Mark Wright pitches in 'The Longest Game'

Mark Wright pitched the final two innings of the longest game in New York-Penn League history, a league which started in 1939. His Brooklyn Cyclones fell to the Oneonta Tigers 6-1 Thursday, and the former Ole Miss outfielder was disappointed he couldn't come through for his new team.

Mark Wright says there's actually a lot of pressure to win in Brooklyn, even if it is short season rookie A-League ball. A lot of baseball fans there still remember when the Dodgers of Los Angeles called that particular borough of New York City home.

So when he strolled out to the mound to pitch for the first time in years - in the 25th inning of Thursday's game at Brooklyn's KeySpan Park against Oneonta with the score tied 1-1 - Wright had already had a lot of time to feel some of that pressure.

"The coaches looked down the bench in the dugout and asked me if I thought I could give them an inning," said Wright, the MVP of the SEC tourney in May - as a hitter and outfielder, of course. "I told them I could probably give them an inning at least."

No, that wasn't in the 22nd or 23rd inning when they asked him.

"I think it was like the 17th or 18th," he said.

When a game runs the equivalent of basically three contests in an almost seven-hour time frame, the numbers of the innings will likely get lost on a player. So forgive Mark a bit if he isn't quite sure just when he first heard he might pitch again for the first time since his Germantown, Tenn., High days.

"I was feeling pretty good in that first inning I pitched," said Wright of the top of the 25th frame, also mentioning that the hoots and hollars from teammates in the dugout were clearly audible in the now almost empty stadium where a crowd of 9,000 had dwindled to a few hundred.

"They were yelling out at me when a guy would swing and miss," he said as he threw mostly fast balls, mixing in a few changeups, too. "I was wanting to get a strikeout bad."

He actually had to settle for two ground outs and a long fly ball.

"But it was three up, three down," Wright said, laughing.

"I wish we could have scored in the bottom of the 25th," he said.

But Brooklyn didn't.

"I threw my warmup pitches (in the top of the 26th) and it wasn't going well. I knew I didn't have it at that point," Wright said, spoken like a true veteran of the mound.

He walked the first two guys, Oneonta bunted a batter, and then a base hit drove a couple of runs in. Soon the visitors led 6-1, and the Cyclones didn't score in the bottom of the frame. And that was that.

Just a routine baseball game, you know "that's baseball" and "it aint over 'til it's over".

And over and over and over.

Brooklyn starter Eric Brown went seven innings, but that proved to be way less than a third of the game, as it turned out.

Cyclones manager George Greer was forced to watch almost the entire game from the clubhouse, ejected way back in the bottom of the first inning after arguing a play at second base.

"We didn't get to Jamestown until 5 a.m. today," Wright said of his team's next venture. "We would have gotten here earlier, but we didn't plan on playing for seven hours on Thursday."

Wright said former Rebel Chris Coghlan had already called about his pitching debut. Ironically had Coghlan signed already (and he likely will soon), then he would have been playing for the Jamestown Jammers tonight against Wright.

"I figure I'll hear from some more of them," Wright said of his Rebel teammates.

It hasn't been a great month for Wright. He's only played a handful of innings in the outfield and has DHed some. He's only batting a buck 21 with four hits and a couple of RBI in 13 games. And although it's hard to be too excited about those type numbers, Mark's not discouraged.

"It's a good learning experience," said Wright, undrafted as a fourth-year junior in June but still he signed a pro contract shortly thereafter. "I'm hitting with a wooden bat now. There are a lot of guys like myself trying to break through. I'm confident thngs will get better for me."

Wright's team that calls Brooklyn home is affiliated with the nearby New York Metropolitans, or Mets if you will. When the Dodgers left for the west coast after the 1957 season, many of their fans didn't have a team to cheer for, because they weren't about to root for the Yankees. The New York Giants also left the same year for San Francisco.

So when the Mets played their first season in 1962, those fans finally had a team call their own, sort of. But these Cyclones, now they are really Brooklyn's own.

Wright said living at Coney Island is crazy.

"We live in dorms that are nice. The crowd's are great. We have about 8,000 for most games. But they aren't Ole Miss crowds. I miss those crowds we used to have."

He said he didn't go to the annual Hot Dog eating contest sponsored by Nathan's that was live on ESPN on July 4th because his team was leaving for a road trip that morning.

And of course he would love to have the chance to one day play with the big Mets just up the road. On Thursday, Wright proved at least something for his new team.

"They know for sure now that I'm a team player," he said.

That they do, Mark. That they do.

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