Brinkley Leads Cyclones On and Off Field

Dante Brinkley had just finished going 2-4 with a double, home run and three runs batted in the Cyclones 8-1 victory over the New Jersey Cardinals Monday night. As Brinkley was giving a post game interview teammate Grant Psomas came from behind with a plate of pie and smashed it all over Brinkley's face. That is something that you would expect from the fun-loving Dante Brinkley who is always loose and cracking jokes to relax his teammates. <b>Free Preview of Premium Content</b>

"One of Dante's biggest qualities to the team is that he just relaxes everyone and makes them smile" said hitting coach Donovan Mitchell.

"I am more of a fun-loving, relax kind of guy" Brinkley say's. "Baseball is a stressful game and you need to keep yourself relaxed or you will never make it. Failure is part of the game, you can get a hit 3 out of 10 at bats and still make the Hall of Fame. I just feel my part of this team is to be the stress leader, to take the stress out of guys and as a result they will play better."

Brinkley's loose spirit is needed right now. As of the morning of August 1, the Cyclones were 25-14 and enjoyed a four game lead over the Hudson Valley Renegades. Since then the Cyclones have lost five of their last six games and are just 4-7 in the month of August. In that same stretch the Renegades have gone 7-3 to cut their deficit in the McNamara Division to just ½ a game.

"Even though it is a short season league it is kind of long. Most guys are coming from college and they are not used to playing so many games and playing everyday. I guess it's one of those things you have to go through as a team, you can't win every game. You just have to work through it and play every game hard and hope you get a couple of key hits or make couple of plays on the field or gets a call go your way and hopefully turn things around", Brinkley said.

"There is no way I will let a guy to get down on himself" he continues to say. "If I see any guy just trying to stress out, I'll go to them and crack a joke or mess with them a little", say's Brinkley. "We keep a relax atmosphere here, and that allows everyone to play to the best of their abilities."

Not only does Brinkley lead off the field but on the field as well. As of August 11 he was batting .328 with six home runs and twenty five runs batted in.

"I guess my success has come by just staying within myself" he said. "I am just trying to put the ball in play the other way and trying to use the middle or right side of the field and stay back on balls and see the ball as well as I can."

Brinkley has also shown his versatility playing the outfield as well as batting in the leadoff spot the second hole and the third hole in the order. No matter what spot he is batting in the order, Brinkley's mindset does not change.

"Any spot as long as I am in the lineup I am happy with. You take different approaches depending on where you bat, and the pitchers pitch to you differently but I just remind myself what type of hitter I am, and what I need to do to get on base or move a guy over or steal some bases. No matter what position I am hitting at, my goal is the same, and that is to get on base. If a guy is one second with nobody out I just try to move them over and let Tyler and Concepcion drive them in."

Brinkley brings lots of experience and leadership to this Cyclones team. He was the team MVP for three consecutive years at Southwest Missouri State and also led his team to the College World Series there. After being selected in the 23rd round in 2003, Brinkley went to the Kingsport Mets (R) of the Appalachian League, where he hit .303 in 142 at bats. Brinkley began the season at Capital City (A) of the South Atlantic League but hit just .228 in 101 at bats. Brinkley even spent five games at St. Lucie going 4-16 in those 5 games. Playing at each level of Single-A ball this year Brinkley has really noticed the difference of each league.

"In Cap City guys are really starting to learn who they are, hitters are starting to know what they can do or can't do. At St. Lucie the pitchers pretty much know which pitches they can throw, and the hitters know which pitches they can hit. Here guys are still trying to find themselves, trying new things like a different stance or a different bat, just trying to get used to the transition to Minor League baseball."

Brinkley would compare himself to Mike Cameron and Torii Hunter. He loves the players who give it their all on the field and play the game the way it is suppose to be played. Brinkley spent some time with Mike Cameron this year when he visited the Mets clubhouse however his greatest thrill was talking with Hunter on the phone during the College World Series last year.

"He just told me to stay with it and not get caught up with the high and low points because eventually they even themselves out. He told me to stick with it and have fun playing the game".

Playing in New York has also given Brinkley a taste of how the New York fans are.

"They come here day in and day out and they keep you focused because they expect you to play hard. As long as you play hard they will always be on your side and cheer you on."

"They also heckle the other team which is pretty fun as well", a smiling Brinkley said.

Dante Brinkley always has a smile coming through the tunnel and into the dugout however on the afternoon of July 30 that smile faded a little. Word got into the dugout that Scott Kazmir was traded away by the Mets. When Tyler Davidson saw Brinkley he shouted "Hey Dante, Kazmir got traded." Brinkley had that mixed look on his face, when you're surprised but don't really believe the news as well.

"Scott and I are pretty good friends" said Brinkley. "We hung out a lot in spring training playing video games, cards. I would go to his room and talk, he would come to my room and talk. I don't know what the situation was but knowing Scott, I know he will work hard to become a successful pitcher, and I know he still loves the fans of New York."

Brinkley plans on calling Scott soon to talk with him. Right now he just wants to give Kazmir some time to get himself mentally back on track.

"I am planning on calling him but am just trying to give him his time to get settled down right now."

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