It is inspiring to see how far the Brooklyn Cyclones have come in so short a time.
The team started the season in a scoring funk, dropping to last place in the McNamara Division, and it looked like its record of 12 straight seasons above .500 was going to end. The team was dead last in the league in home runs, with one of the worst batting averages and fewest runs scored.
But around early July, that all seemed to change as the players underwent an attitude adjustment and began to record more hits, score more runs, and notch more wins. Almost miraculously, the team found itself just one game out of first place, leaving two other division rivals in the dust.
The Cyclones are still only flirting with the .500 mark, but the players are hitting more consistently and pitching lights-out with the second-best ERA in the league.
Manager Rich Donnelly said the guys are playing better in the second half of the season because they’ve learned to adjust to the professional game, where things don’t come as easy as they did in the past.
“There are two kinds of guys in this league: those who are humble and those who are about to be,” Donnelly said. “You get humbled in the first half and then in the second half you get back to playing and getting better. It seems that after 30 days, they get comfortable and their new mindset that allows them to play better.
I underwent a similar change when I got here to Brooklyn. I initially struggled to get into the rhythm of a baseball reporter and to find my stride at the plate, so to speak. I also needed a slice of humble pie, like many of the players, to plant myself firmly in the real world.
I don’t think I arrived overly prideful or exceptionally confident in my abilities, but I definitely believed I would get into a groove and not miss a step. That wasn’t the case, as I needed a good three weeks or so to catch up with expectations and find a style and a rhythm that worked.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that around the time of my discovery of a rhythm, the Cyclones jolted into their own groove and have slowly climbed their way into a race for the division lead. The players and I seemed to hit our strides at exactly the same time.
Now, with just more than two weeks left in the season, it is time for the home stretch for all of us. The Cyclones are finishing up a long set with division-rival Staten Island just before a crucial set against the division-leading Aberdeen. It is not hyperbole to say that last set could be for all the marbles.
All-Star second baseman L.J. “Mini-Maz” Mazzilli said the journey from worst to (almost) first is just the players understanding that finishing well is the most important aspect of the game.
“It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish,” Mazzilli said. “We got on a roll in the middle of the season and now we just have to stay the same course and not lose focus and everything will take care of itself.”
I also have a home stretch to play out, even though I return to school before the season is over. I may be getting an extra dose of work during the last days of the season, but if I take Mazzilli’s advice and stay focused, everything will take care of itself.
Scott Hansen, an intern from Brigham Young University, will be comparing his life to those of the Cyclones all season long.