After running off the field with an apparent injury in the Cyclones first game of the season, it turns out that Zach Lutz — the third baseman who many thought was going to be the offensive sparkplug the team didn’t have last season —will be out for at least a month with a hair-line fracture of his right foot.
The injury occurred when he got his cleat caught in the infield dirt trying to beat out a single. He didn’t make it to first — he made it to the DL.
He graciously signed autographs for fans before Cyclones games this week, but Lutz would rather be using a bat and glove rather than crutches and a cast.
“It stinks. I really want to be out there,” said Lutz, a fifth-round draft pick of the Mets this year. “But I have to be careful now so I can come back healthy and help the team win.”
With Lutz out, Cyclones infielder J.R. Voyles has taken his place on the field and has done an amazing job, hitting .421 with seven RBIs through the team’s first six games, giving Brooklyn the offensive lift it needs.
“[Lutz] is a great player, and can do many things for us,” Alfonzo said. “But he’s going to be out for a while. Voyles is a good player, though, who can fill a variety of roles for us. He can hit behind runners, has good speed and plays good defense. I’m not worried at all.”
Ballplayers can be superstitious people. Mets pitcher Oliver Perez refuses to step on the foul line. Wade Boggs ate chicken before games. Turk Wendell used to brush his teeth between innings. Roger Clemens always rubs the forehead on the Babe Ruth monument at Yankee Stadium before pitching. And Ty Cobb had this quaint pre-game ritual of sharpening his spikes to inflict maximum pain.
Cyclones reliever Grady Hinchman isn’t superstitious. True, he never puts on his uniform shirt or his cleats until the sixth inning and he never has his arm uncovered before a game, but that doesn’t make him superstitious, does it?
“It’s just my routine,” he said the other day. “Baseball is all about routines.”
That’s what Boggsy used to say.
A bunch of guys sitting around a TV playing video games all night can make any outsider feel like a part of the group. Just ask the Brooklyn Cyclones, who have been using the Playstation 2 game “Guitar Hero” as a way to bring together the entire team — especially the 11 players who joined the team two weeks ago after the draft.
“The guys have been playing it since extended spring training,” said catcher Jason Jacobs. “There’s still a ton of ‘Guitar Hero’ going on in the dorm.”
Using a replica guitar/video-game controller with buttons instead of strings or frets, the Guitar Hero player assumes the role of a lead guitarist of his favorite rock band. The game, sports fans, is a pop-culture phenomenon since it was released two years ago.
“I played that game all through college and I’m happy we have it,” said reliever Dylan Owen, a recent arrival to the squad. “It’s one of those games someone can get addicted to pretty easily to if he’s not careful. But it’s a great way to just relax and hang out.”
Given that the Cyclones have outscored their opponents 29–19 through their first week, the bonding is clearly working — though much work still needs to be done.
“It has been a cool way to get to know my new teammates,” said reliever Will Morgan. “I have to practice at it though — I’m horrible.”
It was in a Brooklyn ballpark. Danny McDevitt was on the mound, and Joe Pignatano was catching. McDevitt threw a pitch down and in.
Those events were exactly the same on Sept. 24, 1957, and on June 24, 2007, 50 years later (short three months, but who’s counting?).
Everything else had changed.
Fifty years ago, the Dodgers had announced their move to Los Angeles, and many fans knew that the game on Sept. 24 would be the fabled franchise’s last in Brooklyn.
Other fans thought the Dodgers would be saved with a last minute reprieve. They’re still waiting.
Only 6,673 fans bothered to show up for what would be the Dodgers final game at Ebbets Field.
The Pirates were the opposition, but nobody cared about that. The Dodgers had suffered a poor season on the field and at the gate.
The final game was like a funeral. And McDevitt pitched his heart out, shutting out Pittsburgh, 2–0.
Roy Campanella had started the game for the Dodgers behind the plate, and Pignatano caught the last four innings.
Pignatano grew up a mile from Keyspan Park, on West 15th Street. He was a rookie with the Dodgers in ’57, and he was grateful to make the team, his hometown club.
“As far as I was concerned, I was happy as a clam because I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and I’d been here all my life,” said Pignatano. McDevitt was also a rookie that year.
“I’d heard about Joe Pignatano all my life and I wanted to play baseball with him,” said McDevitt, drawing laughs at needling his former teammate.
McDevitt had fewer memories of that last home game.
“I don’t remember a whole lot,” he said. “And this has taken on a life of its own over the years. At the time, I didn’t know the significance of the game. I was just a dumb left-hander.”
Pignatano remembered the game well.
“He [McDevitt] pitched one heck of a game — and a shut-out to boot,” Piggy said.
Pignatano — who became a coach after his playing days were over, serving as Gil Hodges’s right-hand man with the Washington Senators and the Mets — was pleased at the ceremony, which included the unveiling of a permanent banner on the press box railing commemorating Pignatano and McDevitt’s last pitch at Ebbets Field.
“Half of the crowd here is my family,” he joked.“It doesn’t get any better.”
Pignatano thought the Ebbets Field fans didn’t get any better either.
“The fans were knowledgeable and they were great. The field wasn’t very big. The playing field was close to the stands. We were like their babies, their kids. And when we left, you’d have thought they’d lost their kids.”
The Dodgers move to Los Angeles had an effect on McDevitt, too.
“[All the parties] in LA probably cut my career short by 15 years,” laughed McDevitt.
You know him as the anti-immigration, pro-war, New York Times–hating congressman from Long Island, but at Keyspan Park, Rep. Peter King (R–Long Island) is a regular.
The 14-year lawmaker was milling about on the grass before the game Sunday, taking advantage of his VIP status to schmooze with Joe Pignatano and Danny McDevitt, who were the battery for the very last pitch thrown at Ebbet’s Field in 1957. McDevitt and Piggy recreated the pitch before the game.
“I’m a phenomenal Dodger fan from way back,” King said. “These guys played in the last Dodger game in Brooklyn. Well, I was at the second to last game.”
King said he comes to “three or four” Cyclone games every season, and added that a scene in his 9-11-themed novel, “Veil of Tears,” was set at the Boardwalk and mentions how the Cyclones’ inaugural season was cut short by the terror attack.
Later, a man came over and told his daughter to pose for a photo with the congressman.
“That’s a real patriot over there,” the man said.
The 2001 Cyclones won the New York–Penn League Championship under the leadership of manager Edgar Alfonzo. Now that Fonzie is back, many fans are assuming that the 2007 Cyclones will repeat the franchise’s former glory. Here’s how this year’s team compares to that fabled squad:
Record through nine games (2001): 4–5
Highlight of the week: The Cyclones win their first game ever, 2–1 over Jamestown, thanks to strong pitching from stater Chad Bowen and reliever Matty Gahan. Edgar Rodriguez hit the first home run in franchise history.
Record, through nine games (2007): 7–2
Highlight of the week: Starter Dylan Owen threw five innings of no-hit ball, pacing the Clones to a 7–3 win over the pesky Aberdeen Ironbirds. J.R. Voyles added a homer.