(Long Island, NY) Coney Island has a carnival atmosphere to begin with. And the Brooklyn Cyclones did not miss a beat with their home opener on Tuesday night at Keyspan Park. Greeting the sellout crowd of 8,888 on the entrance stairs were the players themselves and the team mascots, Sandy the Seagull and Pee-Wee. To make the event even more special was the opponent – the Staten Island Yankees.
The games between the two clubs have been dibbed ‘The Battle of the Bridge’ since 2001, the Cyclones’ inaugural season in the New York-Penn League. Yes, the Mets-Yankees rivalry even works at the Single-A level. Similar to their big league brethren, the Yankees have won four NYPL championships in their eight seasons, including the last two. The Cyclones were named co-champions in 2001 after their series versus Williamsport was cut short after September 11.
Manager Edgar Alfonzo, the brother of former Met and current Long Island Duck Edgardo Alfonzo, is in his second stint on the Brooklyn bench. He led the team in 2001, going 55-25 while being named Baseball America’s 2001 Short-Season Manager of the Year.
“I know what the team means to the Brooklyn fans,” he said.
The scene at the location that once housed the famous Steeplechase Park was perfect as Cyclones’ pitcher Joseph Leaper started the game off with a strike right down Broadway. An early threat was put out just as easily as the fire-breathing lady from the circus side show (who entertained the crowd between innings) when third baseman Zach Lutz backhanded a sharp grounder and made the throw across the diamond for the final out in the first inning with two runners in scoring position.
The game was played at a sharp pace and remained scoreless through the first five and a half innings. The Cyclones had runners on the corners with two out in the bottom of the sixth when Jeff Voyles, who replaced Lutz at third base after he injured his ankle, hit a high drive that just made it over the Premio Sausage sign in left field for a 3-0 Cyclone lead.
“It was a great feeling,” said Voyles. “We needed a big hit. The offense was struggling.”
The Cyclones loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning and were able to cash in when rightfielder Raul Reyes doubled down the rightfield line, scoring two more to extend Brooklyn’s lead to five.
Dan McDonald came in to nail it down in the ninth inning. The former Seton Hall closer was a 2007 eighth round draft choice of the Mets. A 1-2-3 inning to top off a 5-1 win.
“It’s important when you have those key hits late in the game,” Alfonzo said. “We can score runs doing the little things.”
Leaper, who impressed with five shutout innings, seemed to be unaware of the rivalry between the teams. “I don’t seem to know much about [the rivalry],” he said. “As the season goes on, I’ll have a better understanding of it.”