The boys of summer are back — and this year, they really are just boys.
The Brooklyn Cyclones take the field tonight against the much-loathed Staten Island Yankees — the team that ousted them in last year’s New York Penn-League Playoffs — with one of the youngest squads in the franchise history, sporting an average age barely over 21 and with eight teenagers on the roster.
“One of my youngest sons is way older — these are my grandsons, not even my sons anymore!” said Coach Rich Donnelly.
The players are so young that they don’t even get his late 1990s baseball references, such as when he evokes former Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra by first name only.
“I was telling one guy the other day about how it was a pleasure to coach Nomar and [he was like,] ‘Nomar who?’ They don’t know, so you gotta be careful!”
The team has high hopes for young talents such as 2011 first-round pick Brandon Nimmo and infield prospect Phillip Evans, both 19, and Donnelly expects some fire on the mound from youthful hurlers Luis Mateo, 22, of the Dominican Republic, and Luis Cessa, 20, of Mexico.
The young ’Clones are pumped to be in Brooklyn — especially since for some, it’s their first taste of New York City.
“It’s been different — I’ve had to get used to the subway, get used to all the people around all the time,” said the Wyoming-born Nimmo, who is rooming with fellow first-round pick Kevin Plawecki, 21. “We can’t stand side by side in the room without touching the other side!”
Plawecki, a catcher, is almost a veteran after playing ball for a three years at Purdue, where he was the 2012 Big Ten player of the year.
Coach Donnelly hopes to spread some of the wisdom he’s gained in his 40-plus years in baseball to the sprightly young players around him — and maybe even teach them a few life lessons.
“There are two kinds of players, those that are humble and those that are about to be,” said Donnelly. “A lot of these kids have never experienced failure in their lives. I tell them, ‘Tighten up your chinstrap, because this is big boy ball here!’ ”