First Week of Season Mixed Bag for Brooks

Six games into the 2002 season, the Brooklyn Cyclones have yet to flash the form that netted them a share of the NY-Penn League title. That's not to say the team has played poorly. In fact, against the Staten Island Yankees in the opening series of the year, the ‘Clones had flashes of their brilliance of a year ago. But in dropping two of three to Cal Ripken's visiting Aberdeen Ironbirds this past weekend, Brooklyn showed that this year's squad still has some growing to do.

It's hard enough to try to play professional baseball, finding ways to develop one's talent that gets that individual a chance to play in the major leagues. But trying to achieve that goal in front of 8000 fans that experienced a winning team in its first season is downright intimidating.

For first-year Cyclones like first baseman Andres Rodriguez, having a full house at KeySpan Park is a welcome change from the 300 or so fans that attended Kingsport (the NY Mets Rookie League team) games last season, his first in pro ball.

"I like it", said Brooklyn's A-Rod, as he's being called by the fans. " I like it a lot."

Donovan Mitchell, Brooklyn's new hitting coach, says that despite the added pressure of playing such young players _ some of which are fresh out of college _ in a raucous venue such as KeySpan Park is a good thing.

"Some of the guys are pressing, but that's understandable," said Mitchell. "But they wouldn't be here if we didn't believe in their ability. They've all experienced a degree of success at whatever level they have played. They'll be fine."

On Sunday night, the Ironbirds, who blanked the Cyclones Saturday after dropping Friday's series opener 2-1 14-inning marathon, took them to extra innings again. This time, Aberdeen overcame a 6-4 deficit to beat the ‘Clones on back-to-back nights at home, something that happened just once last season.

Players to keep an eye on as the season continues.

Minor league baseball fans understand that the team's identity will change dramatically from year to year. This year's squad is an example of that.

There are some returnees from last season, most notably power-hitting outfielder Noel Devarez, third baseman Edgar Rodriguez, and pitchers Wayne Ough and Chris Sherman. However, Brooklyn's success may probably depend on these players:

Alhaji Turay: The second-year outfielder has power, speed, and appears to have the ability to produce quality at-bats (fouling off pitches, drawing walks).

Bobby Malek: This 2002 Michigan State prospect has already shown a penchant for spraying the ball all around the field.

Kevin Deaton: Hard-throwing right-hander has shown good control and excellent command.

All in all, early-season jitters may have led to a 3-3 record after the first week, but there's still a lot more baseball to play.

Special to - Used with permission by the Brooklyn Skyline.

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