Late Season Boost Inches Brooklyn Closer To Division Title
Brooklyn had led the McNamara Division for almost 2 months and at 38-30, was fighting for a division title and a wild card spot against streaking Mahoning Valley.
Before their game at home last Monday against Batavia, outfielder Dante Brinkley, who has been injured with a left ankle sprain since August 23rd, called a 15-minute players only meeting, along with veterans such as Derran Watts and Tyler Davidson.
“I wanted to evaluate on how we were playing and get people on the same page. It wasn’t about the Yankee game. We just wanted to evaluate where we are right now. It’s a close race and I just wanted to make sure we’re doing the same things,” Brinkley said.
Manager Tony Tijerina’s applauded leaders such as Brinkley and Watts for putting the team on the right path.
“I know who the leaders are and there has been great chemistry all year. There hasn’t been anyone yet who stepped out and taken the charge by the horns and stepped up. It’s nice to see.”
The meeting may have done the trick. At press time, the Cyclones (41-30) swept the series against Batavia and moved two games ahead of the Renegades. Tijerina has taken hands off approach and he believed the team is mature enough to handle a pennant race.
“I told them before batting practice that I appreciated their hard work and how much they have all improved,” Tijerina said. “You’ve got to take care of your own. I basically told them they all know the situation.”
“I’ve taught them the last two and half months on how to play wining baseball. I’m going to sit back the last six games and enjoy the ride and let you do all the plays.”
The Cyclones must win at least one game in a three game set against Hudson Valley to clinch their third division title in four years. Tonight at 7 p.m., the Cyclones will see if they can bring another title back to Brooklyn.
In a season filled with fabulous performances, Ambiorix Concepcion has stood out with his impressive play. The 6’2, 180 pound outfielder from the Dominican Republic is hitting .313 and leads the team in homeruns, RBI and stolen bases with 28.
The season started slowly for Concepcion as he hit .231 in the first month of the season. His confidence never wavered and the 20 year old has placed himself as one of the top New York Mets prospects.
In the past few weeks, the pitching staff has also been impressive. Starting pitchers Mike Swindell, Evan MacLane and Michael Devaney have pitched deep into ballgames with great effectiveness and timely wins. Late into the season, Tijerina is confident that he can ride his starting pitchers because of their maturity and their confidence.
“You want to give these guys the chance. I understand they’re frustrated with pitch counts,” Tijerina said. “I’ve let the reins loose a little and it’s a reward I’ve given them. They’ve proven to me that they can pitch easily through the later innings.”
The Cyclones dugout is very crowded with late season additions from the Mets’ farm team in the rookie Gulf Cost League and in Kingsport. Players such as former Cyclone Travis Garcia and 2004 third round draft pick Gabriel Hernandez and Jesus Flores are a few who have joined the team.
Flores made an impact with the Cyclones in his first bat last Tuesday against Batavia. He pinch-hit for Aaron Hathaway, the star catcher who returned after a two week left thumb injury. With the Cyclones up 7-2 in the seventh inning, Flores turned on a 0-1 pitch and hit a towering two run home run deep into left center field.
“I wanted to get him in there for a couple of innings to replace Hathaway. He put a charge into that. He’s a real strong kid. That was impressive,” Tijerina said.
The Cyclones are guaranteed a playoff spot and will have their first home game on Monday, September 6 at 7 p.m. The team will be on the road to complete the last two of the three first round divisional series.