Mookie ready to run Brooklyn

BROOKLYN – Preparing for his first day on the new job, Brooklyn Cyclones manager Mookie Wilson had a huge caveat for his club's fans, one they couldn't particularly care to hear.

"Winning is not first," Wilson said. "I know that's not the right thing to say, because fans like to see you win and I love to win, but my job is to coach players."

Wilson's employment went into high level on Tuesday, as the Cyclones opened up against the Staten Island Yankees to kick off the New York-Penn League season.

Though it certainly felt like a miniature minor league Opening Day at Brooklyn, complete with players straddling the base lines and American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis belting out the National Anthem, Wilson isn't fooled by the Cyclones' proximity to the major league club and their presence as the marquee item in the New York-Penn League.

While Wilson hopes to continue the Cyclones' winning ways this season, coming off two sub-.500 seasons managing Rookie-league Kingsport, he understands that nurturing future big leaguers, not wins and losses, are the key item at Brooklyn.

"At some point I may do things you consider odd, but my job is development," Wilson said. "We have to have kids experience situations. The winning part will come and we'll go from there, because winning is a part of building."

Though Brooklyn fans will soon come to recognize many of the faces on the promising Cyclones roster - the club is anchored by outfielder Jesus Gamero and righthander Jeff Landing, who started against Staten Island Tuesday – it was Wilson who received the biggest cheers on Tuesday, drawing roars from the sellout crowd in a moment Wilson called "very warm."

"They all have talent," Wilson said of his players. "If they didn't have it, they wouldn't be here. We signed talent that is special to develop."

After piloting for two years in the relative obscurity of Kingsport, Tenn., Wilson now has carte blanche access to what is arguably the New York's area's third most recognizable professional baseball team, behind only the Mets and Yankees.

"Right now, I'm in a situation where I can play who I want," Wilson said. "I think, at this level, every kid needs to get an opportunity to play and see if he can move up. If you don't play, how can you move up? "

That will be the ongoing challenge for Wilson, who begins his tour of duty at Brooklyn with 16 pitchers, nine infielders, six outfielders and three catchers. That number will at least be whittled down by a July 1 deadline to trim the rosters.

"It's going to be a juggling act all summer," Wilson said. "It's going to be my job to balance in the innings and at-bats as best I can."

While Wilson has made it known he holds aspirations for managing beyond the New York-Penn League, the rookie Cyclones manager isn't about to pine for it now. The young summer should lend itself to quality performances all around Coney Island, and if that happens, Wilson is certain the rest will fall into place.

"I'm in no rush," Wilson said. "Opportunities like this don't come along very often."

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