Mookie, Cyclones Learned Together in 2005 Campaign
AUGUSTA, N.J. –The end is near for the Brooklyn Cyclones. After tonight’s game against the New Jersey Cardinals, there would be one game remaining on their schedule. The previous night had not gone so well for Brooklyn. A 5-1 loss on the road, to the Aberdeen Ironbirds, had already sealed their fate. For the first time in three seasons, the Cyclones were eliminated from the postseason.
Still, it was a good season. At 40-36, Brooklyn finished third in the McNamara Division. They were 12 games behind Staten Island and 2½ games in back of the Lowell Spinners for the Wild Card.
“I was very pleased with the year,” said Mookie Wilson. “We all would’ve liked to make the playoffs; we fell short by a couple of games. But, I thought the effort was there. The kids made some mistakes along the way because of their inexperience. But, overall, I thought they improved from Day One. I couldn’t be happier.”
This was the highest level of organized ball that Wilson, 49, had managed. He posted a 57-75 record for the Kingsport Mets [R] of the Appalachian League during the past two seasons.
“The biggest challenge,” he stated, “was leading a team that had never played pro ball before. Getting them accustomed to playing and working out everyday. Showing them the difference between college ball and pro ball. On any given day, seven of the nine guys on the field were first-year players.”
One of those differences was noticeable the instant they stepped inside KeySpan Park. “That, in itself,” Wilson recalled, “was something to get the kids accustomed to. It was just phenomenal.
Subsequently, performing in front of near sell-out crowds became a routine occurrence. The Cyclones, who have led the New York-Penn League in attendance during each of their five seasons, attracted 285,818 fans over 36 openings. Their average of 7,939 surpassed Aberdeen by more than 1,600 per game.
Even the manager, who played most of his career in the New York spotlight, was awed. “That was the first time, in minor league ball, that I had been in that environment on a daily basis. But, it was the first time for these kids ever.
“It was energizing and exciting. And I enjoyed every minute of it.”
However, he couldn’t enjoy predicting the futures of his players.
“That’s a very tough question to answer,” he noted. “All these kids have the potential to be successful. The reality, of course, is they’re not going to be. But, there were kids that we were surprised with -kids that had progressed to a point where we wondered, ‘Let’s see how far he goes.’
“Bobby Parnell can be a very good pitcher, either as a starter or reliever, because of the movement of his pitches and his composure on the mound.” Parnell, who just turned 21, was 2-3 with 67 strikeouts and a 1.73 ERA
in 73 IP. He opened for the National League’s affiliates in this season’s inaugural All-Star Game.
“Joe Holden [.291 with 22 steals in 64 games] has shown the ability to make adjustments. There, again, a lot of things have to go right. He has got to get stronger –no question about that- but I think he surprised a lot of people in the organization. Holden, 21, was the NL’s starting centerfielder.
“Kevin Tomasiewicz [6’2, 225] would be another of them,” Wilson added. “I think he can be a very good situational left-handed pitcher.” Tomasiewicz, a 21 year-old with an unorthodox motion, finished at 3-3 with three saves, and a 5.62 ERA in 41.2 innings pitched.
There are others also, such as Sal Aguilar -“who has been fantastic,” according to Wilson- and Drew Butera, a promising catcher, who merit consideration.
Then the manager’s future was raised. But, at the time, nothing much could be said. “No decision has been made,” Wilson stated, “either by myself, or the organization, as to where I’ll be in 2006. It depends on what other guys [managers] do.”
The scuttlebutt is that Gary Carter, who led the Gulf Coast Mets to a playoff berth, will come in next season. If that happens, he will follow ex-teammates Howard Johnson, Tim Teufel and Wilson as Brooklyn managers. Each played on the 1986 championship squad, as did Bob Ojeda, who was Johnson’s pitching coach.
“I’ve been asked, ‘Would I come back here?’ This is a very good place to manage. The talent is very good here. And in Aberdeen or Hudson Valley, there is a lot of excitement in the ballpark. And I loved those series’ against Staten Island.”
Wilson flashed his trademark smile.
“It would be very foolish of me to say I hadn’t learned anything. I learned things everyday. For one, I had to manage talent and not the game.
“I think I was able to inject a little of my style into the way we played,” he reflected. “But only as far as the personalities would dictate. I had to wonder how my decision would affect the next guy. Even at this level, that had to be done.”