All-Star 3B Ejected for Pregame ‘Standoff’ With S.I. Bench
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jhoan Urena had started every single game for the Brooklyn Cyclones this summer entering Monday night’s key tilt with the rival Staten Island Yankees at Richmond County Bank Ballpark.
The New York-Penn League All-Star third baseman has been the Baby Bums’ most consistent player since the 76-game grind of this short-season campaign began.
And with the Yankees crawling back into the thick of the battle for the circuit’s fourth and final playoff berth, this was a critical game for both squads in their continued pursuit of that coveted spot.
But the 19-year-old native of the Dominican Republic literally stared his way out of the lineup prior to Brooklyn’s eventual 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Baby Bombers.
Urena, engaging in what has become known throughout baseball as a pre-game staredown, stood on the foul line in front of the Yankees’ dugout and was instructed to back down by plate umpire Ryan Wilhelms following the national anthem.
After refusing to back off twice, Urena was ejected from the contest by Wilhelms, denying him a 69th consecutive start and removing his .290 batting average and team-leading five homers and 41 RBIs from the heart of the Brooklyn lineup.
"He was ejected for delay of game in accordance with a memo from Minor League Baseball sent out about national anthem standoffs," Wilhelms told MiLB.com of the incident, citing that he gave the player more than one opportunity to return to his own dugout.
Approximately 3 ½ hours later, Chris Breen gave Urena and his Brooklyn teammates something to stare at as he blasted a two-out walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th, which pulled Staten Island within 2 ½ games of the Wild Card-leading Cyclones with just seven contests remaining.
Brooklyn certainly could have used Urena’s bat as it left 11 runners on base and failed to come through with the bases loaded and only one out in the top of the ninth, when catcher Adrian Abreu grounded into a 1-2-3 double play that ended the Cyclones’ last legitimate threat.
Abreu and Michael Conforto had two hits apiece and Alberto Baldonado and three relievers combined to limit Staten Island to one earned run on seven hits with 11 strikeouts over 9 2/3 innings before Breen’s dramatic game-ending blast over the fence in right-center field.
The heartbreaking loss shaved Brooklyn’s lead over Connecticut to just two games in the wild-card race, while both the Yankees and Lowell Spinners moved within 2 ½ lengths of the Cyclones in the ever-tightening hunt.
Urena’s pregame antics may have cost Brooklyn an opportunity to drop the Yankees out of serious contention entering the season’s final week.
But the staredown has apparently become a ritual in games across the league, with a team official telling MiLB.com that, "It's more often you'll see a game with it than without it,"
Considering what’s at stake for the Cyclones over these next seven games, they’d be much better off standing down from any future staredowns and focusing on the task at hand: reaching the NY-Penn playoffs and trying to deliver our borough’s first championship since 2001.
The Cyclones will play Staten Island four times over their final seven games, including Tuesday night’s showdown across the Verrazano and Wednesday’s series finale at MCU Park.
“[The Yankees are] still in control of their own destiny because they play us head-to-head,” first-year Brooklyn manager Tom Gamoba pointed out.
“Connecticut does not play us,” he added. “Staten Island is still very much alive in this and we just have to take them one at a time. We don’t even talk to players about playoffs because it’s academic. We have to win games to get there.”
The teams will also meet in the final two games of the regular season, Aug. 31 in Brooklyn and Sept. 1 on Staten Island.
This, That and the Other Thing: The Cyclones’ offense has certainly improved since the addition of LF Conforto in mid-July. But Brooklyn was the last team in the league to crack double digits in runs Sunday, thumping Tri-City, 10-1, on Coney Island as Conforto went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored. “I’m was tired of seeing in our notes this year that we were the only team in the league without a 10-run game,” Gamboa said. “They were well aware of it. It took 68 games, but we got it done.” … Though Monday’s defeat put Brooklyn in the crosshairs of the surging Yankees, Gamboa insists he still likes his team’s position. “We’re definitely in the driver’s seat for this wild card,” he said. “The fact that we’re playing meaningful games till the end … the playoffs just become an extension of that. We have to get there first, but we sure are doing a good job of putting ourselves in position to do it. As long as we win, I don’t really pay attention [to what anyone else is doing]. I’d rather be where we are than where they are.” … Though they have yet to wrap up a playoff spot, the Cyclones put postseason tickets on sale Monday. Game A - which would be Game #1 of the NYPL Semi-finals - would be played on Wednesday, Sept. 3rd at 7 pm at MCU Park. All tickets will cost just $10 and only box and field box tickets will be available. Seats can be purchased by visiting the MCU Park box office, by calling 718-507-TIXX, or by making a few clicks right here on BrooklynCyclones.com.