Brooklyn’s 29 newest stars have more to worry about than most ballplayers.
Whisked across the country by the Cyclones from small towns and minor-league backwaters and plunked right off Coney Island’s Boardwalk, the rooks were playing in front of 9,000-plus screaming Brooklynites just a few days later. And Friday’s opener thrust the youngsters into the middle of the Clones’ stormy rivalry with the Staten Island Yankees, forcing the newest Mets to abandon their childhood allegiances.
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Literally, in reliever Lance Hoge’s case.
“I’m kinda shocked. I’ve never been around so much traffic,” said the 22-year-old native of Stillwell, Kansas (pop. 6,401), who was drafted in the 36th round out of Kansas State University.
Despite growing up rooting for the Royals, Hoge said it was “awesome” to be playing for the Li’l Amazin’s, but then again, he was working for his father’s construction company when he got the call from New York on June 11.
The nine-year history of Hoge’s new ballclub is filled with battles against the Yankees. Last season, Brooklyn finished in second place in the New York–Penn League’s McNamara Division, four games behind Staten Island.
First baseman Sam Honeck, a 6-foot-2 slugger from Austin, Texas, admitted that it was tough playing against the Yankees — the Wicked Witch of the West (of the Verrazano).
“I always liked the Yankees growing up, and I didn’t really know about the [cross-Narrows] rivalry,” said Honeck, an 11th-round pick who led Tulane University with 16 homers this season. “But once I got here, it was full-fledged, in my face. It was sweet seeing the fans going back and forth during the games.”
Honeck helped the Cyclones sweep the hated Yanks, delivering a clutch two-run single in Sunday’s 5–2 win. Another possibly reluctant Met, starter Collin McHugh, was instrumental in Friday’s 6–2 victory.
“I grew up a Braves fan and looked up to [former New York nemeses] Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. But as soon as we came here, I heard the stories about Brooklyn being packed, and it was awesome,” said the second-year pro.
Awesome and popular. On opening night, even Sen. Chuck Schumer made an appearance, despite being a lifelong Yankees fan.
“I’m a Yankees fan, but when it comes to the minors, I root for the Cyclones,” said Schumer.
Asked about Schumer’s Yankee pride, Brooklyn Heights Councilman David Yassky said, “So what?”
Informed that the Baby Bombers are the Cyclones’ top adversary, Yassky quipped, “What do you want me to do, kick him out?”
As Brooklyn’s rookies now know, the correct answer is yes.
In the Faux hole
Sunday’s game was delayed by rain four times for a total of an hour and 44 minutes. The Cyclones rewarded each fan who stuck around with a free ticket to July 1’s showdown with the Tri-City Valley Cats. … Catcher Juan Centeno, 19, has beaten out 2008 fifth-round pick Dock Doyle for the starting job behind the plate for now. Centeno went 3-for-6 in the series. … Friday’s crowd of 9,284 was the sixth largest in Cyclones history. The club’s attendance record, 10,073, was set in the final game of the 2007 season.
Zeke Faux’s last name is pronounced “Fox.”