2011-06-24 / Sports

Hilliard Seeks Continued Success In Brooklyn

By Elio Velez

Brooklyn Cyclones pitching coach Frank Viola gives advice on the mound to pitcher Carlos Vasquez (33). Photo by William Thomas Brooklyn Cyclones pitching coach Frank Viola gives advice on the mound to pitcher Carlos Vasquez (33). Photo by William Thomas Mississippi-born lefthanded pitcher Chris Hilliard recorded one of the greatest seasons in Cyclones history in 2010. The 9-1 record Hilliard posted last season tied a franchise record and that success should have led to his promotion further up the New York Mets minor league system.

Health matters halted that plan in spring training when the 23-year old pitcher suffered a painful toe injury which put him out of action for two weeks.

Now finally healthy after months of rehabilitation and playing in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Hilliard has rejoined the Cyclones. The lefty pitcher started on June 20 and delivered five scoreless innings as Brooklyn defeated Aberdeen 5-4.

The soft-spoken Hilliard has now set the all-time win record for Cyclones pitchers with 11 victories.

“It’s special because I had a chance to do it last year and couldn’t do it,” Hilliard said.

Hilliard kept his cool while working back into shape in Florida. He found out three days prior to the start of the Cyclones season that he would join the ballclub on June 17.

As long as Hilliard remains on the ballclub, which could be temporary or fort he rest of the season, the lefty will provide a veteran presence to a young pitching staff. Brooklyn has gotten off to a 4-1 start as of June 22.

“This is a great place to play. The fans are supportive,” Hilliard said. “It would be nice to play another year.”

Donnelly Gets To the Point

New Brooklyn Cyclones manager Rich Donnell brings a world of experience to a young crop of players who are participating in their first year of professional baseball.

The 64-year old skipper has been a player and coach for 44 years since he signed on as a catcher with the Minnestota Twins in 1967. He was a longtime coach with manager Jim Leyland in Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado. He was coaching third base in Game 7 of the World Series for the Marlins in 1997 when he frantically waved in Craig Counsell for the winning run in the tenth inning.

The coaching staff includes former Mets and Cy Yougn Award winner Frank Viola as pitching coach and former Cyclones player Bobby Malek as hitting coach. Donnelly has a simple philosophy for the team. Play hard, play clean baseball and keep working hard on various facets of their skills at the plate or on the mound.

“There is a lot of areas we need to work on, and the kids need to put the work in but this is what they are here for. To learn,” Donnelly said. uuuHe was impressed when they battled on Monday night to hold on to the win against Aberdeen.

“We got to still be better, and there are always plenty of things to always to improve on. We’re going to cut down on the team strikeouts, but we hung in there, got timely hits and executed offensively really well.”

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