Malek Finding Life in Brooklyn a "Ten"

The Big Ten Conference is an impressive organization in many ways, known both for its impressive academic credentials and successful sports programs.

Michigan State University is major part of the Big Ten, having won national championships in basketball, proud of its football team producing dozens of NFL players, and has a hockey team that's considered a national power. The Spartans baseball team is another matter, as while it had years of competitive play, it has rarely achieved any national recognition, nor its players achieve All-America status or major-league pedigrees.

There have been some blips on that radar screen, most recently Oakland's Mike Mulder, but for the most part, Michigan State hasn't been an on-ramp for a career in MLB.

The Brooklyn Cyclones are hoping that former Spartan standout Bobby Malek is one of those rare exceptions.

This past June, the New York Mets organization made Malek, a native of Detroit, MI, the 177th player chosen in this year's amateur draft. Malek was fresh off a season having been named First-Team All-America from Louisville Slugger and Collegiate Baseball, and First-Team All-America by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Rawlings Sporting Goods. In addition, Malek was one of three players voted for Big Ten Player of the Year.

He's not the first All-American ever drafted by the Mets, but he is the first Spartan baseball player to earn first-team All-America honors since 1988 NL MVP Kirk Gibson in 1978.

Gibson, an All-Star outfielder who helped the Detroit Tigers to the 1984 World Series title, and is also a player New York fans remember as the 1988 NL MVP with the eventual champion Dodgers that knocked off Hojo's heavily favored Mets in the NLCS that year.

Though Cyclones skipper Howard Johnson hesitates to make any kind of comparison, Johnson does indicate that Malek certainly has the determination that typified the win-at-all-costs Gibson.

"Of all the guys that were drafted this season, this kid has the best work ethic," said Johnson, a teammate of Gibson on the 1984 Tigers, and a member of the 88 Mets. "He's a great kid, and we think, be a great player."

Malek certainly has the stats to back up that praise.

A third team All-America selection as a sophomore, Malek batted over .400 each of the last two seasons, including a .427 average in 2001. He ranks as Michigan State's career leader in hits (245) and RBI (162).

Malek is off to a slow start in Brooklyn, hitting just .194 (12-for-62) with four RBIs, but been hampered by an elbow injury. He refuses to use the bad elbow as an excuse, saying that it doesn't affect him at the plate.

"I had a month off before coming (to Brooklyn)," said Malek. "I'm not pressing…I'm just trying to find my swing, I'll get there.", which does a analysis of every player chosen in this year's draft, had high praise for the left-handed hitter.

"Sturdy, well-proportioned, conditioned, athletic body, like St. Louis' J.D. Drew. Good hitting mechanics. Quiet bat, short stroke. Straightaway, gap hitter but will occasionally turn on ball and show pull power. Good instincts on bases…Heads-up player, coachable."

His manager at Michigan State, Ted Mahan, agrees. "I think he has a chance to go a long way in baseball. There can't be too many better hitters than Bobby."

The Cyclones are betting on it.

Special to Reprinted with permission of the Brooklyn Skyline.

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