The Cyclones bullpen wants to test your arm — and collect your spare change.
Brooklyn’s hurlers are channeling Coney Island’s carnival culture and racking up quarters by challenging fans to toss change into plastic cups for a shot at baseball memorabilia including a ball signed by Mets ace and one-time Clones starter Johan Santana.
The popular, but not necessarily team-authorized home-game tradition is simple to play, but hard to win.
Players typically set up three empty soda cups in the bullpen, while cardboard signs urge spectators to try their hand from a promenade one story above.
Those who sink quarters into the nearer cups get balls autographed by Clones players, and at a recent game anyone who lobbed 25 cents into the furthest cup took home a baseball signed by Santana.
Of course, there’s an easier way to snag ball inked by the two-time winner of the Cy Young award.
“For sale: Johan Santana autographed ball,” reads a handwritten sign left on the bullpen grass.
That hasn’t deterred many fans from tossing quarters — but Clones players say they aren’t lining their pockets.
It’s actually a way for players to mingle with spectators and an impromptu form of fund-raising for charity, according to one Cyclones pitcher who spoke with this newspaper on the condition of anonymity over fears he would get in trouble for discussing the so-called “quarters game.”
“It’s fun for us and it’s a way for us to interact with the fans,” said the hurler, who claims the bullpen collects between $30 and $40 per game and places it in a bank account with plans to donate it to the Gary Carter Foundation at the end of the season. “Last year it was beer money — but this year we talked and thought it’d be nice to give back.”
Fans love the unofficial mid-game entertainment and there are plenty of repeat customers who try their luck with handfuls of quarters.
“One guy sunk it four times in a row — I took off my cleat and signed it for him,” said the pitcher, who claims the gimmick is popular around the minor leagues and other semi-professional baseball leagues. “We get some season-ticket holders coming by every game.”
Clones fan Mike Takach, who took home an autographed ball after a perfect toss last week, likes the way the “quarters game” lets him connect with the pride of Coney Island.
“It’s pretty cool,” said the Long Island resident. “It brings the audience and the players together.”
Coach Rich Donnelly said he knows about the quarter-tossing, but prefers to stay focused on the game taking place on the field rather than the game taking place in the bullpen.
“I’ve heard of it, but didn’t pay much attention to it,” he said.
MCU Park security guards say “quarters game” is particularly popular with Clones fans who bring their kids to the ballpark.
“The parents give them quarter so they can watch the game in peace,” he said. “It’s like an arcade.”Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg