2005-07-22 / Sports

Strawberry Returns, Cyclones Honor Dodgers

By Elio Velez

Josh Petersen has started to smoke the ball after a slow start. Photo By Pete BorrielloJosh Petersen has started to smoke the ball after a slow start. Photo By Pete Borriello The Brooklyn Cyclones may be a minor league team, but last week it was a major league appearance by Darryl Strawberry that got the Keyspan Park crowd a buzzing.

For five days, the former Mets hero was in his new role as a New York Mets minor league instructor. But as high profile as Strawberry used to be in his playing days with the Mets and Yankees, his job as a teacher is as low key as possible.

He’s not visible in uniform during ballgames and the former Mets legend would rather instruct quietly before the games. The 43 year old knows he’s not a ballplayer anymore but his New York experience and whirlwind baseball career can be used for a more positive goal.

Darryl Strawberry signs autographs for the fans at Keyspan Park. Photo By “Twig”Darryl Strawberry signs autographs for the fans at Keyspan Park. Photo By “Twig” “This is a learning process for these guys. This is not about who’s going to make it or not make it,” Strawberry said. “Professional ball is tough especially where you come from and swinging wooden bats instead of metal bats.”

If there is a man who knows how to grow up tough, it’s Strawberry. Drafted as the #1 pick in 1980 by the Mets, Strawberry went through enough controversy on and off the field to fill the backpages.

Now 43 years old, Strawberry has returned to baseball and surprisingly with the organization that made him a household name. Both sides went through a tumoultous relationship during his time in New York and fell apart once he signed as a free agent in 1991 with the Dodgers.

Last winter, both sides broke the ice as the Mets appointed him as a special instructor throughout the minor league system. Reuniting with his 1986 World Series teammate and Cyclones manager Mookie Wilson, the new goal for Strawberry is to teach the new players on what it takes to play professional ball.

“It’s not about where there at and what their stats are and people can get caught up that,” Strawberry says.

“Me and guys like Mookie that are in the organization as instructors, we’re here to teach these guys and help them grow every year so they can make themselves known.”

Most players who start out their second lives in pro ball after retiring look to become instructors to one day become major league coaches or managers. Strawberry has loved the job so far but he is adamant that there is no chance he will one day wear a major league uniform. “This is fun. This is the only thing I want to do,” Strawberry says. “Everybody asks me if I want to coach, I say no!!!”

“I don’t want to coach. I don’t want to go to the major leagues and coach. I don’t want to be a hitting instructor in the big leagues! I want to see kids develop. That’s the only reason why I came back.”

Cyclones Struggle Early

Times have been a bit rough lately for the Cyclones even though they have a 16-12 record as of press time. The hitting and the pitching have been erratic which has begun to irritate Mookie Wilson. After a doubleheader loss at Park Monday to Auburn, Wilson kept the clubhouse closed for two hours after the game.

Only two hitters in the regular lineup, Caleb Stewart and the emerging Josh Petersen are hitting over .300. The rest of the lineup has struggled mightily with at least 5 starters hitting less than .250.

Petersen has emerged as the most consistent hitter after going on a tear of batting .400 the last two weeks to increase his overall average to .321. He’s been shaky defensively at first and third but has found a permanent spot in the lineup. Last Saturday night, Petersen drove in the game winning RBI in the eighth inning for a 3-2 victory. “Peterson is our hottest hitter right now,” Mookie Wilson says.

Cyclones Host 1955 Dodgers

2005 marks the 50th anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers winning their only World Series championship in 1955.

This weekend, the Cyclones will honor that championship year and on Saturday night, former Dodgers Ed Roebuck, Carl Erskine and Clem Labine will be honored in a pre-game ceremony.

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