2004-08-27 / Sports

Cyclones’ Brinkley Brings Tools For All Around Game

By Elio Velez

Dante Brinkley has been regarded as the best all around player by his manager Tony Tijerina, hitting coach Donovan Mitchell and a few of his teammates. He has led the team at one point this year in all offensive categories and is at the top 10 in batting average of the N.Y. Penn League.

Brinkley is a joker among his teammates and a lively presence in the dugout. Once the game starts, baseball is his only focus and his will to compete and win has been a positive influence on the first place Cyclones.

“I just wanted to come in and play every day, work on my game and compete in areas that I needed improvement in,” Brinkley said.

“He is a gap-to-gap hitter and has surprising power for a little guy,” hitting coach Donovan Mitchell said about Brinkley, who is 5’11 and 180 pounds. A righthanded hitter, Brinkley belted a homerun earlier this season to rightfield. He is one of the few players in the history of Keyspan Park that has rested a ball there.

“He’s going to be a good pro. He’s carried us the most of the way with his bat”, Mitchell said.

Brinkley’s approach to the plate is a mix of discipline and aggression.

I don’t see the crowd when I’m playing. I only see the pitchers, hitters and the defense and not concentrate on the crowd yelling”, Brinkley said. “I just try to concentrate on the play on the field.” Those traits were carried over from his days of playing high school baseball and football at Belleville East High near East St. Louis, Illinois

“Football fit my personality more in high school. I played running back and wide receiver,” Brinkley said. “In the fall I can be more aggressive and take out my frustration on defense. Baseball was more laid back for me and I displayed more skill than showing aggression.”

Brinkley learned many life lessons when he played ball at Southwest Missouri State. Focusing entirely on baseball, Brinkley became humbled, as he worked hard to get a starting spot on the team.

“I was the man in high school and I went to college, you got a whole team full of the “man”. It wasn’t a wakeup call or shock it was just a part of reality that hit me,” says Brinkley.

I had skills in high school but I never had anyone to show me what to do. Some guys were better than me and they were producing and they should have played,” Brinkley remembers. “I had to work my way into the starting lineup.”

Switching from shortstop to the outfield was also an adjustment but it worked out well in his favor. In his sophomore year, he was named to the second team all-Missouri Valley Conference and led the team to the College World Series.

An ankle injury that occurred last Monday night against New Jersey may knock him out for the rest of the season. Manager Tony Tijerina believes that Brinkley could return for the playoffs and help the team to win on a team trying to win the N.Y. Penn League Championship in September.

Battle For First Place

As of press time, the Brooklyn Cyclones are one game ahead of the New Jersey Cardinals and one and half in front of the Hudson Valley Renegades. Injuries are starting to mount on the Cyclones, especially on the offense.

Starting catcher Aaron Hathaway, who has been fantastic defensively by throwing out 21 of 38 base stealers and picking off 7 runners, injured his left thumb in a collision on August 6 against Aberdeen.

Hathaway is expected to return for the playoffs. As insurance, the Cyclones imported Yunior Garcia from Single A Capital City Bombers (South Carolina) to take over as the starting catcher. Garcia hit .283 with the Bombers.

First Baseman/Designate Hitter Tyler Davidson is battling a sore lower back but is still in the starting lineup. With Dante Brinkley injuring his ankle, outfielder Derran Watts returns for the fourth time in three years to the Cyclones. Well regarded by his teammates and the coaching staff for his maturity and serious approach to the game, Watts spent 2 weeks in Capital City after being promoted on August 8.

Great Pitching Performances

With the offense struggling, Tony Tijerina has been looking to his starting pitching to give the team a lift. Mike Swindell and Evan MacLane stepped up this week to arguably pitch the two best performances for the Cyclones this year.

In a televised Fox Sports Net game last Sunday, Mike Swindell was dominant as he pitched five no hit innings before allowing a single in the top of the 6 th inning to Matt Shepard of the New Jersey Cardinals. That would be the only hit Swindell allowed as he struck out 6 batters in 8 innings to give the Cyclones a 6-0 win.

Two days later against Oneonta, Evan MacLane kept the Tigers at bay with 8 innings of shut out ball and striking out 10 batters in a 3-0 Cyclones win.

He has given up only 5 walks, while striking out 60 batters in 67 innings this season.

Tickets On Sale

With 10 games left in the season, the team has announced the playoff tickets will go on sale today at Keyspan Park. Playoff tickets will go on sale Friday, August 27th at 10:00 a.m., via phone at 718-507-TIXX or online at www.brooklyncyclones.com. 

A nonrefundable per ticket service charge is applicable by phone and Internet. 

Ticket pricing for the playoffs will remain the same as the regular season at $12, $10 and $5.

If Brooklyn clinches the McNamara Division, they will likely play their first playoff game on Monday, September 6 against the Stedler Division leader Tri City Valley Cats.

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