All Wally Backman demands of his Brooklyn Cyclones is perfection in the fundamentals of the game, and his team — assuming the personality of its new skipper — already looks up to the challenge.
The Backman era is in full swing, and the former Met known for his intensity and knowledge of the game is instilling in his players the same dogged determination and cerebral approach.
“These kids are going to make mistakes — sometimes I’ll have to bite my tongue. But I demand perfection fundamentally, especially in situational hitting,” Backman said.
Fans of the National League-style of play are going to love this guy.
Backman said he relishes the “chess match” of the game as he tests his wits against the opposing manager — a penchant on full display in the sixth inning on Monday night.
With a runner on third and one out, Backman called for a suicide squeeze, which left-fielder William Cherry laid down to perfection — a move that seemed to leave the crowd as surprised as the Cyclones’ opponents, the Aberdeen Ironbirds.
“It was a good opportunity for it,” said Backman after the win, adding, “To me, the National League-style is a good style — you have to think about pulling a pitcher, substitutions.
“With the American League-style you sit back and wait for the three-run home — I don’t do that,” Backman added.
He promised lots of aggressive action on the basepath — if only to scare the opponents into making mistakes.
“Hustle is not only about beating out a ground ball, but also getting into that outfielder’s head that you’re always going to go first-to-third,” he said.
Clearly, Backman will be fond of right-fielder Cory Vaughn, who legged out a triple in the sixth inning and had a homer in the first — a mix that the new skipper will surely exploit.
That said, he wasn’t ready to heap praise on anyone just yet, and cautioned that there will be rough points this summer.
“Look, there are times I’m going to have to jump players’ a–s,” said Backman.
But it seems the manager has struck a nice balance between demanding discipline at the plate and allowing his players to stay loose.
Thirty minutes prior to the first pitch on Monday players were mingling with fans, signing autographs and stretching — a change from previous seasons when the Cyclones were a bit stiffer with the fans and the press.
It’s early in the season, and Backman’s style is working.
“He knows more about the game than all of us put together,” said pitcher Guillaume Leduc.