An ‘Angel’ returns from the 2001 champs

Angel Pagan, the Mets speedy centerfielder, visited MCU Park last week for ceremonial purposes — but his presence reminded longtime fans that this Cyclones team could accomplish the same great things that Pagan’s inaugural Cyclones team achieved.

After all, this year’s model has great bats, astounding speed and wonderful starting pitching — the same three pillars that propped up the 2001 New York-Penn League champion Cyclones.

Pagan was dominant on that Clones team of 2001 — finishing the team’s first season with 75 hits, a .315 average, and a franchise best 30 stolen bases.

That 2001 team played loose, was 30-8 at home, and had a potent offense sparked by the future Mets star’s baserunning.

The current incarnation of the Clones features similar characteristics: they play their best baseball at home, and the offense is sparked by the red-hot Darrell Ceciliani, who often finds himself on base when sluggers Cory Vaughn and Jeff Flagg do their dirty work.

And all the Cyclones should heed the words of advice Pagan offered last Thursday night.

“At first, I was scared of the crowd [at Keyspan Park],” said Pagan. “But eventually I took advantage of it — whether the crowd is against you or not, you learn from it.”

Pagan — who is currently batting .311 for the Mets — added that by the end of the season, every home game at Coney Island was a blast.

“The atmosphere was great, I looked forward to it everyday,” Pagan said, adding with a smile, “If you remember, we only lost [a few] games at home.”

The key, of course, is beating the Yankees, who swept the Clones last week and will likely fight the Cyclones all the way to the playoffs.

“We had to beat them, there was no choice,” Pagan said, recalling the glorious 2001 semi-finals. “We lost that first game [of the series], but then they came to our house — no one beat us in our house.”

The Cyclones then won the first game of the final series on the road against the Williamsport Crosscutters, but the next day was Sept. 11, 2001. The remainder of the series was canceled and the Cyclones and Crosscutters shared a title that rightfully belonged to Brooklyn.

Pagan threw out the first pitch and also tossed some advice to Hamilton Bennett, the hard-throwing reliever.

“He told me to take in the experience and take advantage of every opportunity,” said the 22-year-old Bennett, who admired the way Pagan carried himself. “He always hustles and plays the game the right way.”

That night, Bennett pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

If the rest of the bullpen continues to improve along with Bennett, the current Cyclones — who lead the New York-Penn League in batting average, home runs, and hits — may just follow in the footsteps of the 2001 team that gave Pagan his first taste of victory in New York.

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