Graduation Day for Ex-Clone?

Having baseball back in Brooklyn has apparently been a success for the fans of the Cyclones. Now it's becoming quite clear that the New York Mets, the parent club of the third-year New York Penn League franchise, will soon be reaping the rewards as well.

This is the first time baseball fans in the metropolitan area have been given a comprehensive glimpse into the inner workings of player development. Far-off locales like Jacksonville, Norfolk and Columbia were usually - and in the case of the latter two cities still are - the launching pads for the careers of Mets players that have captured the spirit of Gotham.

Now, former Cyclone second baseman Danny Garcia is getting closer to finally realizing the dream of playing in the big leagues.

The struggles of the Mets have been well documented, and the by-product of the parent club's high-priced failure has been a renewed effort to improve the organization's minor league system.

"This is an unbelievable environment for our young players." Dave LaRoque, the Mets' director of scouting, after a recent visit to KeySpan Park. "Brooklyn has provided a wonderful stage for them, and they've responded quite well."

None more so than Garcia, the former Pepperdine standout, who is weeks away from being the first Cyclone to be promoted to the majors.

A slick-fielding and hard-charging infielder, Garcia has drawn praise from anyone who has seen him play.

"I'm very impressed with Danny Garcia," said Tim Teufel, Cyclones manager and former Mets' roving infield instructor. "He's not afraid to get his uniform dirty, and he's a great kid."

Perhaps most importantly, he can play.

In past years, Garcia would have been slated to stay the entire year at Double-A Binghamton this season, as the Mets have generally moved their prospects along slowly.

But Garcia's rapid development in every facet of the game has resulted in his rapid rise from Single-A ball last season to his current assignment at Triple-A Norfolk.

"What I like about Danny Garcia is he does all the little things," Double-A manager John Stearns told the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin. "He hustles, he's a heads-up baserunner, he's solid defensively, and he works hard at his craft. You tell him to do something, and he's already done it. And you don't have to tell him anything twice."

Garcia, the Mets' fifth-round pick in the 2001 amatuer draft, hit .333 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 32 games for the Binghamton Mets and was quickly sent to Triple-A to man the AAA Norfolk Tides double-play duo with Mets phenom Jose Reyes.

With Garcia hitting .288 at Triple-A with 33 RBIs and six stolen bases through 43 games at press time, Mets general manager Jim Duquette has all but guaranteed that there will be at least one former Cyclone playing at Shea Stadium this season.

"We'll give Garcia a look when we feel he's ready," Duquette told MLB.com. "He'll go through July at Triple-A and if he progresses the way we hope, maybe we'll see him in August or September. The more you watch Garcia play, the more you appreciate what he does. He can do something to help you win every day."

BROOKS BATTER YANKS AGAIN
On July 2, the Cyclones completed a three-game sweep of the rival Staten Island Yankees for the second time this season, taking a 4-3 contest in front of another sellout crowd at KeySpan Park.

The win gave the 'Clones an 11-4 record and a full two-game lead in the McNamara Division of the NYPL.

Former Cyclone standout from a season ago, second baseman Blake "Ace" Whealy smacked a home run in his first at-bat in a Brooklyn uniform after arriving from Single-A Capital City on Tuesday. First baseman Ian Bladergroen hit a homer for the second straight night, while shortstop David Reaver added three hits, including the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.

CYCLONES NOTES
- 1B Bladergroen has nine hits in his last 18 at-bats.

- 2B Whealy, a NYPL All-Star a season ago, has been sent to Brooklyn to work on his fielding with Brooks' skipper Teufel.

- The Cyclones have now played half of their 12 scheduled games against Staten Island, winning all six.

- RHP Matthew Lindstrom, the Mets' 10th-round, has not allowed a run in 17 2/3 innings this season.

The above article recently appeared in the Brooklyn Skyline.


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