By Matt Meyers
December 7, 2005
It’s no secret that Brooklyn is not your typical minor league market, particularly not for a short-season league.
“We knew Brooklyn was a great market and rich in baseball tradition with the Dodgers, but we had some concerns about obstacles that we would potentially face,” general manager Steve Cohen said. “That was 50 years ago that the Dodgers left. Coney Island was on a rebound, but the perception of Coney Island was not great. It had been through decades of problems.”
Five years later, it is hard to imagine that any of these things were ever concerns as the Mets affiliate has led the NY-P in attendance every year of its existence and have become the league’s marquee franchise.
While the Cyclones draw fans from outside of Brooklyn, they specifically target the borough due to difficulty of trying to reach the entire city. The benefit of being in such a large market is also a drawback.
“The advantages are that we are in a major market that has a lot of media coverage. That helps us a lot, but it is very competitive,” Cohen said. “They don’t always have space for the Brooklyn Cyclones when the major league teams are having good seasons.”
The Cyclones have been embraced by the borough not just for their play on field, but also for their contributions to the community and their respect for Brooklyn’s baseball history.
“They do things right. They have a very dedicated and professional staff that spends a lot of time in the community and getting them involved with the team,” NY-P president Ben Hayes said. “It is an entire package that they bring and it has become a rallying point for the community itself.”
Two major programs are the Cyclones Book Patrol as well as S.T.R.I.K.E. (Striving To Restore & Improve Kids Equipment). Through the book patrol, members of the staff travel to local schools to read to elementary school students during the winter, while during the season coaches and players read to children in a gallery within KeySpan Park before Sunday home games.
S.T.R.I.K.E. has been in existence for two years and saw AFLAC come on as a co-sponsor after the initial season. It is an equipment donation program that is involved with ten Brooklyn little leagues.
KeySpan Park is also the host to the Brooklyn Baseball gallery, and the Cyclones utilize it via the Diamond Dreams program, which gives children a lesson in Brooklyn’s baseball history while incorporating other school subjects as well. The program has seen more than 300 different groups, from school classes to summer camps, visit it in the past year.
Diamond Dreams is not the only way that the Cyclones have connected to Brooklyn’s baseball roots. They honored the 1955 World Series champions in July and recently unveiled a statue of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese outside the park.
The Cyclones, who hosted the league’s first all-star game this summer, have also made a point to recognize Brooklyn’s diverse residency, by hosting several different ethnic nights throughout the season and printing pocket schedules in both Spanish and Russian.
In just five years, Brooklyn has assuaged any fears about its viability as a baseball market and become one of the most successful franchises in the minor leagues.