Danny Garcia became the first Brooklyn Cyclone to reach the major leagues when he walked up to the plate at Shea Stadium Tuesday night. He promptly singled and scored the Mets first run. He added another hit later.
Cyclones fans will remember Garcia as the scrappy second baseman who spent two sizzling weeks with the Clones during their championship inaugural season. In 15 games, he hit .321 (18-56) with two doubles, six RBIs and some great glovework. The team won all but one of the games in which Garcia played.
His winning ways continued, as he quickly touched every rung in the minor-league ladder — starting with Capital City and St. Lucie in the Single-A ranks and making a lightning-fast rise through Binghamton (AA) and Norfolk (AAA). All in an amazing two-and-a-half years.
After an all-star season in St. Lucie, Garcia started 2003 in Binghamton, and was among the Eastern League’s leaders, hitting .333 (39-117), with 12 doubles, 3 HRs, and 22 RBI. At Norfolk, he racked up hits in 20 of his first 23 games, but cooled off to finally hit .266, with 45 runs, 23 doubles and 54 RBI before being called up to Shea.
But he never forgot the Cyclones fans — and the thrill of playing minor league baseball in a big-league town.
“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 [then-major-leaguer Tsuyoshi] Shinjo. But the No. 1 thing I always tell everyone about is the fans. The Brooklyn fans were unreal. Eight thousand people every night with baseball in their blood. It was really exciting, and I’ll never forget it.”
The best thing about Garcia was — and is — his hustle, which more than anything else, turns minor-leaguers into major-leaguers. As a Met for, at least, the rest of the season, Garcia will wear No. 12 (it’s probably no coincidence that it’s the same number worn by departed, lethargic second basemen Roberto Alomar).
From the Mets perspective, promoting Garcia was a no-brainer.
“The overriding decision was whether to bring him up now as opposed to the beginning of next season at some point,” said Mets general manager Jim Duquette. “At some point next year he’ll fit into our plans and we want to get him some at-bats and get him exposed instead of waiting until next year.”
Indeed, waiting ‘’til next year is no longer a Brooklyn mantra.
Cyclones fans still don’t know what to make of a bizarre incident last week involving the team’s energetic uber-mascot, Marty “Party Marty” Haber and Relish, the historically unhurried hot dog.
After suffering two straight years of losses at the buns of rivals Mustard and Ketchup, Relish was cruising to victory on Tuesday night, only to be tackled by Haber just before the finish line. Relish got up and finished the race ahead of the struggling Mustard and Ketchup — but was later disqualified for interference!
All in good fun, right? Sure, as a piece of theater, it was entertaining to see Haber ruin Relish’s chance for a first victory, but in reality, many in the sellout crowd gasped audibly at Haber’s violent tackle and subsequent body slam.
And when the woman who wears the Relish costume (yes, we begrudgingly admit that there are people inside the fleecy franks) had to be taken to a nearby hospital with bruised ribs, the Cyclone front office apparently decided that something had to be done. Haber was suspended for a game, but returned the next night.
Haber, who is a Cyclones ticket manager by day, wouldn’t talk about the incident upon his return to his normal antics Thursday night. But anyone there could see his contrition on display. He didn’t make a move without apologizing to Relish’s female alter ego. (In that night’s race, Relish again finished dead last.)
“I wouldn’t read too much into Marty’s absence for that one game,” said Cyclones GM Steve Cohen, who was put in the awkward position of talking about a suspension that, officially, did not happen.
“Marty wasn’t hired to be Party Marty every night for the rest of his life. It’s a lot of work and we’re trying to help him move into doing other things. He’s not going to be Party Marty forever.”
Nonetheless, most Cyclones fans did “read” something into Haber’s one-game absence.
“We don’t want to bury the kid, because he’s great,” said one season-ticket holder, “but the team clearly needed to do something. What he did to her was horrible. He needed to be disciplined. Hopefully, this is where it ends.”
Cyclones announcer Warner Fusselle couldn’t let it go at that.
“I will boycott relish on my hot dog until Relish wins,” Fusselle said during his Saturday night broadcast. “Thought the old dog had one the other night. Never did find out why. Maybe the condiment gods have stated that Relish will not win.”
Or maybe the condiment gods were listening to WKRB.
The very next night, during the Cyclones’ last home game, Relish finally had a victory to savor, catching Mustard and Ketchup at the wire to end one of history’s greatest losing streaks.
A man in a tuxedo presented the sluggish sausage with a bouquet of flowers and led it around the field in a victory lap.
A perfect ending to a season of futility.
Jonathan Slack may be from Vegas, but his grandfather Albert Abele is a proud Brooklyn native. So in gratitude to the fine job that Cyclones announcer Warner Fusselle has done over the years, Abele has started bringing Italian cookies to the broadcaster whenever he attends a Cyclones game.
In Lowell, Abele was able to hand the treats to Fusselle directly, but Keyspan Park rules forbid any non-authorized, non-media types in the press box, so Abele camped outside the media room door until some hapless reporter would agree to carry the cookies into Fusselle. This reporter was that reporter.
The overworked, underfed Fusselle got his black-and-white cookies — “This family is single-handedly keeping me nourished,” he said — and, the next night, Abele presented this reporter with a pair of chocolate chip cookies in gratitude for a sure-fingered delivery.
September 8, 2003 issue
©2003 Community News Group
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