He led the Cyclones to one of their best seasons ever — but crashed on the rocky shoals of the New York–Penn League playoffs.
So will manager Rich Donnelly return to helm the Cyclones next season?
“I would love to,” the usually ascerbic skipper told this reporter, the dean of the Cyclones press corps, minutes after Saturday night’s loss to the Staten Island Yankees in the decisive Game 3 of their playoff series.
Donnelly came to the Cyclones after a career coaching Major League teams — always playing a supporting role. He obviously relished having the top job.
“This was the first time I’ve managed in 30 years and I loved it,” he said. “I loved the action every night, the competitiveness.”
He also loved being a mentor almost as much as he loved putting down reporters after every game.
“We had a lot of good kids, so it’s been fun,” he said. “It has been a pleasure to be with them.”
He might not have said the same thing midway in the season, when the Cyclones trailed the first-place Yankees by nine-and-a-half games — and a wild-card berth seemed a longshot.
But Donnelly got the team to stop striking out so much, and started getting better performances from his fielders and pitchers.
Over the last 12 games of the season, the Cyclones finished up 11–1, a testimony to Donnelly’s motivational skills.
That said, only one Cyclone manager has ever returned for a second straight year. Edgar Alfonzo led the 2001 Cyclones to the franchise’s only New York–Penn League championship, then returned, but the team failed to make the playoffs. Alfonzo was canned, though he did return in 2007.
For now, Cyclones General Manager Steve Cohen is keeping mum.
“Obviously, we love Rich, but no decisions have been made,” Cohen said after Saturday’s game.