Cyclones Ready to Roll into Staten Island Friday Night
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tom Gamboa gave up the comfortable environs of the golf course to rediscover his roots as a baseball lifer this summer on Coney Island.
Armed with a roster full of fresh faces and a couple of returnees to the 2014 Brooklyn Cyclones, the franchise’s newest manager is raring and ready to go as the Baby Bums open their 14th campaign across the Verrazano Bridge against the rival Staten Island Yankees on Friday night.
“I’m excited to come back and teach young guys,” Gamboa told the Eagle after accepting the post following a three-year hiatus from managing back in March.
“I think I was born to teach.”
He’ll have plenty of opportunities to do just that with a newly announced, albeit still-in-progress, roster that includes three recently drafted players, five holdovers from 2013, and a slew of developing talent from the Mets’ affiliates at Rookie-level Kingsport and the Gulf Coast League.
Gamboa, who replaced Rich Donnelly, the longest-tenured manager in Cyclones history, was already retired from baseball and receiving his big league pension when the Mets came calling looking for someone to hone their youngest players’ talents for the big leagues.
The 66-year-old former Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals coach, who stepped down from a Minor League managing gig in 2011 to care for his ailing mother, got some advice from former S.I. Baby Bombers skipper Mike Gillespie when considering the Brooklyn job.
“He told me every team in the league wishes they could play every game there,” Gamboa recalled. “He said the electricity will remind you of Wrigley Field. I’m looking forward to it.”
In his first major managing move, Gamboa has selected Octavio Acosta as his Opening Night starter in Staten Island.
Acosta, entering his fifth year in the Mets’ organization, sat out both the 2011 and 2012 campaigns after undergoing Tommy John Surgery on his right elbow. He made just nine appearances for the GCL Mets last summer, including six starts.
The 24-year-old native of Mexico is eager to begin his first year with the Cyclones, hoping to kick off the 76-game grind of a regular season with a big win over the hated Yankees on their home turf.
“I’m liking everything here so far, the people, and the style of play,” Acosta said on the Cyclones’ web site during his first visit to MCU Park earlier this week. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be given chance with the Mets and now I’m ready to get started in Brooklyn.”
Fans flooding through the turnstiles for Saturday evening’s home opener with Staten Island will see five familiar faces in hurlers Shane Bay and Carlos Valdez, infielders Anthony Chavez and Dimas Ponce and catcher Tomas Nido.
Getting his first look at the Brooklyn infield will be shortstop Amed Rosario, who was named the “Best Prospect in the Appalachian League” after a strong 58-game stint in Kingsport last year.
The 19-year-old Dominican had three homers, 23 RBIs and 22 runs scored while amassing 51 hits for the Mets’ Rookie-level squad.
Hulking left-hander Brad Wieck of Oklahoma City University, the Mets’ seventh-round selection in this month’s MLB Draft, will lead a trio of draftees on the Cyclones’ roster.
The 6-foot-9 southpaw will be joined by Kansas outfielder Tucker Tharp and LSU backstop Tyler Moore.
Other Kingsport players joining Rosario on the roster are pitchers Alberto Baldonado, Corey Oswalt, Juan Urbina, Edioglis Villasmil and Brandon Welch.
Appy League Mets along the infield include Jeffrey Diehl and Michael Bernal and Joe Tuschak will roam the lush green grass of the MCU outfield while Adrian Abreu will work behind the plate at catcher.
A handful of players who played with the Gulf Coast League will also be making their respective debuts with the Cyclones this summer. They include pitchers Gaither Bumgardner, Casey Meisner and Marcos Molina. Infielder Jhoan Ureña and catcher Luis Arrizurieta also join the Baby Bums from the GCL.
Though the roster will undergo a myriad of changes throughout the summer, including a few more before the Cyclones hit the field at Richmond County Bank Ballpark Friday night, Gamboa has his coaching staff in place for the remainder of the season.
Newly hired pitching coach Tom Signore will be working with Brooklyn’s hurlers while batting instructor Benny Distefano, who served in the same role under Wally Backman here in 2010, returns for his second stint on Surf Avenue.
“They all have a track record of success, and we are hopeful that they will help guide our team back to the playoffs for the 2014 season,” said long-time Cyclones Vice President Steve Cohen of the 2014 coaching staff.
Brooklyn, which is still seeking its first title since its magical run during the inaugural 2001 campaign our fair borough, has led the New York-Penn League in attendance 13 years running and will host the circuit’s annual All-Star Game here on Aug. 19.
“We are excited that the NYPL All-Star Game is coming back to Brooklyn,” Cohen said. “It’s been almost 10 years since we hosted the game, and we are excited for the opportunity to show the fans, players, and executives from around the league the transformation that Coney Island has undergone.
“It is one of the can’t-miss destinations of summer for the people of New York City, and now because of the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, it is a must-visit destination for people from all over the footprint of our league,” he added.