Danny Garcia is up on the wall at Keyspan Park, and up against the wall in his career. The second baseman’s name and uniform number (6) grace the parapets at the Coney Island ball yard to honor his feat of becoming the first Brooklyn Cyclone to reach the major leagues, yet after playing parts of two seasons with the New York Mets, Garcia is now with the Somerset Patriots, an independent team.
Garcia, 27, was the Mets fifth-round selection in the 2001 draft. The Pepperdine University star began his Brooklyn career on July 1 that year, and although he was with the Cyclones for only 15 games, his play was impressive. He batted .321 — and if you saw him play, you’d appreciate him even more.
For his first seven contests with Brooklyn, Garcia made a key play in every game. One day it was a beautiful hit-and- run single; the next day, he’d break up a double play with a slide; after that, he’d bunt for a hit; the following day, he’d hang in at second base against a take-out slide to start a double play.
Fans of so-called “little ball” were seeing it nearly every game from Garcia, and his play was a key factor in setting the tone for the Cyclones’ inaugural championship season.
Garcia was promoted to Class-A Capital City in mid-July 2001, and quickly advanced up the Mets’ minor-league ladder.
He became the first Cyclone to reach the bigs on Sept. 2, 2003, and he singled in his first at-bat.
The Cyclones’ alumnus hit .214 in 19 games for the Mets that season, and after spending the first few weeks of the 2004 season at Triple-A Norfolk, he was recalled to the Mets and hit .252 in 52 appearances.
Garcia was released by the Mets before the 2005 season, and he signed with the Cleveland Indians. He tore the labrum in his right shoulder during spring training that year, only playing in two regular season games with Triple-A Buffalo before he had to have an operation and missed the remainder of the season.
Released again, he signed with the New York Yankees, and played all of last year for their Columbus Triple-A team, hitting .242 in 123 games.
Once more a free agent, he signed with the Somerset Patriots, who play their home games in Bridgewater, New Jersey, only about an hour’s drive from where he started his career in Brooklyn.
The Patriots play in the Atlantic League, which features players with professional experience, including many former major leaguers, who are striving to return to “organized baseball,” meaning leagues associated with the majors.
Actually, the caliber of play in the league is high.
“I tell people who ask that some nights it’s Double-A, and some nights it’s Triple-A,” said Garcia.
Offensively, Garcia has been a force.
Batting lead-off, he is hitting .266, but he has 36 walks and has a .381 on-base percentage.
Playing in 64 games, he leads the Atlantic League in runs with 61, but his biggest contribution has been through his base-stealing
This reporter saw Garcia in a recent game, and he seems even faster and quicker than he was when he played in Brooklyn. He now gets incredible jumps on pitchers.
Breaking at just the right moment, he accelerates immediately. He leads the league with 36 stolen bases — 17 more than his nearest competitor — and has only been caught stealing three times, for a .923 success rate.
In fact, several times this season Garcia has used his speed and hustle to take an extra base on a walk, breaking to second just as the catcher softly returns the ball to the pitcher.
Although he is making an impression offensively, Garcia’s hasn’t yet regained the former stellar quality of his play defensively. While his speed and quickness enhance his range, he has committed 15 errors.
While Garcia attempts to get back to the major leagues by his on-field endeavors, off-the-field his agent is working the phones.
“My agent is calling teams to remind them to keep me in mind, to tell them, ‘He’s still out there,’ ” said Garcia. “Mostly, if I can show people that I’m back health-wise, I don’t know why they wouldn’t want me.”
One person who wants Garcia is his manager, Sparky Lyle, the former star reliever for the Red Sox, Yankees, and Phils.
“Danny’s been a real good player for us,” said Lyle. “He has great range defensively, and terrific speed, and it doesn’t look like anyone will catch him in the stolen base race.”
Even though his stay in Brooklyn was brief, Garcia made an impression on the fans. But the fans impressed Garcia as well.
“The fans were the greatest — just crazy for having baseball back in Brooklyn,” said Garcia. “It was a great place for me to start my professional career.”
And now, six years after the start of his pro career, the Cyclones’ first player to reach the majors just wants very much to get back there again.
Channeling the Bard
Each week, Ed Shakespeare, the bard of Brooklyn baseball, will take a page from his ancient ancestor and add a bit of iambic pentameter to all our lives. This week’s contribution is called, “Let’s Go Mets”:
“Let’s go Mets” is not a cheer, not from here,
Rebuke is more the word — from fans’ distressed.
The Cyclones’ seventh season runs full gear,
Two hundred seventy young men have dressed
In Brooklyn togs up to this very week.
But on the Mets there is Joe Smith — just one
Alumnus from the Cyclones. It’s so bleak
To think of all who left — Garcia done,
Lindstrom pitches — Marlin now — you see?
DiNardo gone, Jacobs sent far away,
Pagan’s a Cub, and Bannister’s K.C.
Petit was dumped, and Kazmir’s Tampa Bay.
So let’s go Mets — “Keep Cyclones,” farm fans call,
Remember — trading Clones? It’s your downfall.