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Fonzie is back in Brooklyn

for The Brooklyn Paper
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“My heart is here in Brooklyn” said Edgar Alfonzo, the once and future manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones, in his return to Keyspan Park last week to meet-and-greet his biggest fans: season-ticketholders who were there when he led the Clones to their first and only New York–Penn League championship.

It might have been nearly six years since Alfonzo’s boys went 55–25 in the team’s inaugural season (and the skipper was honored as Baseball America Short-Season manager of the year), but he seemed as eager as a rookie as he mingled with the about 70 fans on Wednesday night.

“I am so excited,” he said. “I wish the season would start tomorrow.”

As the first Cyclone manager to return to the helm, Alfonzo already knows the key to inspiring his team.

“I don’t have to motivate players in Keyspan Park,” he explained. “At 7 o’clock, they see the ballpark full, and that’s all the motivation they need.”

The enthusiasm displayed by Alfonzo was also present in the fans, most of whom reminded the skipper that the Staten Island Yankees remain public enemy numbers 1–30.

“I’m making a guarantee,” said season-ticket holder Gus Eisenstein of Sheepshead Bay, mixing metaphors and mayhem. “This year the Cyclones will take the bull by the horns and throw the Yankees off the Verrazano Bridge.”

Alfonzo didn’t guarantee a championship, but he promised championship effort.

“I need to mix development and winning,” he said as he twirled his 2001 championship ring and smiled when he was asked how he could improve on his record the first time around.

“Fifty-six and twenty-four,” he answered, eyes gleaming.

Bob Berardelli, another season-ticket holder, showed true devotion to the team — and to Alfonzo — by offering to allow the manager to use his original 2001 Cyclones’ jersey, No. 7, that Berardelli bought at auction.

Alfonzo, 39, is the older brother of former Met infielder Edgardo Alfonzo. Edgar’s son, also named Edgar, is a pitcher in the Mets’ organization and a former Cyclone (2004–2005).

He played 12 minor league seasons, never reaching the majors, although he hit .309, with 35 doubles, 11 homers and 73 RBI for the Orioles’ AA team in 1994.

Alfonzo spent the past three seasons as the Mets’ Minor League infield coordinator. Prior to that, he was the hitting coach for the Mets’ St. Lucie (A) and Binghamton (AA) franchises.

Joining Alfonzo on the Cyclones’ staff will be pitching coach Hector Berrios, who will be starting his fourth season in Brooklyn, and Guadalupe Jabalera, a coach for the Cyclones last season.

Ups and Downs

Legendary Brooklyn Dodger Don Newcombe will attend his first professional baseball game in Brooklyn in 50 years when he checks out the action at Keyspan Park on July 22. He’ll throw out the first pitch (“stttt-riiiike!”) and sign autographs on the stadium’s concourse. The first 2,500 fans will receive a Don Newcombe bobblehead doll.

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