” the borough president said of the Brooklyn-Staten Island series as the home fans cheered.

Dante’s en fuego

“I am declaring myself the 2004 champ,” crowed Dante Brinkley.

Was Brinkley predicting a Cyclones championship?

Brinkley hustles on the ball field and he wants to win a championship very badly. In fact, he called a players-only team meeting after the Aug. 29 Cyclones loss against Staten Island.

“I wanted to make sure all the players were on the same page,” said the outfielder about his call to action.

But Brinkley’s declaration of a championship didn’t refer to the Cyclones.

Instead, the highly competitive player was referring to his daily battle with friend and roommate Derran Watts in the outfielders’ video game contests involving MVP Baseball 2004.

“Derran Watts and I have kind of a ritual. After home games we go home and pick random teams, and we play a series on MVP Baseball. Last night, I really whupped him! I won three games and he only won the last game, and I really let him win … out of pity.”

But the Cyclones season, and thus the roommates’ video baseball season, aren’t over. So why declare a video championship?

“I am declaring myself the champ right now because I can’t be beaten by Watts,” bragged Brinkley.

Realizing this was a huge story, and being a dutiful reporter, I informed him that I would seek out Watts and get his side of the story, as much as I hate seeking comments in the loser’s clubhouse.

“He’s going to twist the story in his favor,” said Brinkley. “But I want people out there to know that I’m the greatest.”

As I suspected, Watts saw things a bit differently.

“Dante failed to mention that I beat him three out of four the night before,” he said. “He beat me three out of four last night, but the game I won definitely wasn’t a pity game.”

Besides, said Watts, Brinkley still has some learning to do.

“He has to work on his game,” he said. “He has to pitch better; he’s a guess pitcher and a guess hitter when we play. His game is not at the level where he can say he’s a true competitor.”

Two roommates, one video championship: The struggle continues.

Tommy’s tune

The Staten Island Yankees were in last place in the McNamara Division, and on Aug. 27 they had lost 1-0 to the Cyclones at Keyspan Park.

It was nearly an hour after the game and Tommy John, the former pitcher and Staten Island manager, was walking down a nearly deserted corridor under the stands, headed towards the exit for the Yankee team bus.

This man doesn’t like losing. He won 288 major league games between 1963 and 1989. Thought to be through with baseball in 1974 after his elbow broke down, the lefty had an operation performed by Dr. Frank Jobe in which a length of tendon from his right wrist was used to replace the damaged elbow tendon of his left arm.

Jobe had thought the operation would enable John to lead a normal life, and do things such as comb his hair — not to come back as a pitcher. But John’s determination to pitch again brought him back to the big leagues, where he eventually won Comeback Player of the Year in 1976. The next season he won 20 games.

“Tommy John Surgery” is now a baseball term, and John’s tenacity paved the way for many others to follow as they came back from the same operation.

So this fierce competitor has just suffered another Yankee loss. But he’s a Hoosier from Terre Haute, and he’s polite, and headed towards him is Pee Wee, one of the Cyclones’ mascots.

Perhaps Tommy John doesn’t know that Pee Wee is a seagull — after all, the mascot’s outfit looks kind of like a skinny chicken.

But you don’t grow up in Indiana in the 1950s and walk by someone without greeting the person — or mascot — tough loss or not.

Tommy John made a little waving motion with his hand.

“Hello, bird,” he intoned as he headed towards the exit.

September 4 , 2004 issue  

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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