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September 17, 2010 / Sports / Brooklyn Cyclones / Barnstormin’

And the Clonie goes to …

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There are the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Emmys and even the ESPYs, but they all pale in comparison to the Clonies, the most prestigious award issued by anyone ever in the entire world. This year, you could make the argument that no one on the Cyclones deserves any honor at all after the team capped a record-setting season by being swept by the barely average Tri-City Valley Cats.

But why look back in anger? After all, the Clonies offer an opportunity to remember the good times and commend a team that led the league in so many offensive categories — and barely ever lost at home.

Consider the highlights: Skipper Wally Backman was one of the most-exciting people to ever don a Cyclones uniform (though we still need to hear from you about what should happen to him); there were at least five stars — Darrell Ceciliani, Rylan Sandoval, Jeff Flagg, Cory Vaughn, and Ryan Fraser — who we just might see in the big leagues; and Vaughn even broke the team’s all-time home run record.

So here they are, folks, your 2010 Clonies. Drum roll please …

The Joe Thiesmann “Ugly Season-Ending Injury” Award: Rylan Sandoval.
The Cyclones lead-off man was set to go the All Star game and play shortstop when he was hit by a pitch that fractured his wrist and ended his season. The loss of Sandoval, who was hitting .330 with nine homers, was critical, as he had become as dominant as the Clones’ other marquee players, Darrell Ceciliani and Cory Vaughn.

The Ike Davis “Most Likely to Make it to the Show” Award: Darrell Ceciliani and Cory Vaughn.
The Clones’ centerfielder and rightfielder, respectively, both have the tools to make it in the Major Leagues. Ceciliani had arguably the best season ever for a Cyclone, winning the batting the title with a .351 average and 95 hits. The hard-hitting Vaughn had a season nearly as dominant as Ceciliani’s — he set team records with 56 RBIs and 14 home runs.

The Lou Piniella “Best baseball aphorism” Award: Wally Backman.
Backman — an old-school baseball guy — always had words of wisdom to describe his young and error-prone players. In one game early in the season, Darrell Ceciliani attempted to stretch a single into a double — something he’d done with great success many other times — but was thrown out at second. Was the skipper angry with the Cyclones’ over-aggressive centerfielder? Backman replied, “No, I’d rather he be too aggressive. You can rein in a wild horse, but you can’t beat a dead one.” A truer motto has never been spoken (outside of our newsroom of course).

The Jack Maloof “Hitting Guru” Award: Benny DiStefano.
The Clones’ hitting coach had a way with his young sluggers, and the results showed. By mid-season, the team had secured its spot at the top of most statistical categories, and were reciting DiStefano’s mantras about aggression in the batter’s box. DiStefano instructed his players to swing at everything over the plate, especially fastballs. But perhaps the best example of the positive effects of DiStefano’s council can be seen in the Clones’ catcher Juan Centeno. Last year for the Cyclones, Centeno batted .164. This year, he hit .371.

The Kirk Gibson “Playing through Pain” Award: Jeff Flagg.
The Clones first baseman pulled his hamstring in the semi-final playoff series against the Jamestown Jammers chugging down the first base line — a huge loss for the offense. Still, Flagg sucked it up and valiantly played in the final game of the postseason. Despite the courageous effort, it was Flagg who hit into the double play that ended the team’s march to championship glory, but he was gutting it out the whole way up the first-base line.

The Scott Kazmir “Don’t Believe the Hype” Award for a disappointing prospect: Wilfredo Tovar.
He didn’t have many games to prove himself, but he certainly didn’t live up to the hype. When Tovar first replaced Sandoval, Backman raved about the shortstop’s defensive skill. And though that raw ability was occasionally on display, Tovar still made costly errors — including a critical one in game one of the championship series — and was completely inept at the plate. He finished with a .265 batting average.

The Steve Cohen Memorial “Best General Manager in the Business” Award: Steve Cohen.
Cohen once again built an excellent team — in fact, it was one of the best of the history of the franchise. He’s won the Cohen Award nine years in a row, so we have one question: When is someone going to promote this guy to Flushing?

The Keith Hernandez Memorial “Best ’stache in the minors” Award: Hamilton Bennett.
The Clones’ pitcher grew a dirty, 1970s porn star mustache that would make Tom Selleck — or Ron Jeremy — proud. In fact, Bennett’s mustache was such a hit that the franchise had a “mustache night” at the ballpark in his honor. But Bennett wasn’t just a prankster, he was a decent reliever (3.49 ERA) and fan favorite who was always chatting with the MCU faithful before and after games.

The Jack Maloof “Excellence in Class A Hitting” Award: Darrell Ceciliani.
For an extended stretch of the season, the Clones’ centerfielder was on the verge of batting .400 — and in doing so attaining the greatness last reached by Jack Maloof when he hit .402 in 1971. Alas, it was not to be.

The Bill Belichick “It is what is” Dodging the Question Award: Wally Backman.
One night in early September, Mets owner Jeff Wilpon attended at a game. So naturally, the dean of the Cyclones press corps, our own Gersh Kuntzman, asked Backman whether he and the owner talked about the Mets managing job. “No. No. He came in for some, uh (pause), um, they had to look at some structural stuff, I guess, for the stadium,” Backman said. Really?

The Michael Jackson “Thriller” of the Year Award: Game 2 of the playoff semi-finals against the Jamestown Jammers.
Facing elimination, the Clones delivered a gutsy come-from-behind performance that kept them alive and eventually helped get them into the championship. Juan Centeno had his best game of the season, blasting two monstrous doubles to center-field, one of which set up the walk off run in the 12th inning.

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