Brooklyn Cyclones defeat State College Spikes, 6-2

Brooklyn, NY – The Brooklyn Cyclones (11-9) defeated the State College Spikes (11-9) in New York-Penn  League action on Saturday night at MCU Park by the score of 6-2. Playing a very team orientated style of ball the Cyclones were not only able to get key hits, but also played small ball having two successful sacrifice bunts along with five stolen bases in tonight’s game.

“The small ball is a huge part of our game,” manager Wally Backman said afterward. “We try to force our opponents to make a mistake. It’s another weapon and forces the defense to have to rush, and when you rush you are more likely to make mistakes.”

Catcher Juan Centeno was one of the offensive leaders for Brooklyn going two-for-three with three RBI while lifting his first professional home run over the right field fence in the bottom of the second inning. Another offensive leader was center fielder Darrell Ceciliani who had three base hits with three of the five stolen bases recorded tonight. Also contributing offensively was Jeff Flagg who had a RBI single in the bottom of the third inning. J.B. Brown scorched a triple to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning, which led to the final run for Brooklyn.

“I was looking for a fastball inside and was able to get good contact on it,” Centeno said of his home run. “I didn’t know right away that it was gone but it felt good to be able to get my first one tonight.” The catcher also had another key hit in the bottom of the seventh inning which plated the sixth and final run for the Cyclones. “I had a runner in scoring position and just wanted to make sure that I made good contact to drive the runner in.”

Starting pitcher Mitch Houck (3-0) had another outstanding outing going six and two-thirds innings striking out eight batters, while giving up five hits, two runs and one walk. Houck, who had Tommy John surgery in 2008, looked great tonight showing an electric changeup throughout the game, and had several State College batters off balance.

“Tonight Centeno did a great job of calling the game,” Houck said of his performance. “We did a really good job of changing speeds tonight, mixing pitches and location. He really did a great job behind the plate tonight.”

Backman had this to say of his young pitcher, “He has been great for us every time out. He has been very consistent for us and has been our number one guy.”

When speaking of the success that he has had thus far Houck said, “Most of the credit goes to pitching coach Rick Tomlin, he’s really helped me to develop into the pitcher that I want to be. I want to go out and attack hitters and let my stuff work for me.”

Work it did as Houck had blanked the Spikes until the top of the seventh inning as Matt Skirving plated the first State College run with a single to left field.  Kyle Saukko hit a single to right field before Backman made the call for reliever Ryan Frasier whose only blemish tonight was an RBI single to Gift Ngoepe. Hamilton Bennett had an impressive ninth inning striking out two batters and getting a fly ball out to secure the victory.

Backman has been asking for someone in the bullpen to step it up and had two guys do so tonight. “Frasier is one of the guys that we can consistently count on in the back end of the bullpen; he has had back-to-back good outings and will absolutely one of those guys that will step up for us.”

The two teams will continue the next two days in Brooklyn before the team goes on the road to take on the Lowell Spinners over the weekend.


Pre-game notes: Mets centerfielder Angel Pagan was honored before tonight’s game. Pagan who played with the team in its inaugural season in 2001 had his number 35 retired before the game, while also throwing out the first pitch. “I am really grateful for the blessings I have had, it is great to come back and an honor to have been recognized like this.”

Posted under B Brown, Brooklyn Cyclones, Brooklyn Ny, Bunts, Centeno, Center Fielder, Changeup, Field Fence, Flagg, Game Manager, Houck, New York Mets, New York Penn League, Offensive Leader, Offensive Leaders, Sixth Inning, Starting Pitcher, State College Spikes, Tommy John, Tommy John Surgery, Wally Backman

This post was written by Stacy Rae Podelski on July 9, 2010

The Return of WallyBall

This was where Wally Backman wants to be most.  Where he “oughta be”, as the slogan used to go.  Twenty-five years later, those simple words still hold true.

Those old enough to remember New York’s championship in 1986 celebrated his return.  They appreciated his nine years with the Mets, which included a .283 career batting average and 106 stolen bases, both Top 10 numbers on the franchise’s all-time list.

In the interim, Backman had bounced around as a minor league manager, most notably winning a Southern League title with the 2002 Birmingham Barons (the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) and the Sporting News’ 2004 Minor League Manager of the Year, upon leading the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Lancaster Jethawks squad (A) to an 86-54 record.

But, within 96 hours after he was tabbed as the Diamondbacks’ manager later that year, all hell broke loose.  Reports surfaced that Backman’s recent history included several legal and financial issues.  Management -obviously embarrassed for conducting a less-than-stellar background check- retracted its offer and promptly axed him before the week was over.

Still, he continued to persevere.  In 2007, Backman led the South Georgia Peanuts, an independent team, to the South Coast League’s inaugural title.  The following year, he was with the Joliet JackHammers of the Northern League.

In November 2009, Backman was chosen to take the Brooklyn Cyclones into their 10th season.

That began on Friday, with a come-from-behind 5-3 victory in Staten Island.  A 1-0 record was, at the least, a good start.  At the most, it pushed his highly anticipated managerial debut at MCU Park that much closer.

“I am thrilled and grateful to be coming back to the Mets’ organization,” Backman said when he was introduced as manager.  “The greatest days of my professional career were spent here in New York, and I have always felt a special connection to the city.  Brooklyn is a major minor-league team, and I know the borough’s fans are – like me – intensely passionate about baseball and about winning.”

Backman knows how baseball in this town is supposed to be played.  After all, he epitomized the player who maximized his ability, and never -ever- cheated his audience.  His return to the metropolis was, at first, a curious one because Jerry Manuel’s tenure as Mets’ skipper was in jeopardy;  now it is lauded for what it actually is -a chance for young men to learn the right way to play the game.

By chance, this is where he had received his start after New York drafted him 16th overall in the 1977 Draft.  Fresh out of Aloha High School in Orgeon, the 18 year-old newbie hit .325 over 69 games for Little Falls, then a New York-Penn League affiliate.

Thus, it was inevitable that when the 50 year-old former second baseman emerged one-half hour before Saturday’s opening pitch, fans alongside the Cyclones’ dugout cheered wildly.  Instantly, Backman was besieged by autograph seekers.

“The fans haven’t changed,” he said, after Brooklyn won its second straight over the rival Yankees, 9-6, which drew a franchise record crowd of 9,888.  “It was a good reception; even better that we got the win for them.”

Do not be fooled by the nine runs.  Staten Island committed five errors, which produced a wild line score of 6-7-5.  Only five of the Cyclones’ runs were earned, lending even more credence that WallyBall will be very much in play over the summer.

“I was told, from Day One, that -when the wind blows in- a ball hit to rightfield is not going anywhere,” Backman noted.  “We will have to manufacture runs here.  We don’t have a lot of power guys, so we’ll have to hit-and-run, and move guys over.  And, try to force the defense to make some mistakes.”

After all the miles in between, he is finally back home -to a place where everyone knows his name, as that famous lyric goes- and doing what he likes to do.  And, at this moment, it doesn’t get much better.

John Buro covers the New York Mets for

Posted under Arizona Diamondbacks, Background Check, Birmingham Barons, Boro, Brooklyn Cyclones, Career Batting Average, Chicago White Sox, Georgia Peanuts, Independent Team, Issues Management, Joliet Jackhammers, Lancaster Jethawks, Minor League Manager, Minor League Team, New York Mets, Professional Career, Recent History, South Coast League, Sporting News, Th Season, Top Story, Twenty Five Years, Wally Backman

This post was written by John J. Buro on June 21, 2010