By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The New York Mets currently rank 17th in the Major Leagues in home attendance, averaging 28,402 fans per night at practically new Citi Field through their first 71 games of what appears to be another lost season in Flushing.
Fortunately, the Amazins have no such problems drawing crowds, or winning ballgames, on Coney Island.
That's why it was a virtual no-brainer for the organization to extend its 12-year affiliation with the Brooklyn Cyclones, a deal the Mets announced last week.
“The connection between Brooklyn and National League baseball goes back over a century, and we are thrilled to keep that tradition alive at MCU Park,” said Cyclones General Manager Steve Cohen upon revealing that the Mets and Cyclones would remain partners on Surf Avenue for the next four years -- the longest extension allowed by MLB..
“The Mets have been a phenomenal partner and we look forward to continuing this relationship well into the future," added Cohen, who has been with the franchise since the 2000 season, when the team played on the campus of St. John's University as the Queens Kings while the 7,500-seat MCU Park (formerly known as KeySpan) was being constructed.
While many doubted a Minor League team's ability to flourish in a market with two big league clubs and a New York-Penn League affiliate in Staten Island, the Cyclones were a smash sensation from the start, establishing a NY-Penn attendance record and grabbing a share of the league title during their inaugural 2001 campaign in Brooklyn. The affectionately nicknamed Baby Bums have gone on to lead the 14-team circuit in attendance in each of their dozen summers on Coney Island, while posting a .500 or better record in each of those seasons -- something only three other teams in all of professional baseball, including the New York Yankees, can claim.
Though the Mets have been admittedly cash-strapped at times over the past few seasons, the Cyclones appear to be a cash cow. During last week's “Sports and the Economy: A Win-Win for Brooklyn?” breakfast at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, Cohen spoke about the Cyclones' rapid progression in the shadows of the amusement park.
“When we first started in 2001, people would ask, `Is it safe to go there?’” he said. “Soon, we began getting people who hadn’t been to Coney Island for 30 years. Today, we have new rides, new restaurants in Coney Island, Grimaldi’s just opened nearby. In 2001, the lot next to the ballpark was worth $4 million. Last year, we sold it for $90 million.”
Since opening their gates in June 2001, the Cyclones have attracted 3.3 million fans to MCU Park while sending 37 players to the big leagues, including current Mets like Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Jordany Valdespin, Collin McHugh, Jenrry Mejia, and Zach Lutz.
This past season, the Cyclones earned their fourth consecutive playoff berth and second straight NY-Penn Wild Card, only to be eliminated in three tough games by Hudson Valley in the first round of the playoffs, leaving the Brooklyn faithful to once again "Wait 'Till Next Year!".
Thanks to their new agreement, Cyclones fans can wait 'till next year, and the year after that, and the year after that ... etc.
This, That and the Other Thing: After four years in Buffalo, the Mets have decided to move to Vegas! The club announced this week that their Triple-A affiliate, formerly the Bisons, would now be represented bv the Last Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League.“We are excited about our new partnership with the Las Vegas 51s and the city of Las Vegas, one which values equally player development, winning and community involvement,” Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said in a team-issued statement. The 51s play in 9,334-seat Cashman Field, located in North Las Vegas, approximately 2,000 miles from Citi Field. The Bisons went 67-76 this past season under former Cyclones skipper Wally Backman, who will likely emerge as a candidate for the Mets' managing job if Terry Collins isn't retained following this year. ... Brooklyn also announced this week that six former Cyclones players would be participating in the qualifying rounds for next year's World Baseball Classic. Beginning Wednesday in Jupiter, Fla., and Thursday in Regensburg, Germany, players from around the globe will compete for a spot in the international tournament, which takes place once every three years. Josh Satin and Jeff Kaplan, both members of the 2008 Cyclones, will represent Isarael in Florida at the Spring Training Complex of the Cardinals and Marlins. They will take on France, South Africa and Spain in pool play. The Germany pool features the host country as well as Canada, the Czech Republic and Great Britain. Hamilton Bennett, from the 2010 Cyclones, will represent Great Britain despite calling South Carolina home. In addition, Emmanuel Garcia, Shawn Bowman and Jon Malo will play for Team Canada.