September 17, 2005 / Sports / Brooklyn Cyclones / The Play’s the Thing

Now for the 2005 Clonies

The Brooklyn Paper
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There is nothing like a Clonie Award — the annual end-of-season award presented by The Brooklyn Papers to a deserving Cyclone or a personage associated with Brooklyn baseball.

To most, a Clonie is better than a Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Grammy or even — dare I say it — an American Music Award.

Why? Well, for one thing, there are no awards ceremonies filled with gushing winners. The season is over, so the winners are already home, where they can gush quietly and thank their relatives in person, without worry that the music will come up, drowning them out and forcing them off the stage. And to win a Clonie, one must actually do something well — and do it right the first time. There is no song dubbing, no re-takes of scenes, no magical recording devices and no special effects. And so, absent undue ado, the envelopes please:

Statue of Liberty Upraised Throwing Arm Award: Catcher Drew Butera wins this one, because of talent, a dad who wore the tools of ignorance, and good genes.

Butera owes a debt to his dad, who, as Hall of Fame receiver Yogi Berra would say, “Learned him his experience.” The senior Butera, Sal, played nine years in the majors as a catcher for a variety of teams, and he stuck around because of his defense. Sal passed those lessons on to his son, who was a shortstop as a youth, but began wearing the catching gear when he was in his teens.

Drew’s genes also include relatives in Brooklyn, which can’t hurt.

The stats? Drew Butera threw out 29 of 62 attempted base stealers.

The Jumbo Shrimp Oxymoron Award: Joe Holden is this year’s under 6-foot player who plays really big.

Holden is 5-foot-11, a rather average size for a civilian, but his play was anything but average. Projected as a backup outfielder when the year began, Holden soon earned a starting job in center field, and later in left.

Nicknamed Wantagh Joe, for his Long Island hometown, Holden hit .291 and stole 22 bases (third in the league), and improved his standing in the Mets organization.

If we were so inclined, Holden could win another award as matinee idol of the year, based on an unscientific study that took note of the constant female screaming when he was at bat. He could win another award as best semi-local talent on Brooklyn.

But one award is enough already for this talented, handsome, Long Island “shrimp.”

The Joisy Guy Award: Hey, doesn’t Jersey shore guy Bruce Springsteen sing “Glory Days?” And Hoboken’s Frank Sinatra did a haunting rendition of “There Used to be a Ballpark.” Jackie Robinson played his first minor league game in Jersey City, and Dodgers Don Newcombe and Ducky Medwick were both Jersey guys.

So, in honor of Joisy guy Bobby Ojeda, the Cyclones’ pitching coach in 2001-2002, and Harold Eckert, an 11-game winner for the inaugural Clones, we honor Joe D’Alessandro, right-handed relief pitcher from Glassboro in South Jersey. Joe had a record of 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA and two saves.

Honorable mention: Cyclones PA announcer Dom Alagia, from the Jersey shore, for his now Brooklyn-correct pronunciation of Nostrand Avenue.

The No relation to Mel Parnell Sleeper Award: Mel Parnell was a great Boston Red Sox left-hander who was 123-75 lifetime in 10 big-league seasons.

Bobby Parnell, no relation, was a not-so-great college pitcher. The right-hander was 1-6 with a 6.82 ERA as a sophomore at Charleston Southern University. As a junior there, his record was 3-5 with an ERA of 8.86.

But let’s give the Mets credit on this one. Parnell, who was an infielder in high school, was a late-bloomer and someone in the Mets scouting staff recognized that, because Parnell was picked in the ninth round of the 2005 draft.

Under the tutelage of Cyclones pitching coach Steve Merriman, Parnell had only a 2-3 record this season, but his minuscule ERA of 1.73 led the league. Often Parnell would pitch great, but the Cyclones would lose.

Maybe next year we’ll give a Bobby Parnell Clonie Award to the player whose performance is the biggest surprise of the year, based on previous stats.

The Man Who Came to Dinner Award: Robert Paulk came to the Cyclones early in the season on injury rehab, and he was supposed to be in Brooklyn for only a few relief appearances.

But as Paulk’s time on the injury rehab list kept getting extended, people kept saying goodbye to him, only to see him back the next week.

Finally, in late August, it became apparent that the Mets were going to leave Paulk in Brooklyn for the season — but you never know, and Cyclones fans were still constantly checking to see if Paulk was still around.

Paulk, who pitched for the Cyclones in 2003 and 2004, is a fan favorite for his engaging personality, and after a 4-0 record with an ERA of 0.95 this season, he’ll probably get that promotion he so desperately wants — and deserves.

The Ageist Award: The only no-brainer this year, the Ageist Award honors any player who clearly has no respect for octogenarians and above.

On June 29, 2005, at Keyspan Park, 128-year-old Moonlight Graham (or a reasonable facsimile) came out of a cloud of smoke in center field to get his at-bat, after a hundred years of waiting on the bench.

Pitching was this year’s award winner, Steve Merriman.

Graham appeared somewhat rusty as a batter and Merriman, using fastballs, worked the count to 1-1 before catcher Drew Butera signaled for a brush-back pitch. Merriman, showing some compassion, refused to deck a centenarian-plus hitter.

Instead, Merriman promptly mowed down Graham with more fastballs, quickly striking him out.

Merriman gets his Clonie for bearing down, striking out Graham, and showing that if you have a dream — as did Moonlight Graham — don’t wait a hundred years to get it done.

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