Brooks' Surge Nets Division Title

A little more than a week ago, the Brooklyn Cyclones' ride toward the 2003 postseason was stuck somewhere along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. After spending much of the season atop the McNamara Division, the Cyclones suffered a seven-game losing skid that almost cost them not only the team's second division title in three years, but even the New York-Penn League's lone wildcard berth was in jeopardy.

Instead of caving in to the first real pressure of their lives in professional baseball, the young Cyclones responded by winning six straight games to clinch the division crown.

"At this point in our lives as ballplayers, obviously the mental aspect of our game can get out of whack," says Cyclones' outfielder Jon Slack. "But (until that losing streak) that's been our strong point all season long."

"Injuries (to closer Carlos Muniz and starting pitchers Brian Bannister, who are both inactive for the entire playoffs) and all those bumps in the road…those things happen," Slack added. "But we were strong mentally, and we responded."

At press time, the Cyclones were getting ready to meet the Stedler Division champion Oneonta Tigers _ against whom they took two of three regular season games _ in Game 1 of the divisional round of the NYPL playoffs.

"The team's really playing well now." Brooklyn manager Tim Teufel said. "For most of the year, our pitching dominated the league. Then we had a bad stint there, losing eight of nine games, but the positive that came out of that was our offense started clicking."

"I feel really good about our team coming into this series (against Oneonta), Teufel said. "We finished the year with a winning streak (the team dropped its season finale, but the game was meaningless) and the club is pumped to face Oneonta."

The O-Tigers, who clinched their second straight Stedler Division title last week as well, will host the first game of the best-of-three at Damaschke Field, and then travel to KeySpan for Game 2 and 3 (if necessary).

Oneonta skipper Randy Ready, like Teufel a former major leaguer infielder, is equally confident in his team.

"We've shown a lot of character all year long, Ready said. "I have to tip my hat to the kids. They were resilient and always played a full nine innings."

Third baseman Kody Kirkland led the team in runs batted in with 49, second in the NYPL, and closer Chris Homer finished the year tied with Brooklyn's Robert Paulk with a league-best 15 saves.

If the Cyclones advance, they would face the winner of the Auburn/Williamsport series from Sept. 9-11 in the championship round.

It's been a good week for the alumnus of Coney Island baseball's team. First, the Cyclones themselves clinched their division with a late-season surge, then the Single-A St. Lucie Mets, powered by ex-Clones Matt Peterson, Scott Kazmir, Chase Lambin and David Bacani, swept their first round playoff series.

The most satisfying event of all, though, was second baseman Danny Garcia taking the field at Shea Stadium, becoming the first former Cyclone to put on a Mets' uniform.

Even better, the converted centerfielder from Pepperdine singled in his first major-league bat. He would finish his first day's work in the bigs going 2-for-4, while showing some slickness of glove with a pair of solid defensive plays in the field.

Taken in the fifth round of the 2001 amateur draft, Garcia played 15 games for the Cyclones in their first summer of existence, hitting .321.

"I have some great memories from my time there," Garcia said. "I went into Times Square for the first time, went to the MTV studio, hit in the same lineup as (Tsuyoshi) Shinjo...but the number one thing I always tell everyone about is the fans. The Brooklyn fans were unreal. 8,000 people every night with baseball in their blood. It was really exciting, and I'll never forget it."

Cyclones fans are hoping that the Mets give Garcia a chance an everyday shot at the job in 2004, capping off what's been a tremendous minor league career.

After his short career at Brooklyn, Garcia hit .301 (31-for103) in 30 games. At Single-A Capital City. The following year, he hit .273 (118-432) with 69 runs, 34 doubles, four home runs, and 52 RBI in 122 games for St. Lucie.

This season has been a whirlwind for the skinny kid from Riverside, CA, beginning at Double-A Binghamton. In 32 games with the B-Mets, hitting .333 (39-117), with 22 runs, 12 doubles, one triple, three home runs, and 22 RBI. He was then promoted to Norfolk, where he was hitting .266 (102-384) through 100 games, with 45 runs, 23 doubles and 54 RBI before being called up to Shea.

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