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Up the middle, a French connection

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Keep your ears open at Keyspan Park, and you can hear a variety of languages.

There’s English, Spanish and back in the day of Cyclones catcher Justin Huber, now with Kansas City — even Australian.

“Hey, mate,” Huber may have said to his struggling reliever trying to hold a lead with two out in the ninth inning, “Strike out this bloke and we’ll go fire up the barbie!”

But something new occurred this season, something that may be a professional baseball first for a double-play combination.

Two of the Clones infielders have a certain … je ne sais quoi.

Well, actually I do know. They both speak French.

Oui, mes amis — er, yes, my friends — the double play combo on the Cyclones on some nights has been two gentlemen, not from Verona, but Quebec, Canada, where French is considered the national language.

They went to the same high school together, as Ivan Naccarata was two years ahead of Jonathan Malo at Academie du Baseball, the high school in Montreal where they both played baseball.

A number of times this season when Naccarata was playing second while Malo was at short, the pair would switch from English to French so that any runners wouldn’t know what they were saying. And what they usually were talking about was the runner.

“S’en va,” or, in English, “He’s going,” Naccarata would say. So Malo would get ready to cut behind the runner for a pick-off play.

“Preno trop,” Malo says to indicate a runner was taking too much of a lead.

“Garde proche,” Naccarata replies, telling his partner to keep him close.

Alas, recently, Cyclones manager Mookie Wilson has put on his best Gene Hackman impersonation, breaking up this French connection by playing Yury Santana at shortstop most of the time.

To that, these two would have only one answer: “C’est la vie.”

But, on nights when Santana is getting a rest, you just might see the two Canadians out there speaking in French just like they’d done earlier in the season.

And if Yogi Berra happened to be at the game, he might explain it this way.

“It’s deja vu all over again.””

August 6, 2005 issue  

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