sábado, junio 15

A Night With the Best Baseball Team in New York

About a half-hour before a mid-August Brooklyn Cyclones game, a family of three, a reporter and a middle-aged man dressed in a Jedi robe walked into an elevator at Maimonides Park. As the door closed and they began their ascent, the Jedi turned to the others and asked, “So, what planet are you all from?”

“Um, Brooklyn,” responded the matriarch of the family. The Jedi proceeded to hum “Mad About Me,” by the Mos Eisley Cantina house band, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, as if to tell them he was from the planet Tatooine.

When the elevator doors opened and they stepped out onto the concourse, they joined hundreds of other Jedi knights and Padawan learners fanning out across the ballpark, mingling with the mere mortals who came equipped with scorebooks, pencils and baseball gloves. Out beyond the right-field wall, in the area known as the Backyard, a few hundred others were pounding brews and playing cornhole, blissfully unaware that a baseball game — the event that their ticket said they had paid to see — was about to begin. The two main draws on this particular Saturday were Star Wars Night and the $50 all-you-can-drink deal.

The next afternoon, fans who came to see Brooklyn’s 6-0 win in the series finale between the Cyclones and the Aberdeen IronBirds were also there for bottomless mimosas on the rooftop and to play catch in left field before the first pitch.

In sum, it was just another summer weekend at this ballpark on the boardwalk — home of the Cyclones, the High-A affiliate of the Mets — where children run the bases after the last out is recorded and veteran season-ticket holders lead the crowd in chants. It is also the only spot in town this baseball season to see a successful local professional team.

This summer, the pro team with the best record in New York City plays its home games not in the Bronx or Queens but in Brooklyn. As the Mets and the Yankees wallowed in fourth and fifth place at the start of this week, the Cyclones held a two-game lead over the Jersey Shore BlueClaws in the South Atlantic League’s northern division.

“Stevie Cohen can buy the Mets, but he can’t buy these vibes,” said Josh Schoen, referring to Steven A. Cohen, the billionaire owner of Mets, and not Steven J. Cohen, the longtime vice president of the Cyclones.

Schoen, 31, used to have season tickets at Yankee Stadium, though he said he also roots for the Mets. He and a group of friends went to the game in Brooklyn to enjoy “the booze and the atmosphere.”

“And they win more than the Yankees and Mets,” he added of the Cyclones.

From where Schoen was standing in the Backyard, it was difficult to follow the action on the field. Fans could see through only a portion of the right-field wall, prompting Caroline Kelley to jokingly ask her boyfriend, Brian O’Reilly, if she could stand on his shoulders to peer over the barrier while they played cornhole.

Allie Ditkowich was celebrating her 33rd birthday at the Cyclones game that night.

Standing near the see-through section of the wall, Ditkowich and her “Metsy Bestie” Ben Engle lamented the misfortunes of their favorite M.L.B. team. Brooklyn lost to Aberdeen, 8–3, but it was nowhere near as brutal as what happened in Queens that day. Atlanta took both games of a doubleheader from the Mets by a combined score of 27–3.

Elizabeth Beller-Dee was standing on the concourse on the right-field side of Maimonides Park with her 19-month-old daughter, Leslie.

She said she had been coming to Cyclones games since 2001, the team’s inaugural season: “They’re a great gateway drug to professional baseball.”

Her 4-year-old son, Henry, was not with her. He was off somewhere else in the ballpark “getting trained to be a Padawan.”

When the game ended, thousands of fans migrated over to the seats down the right-field line near Section 20 so they could line up to run the bases. But first, the Empire Saber Guild, a fan club that wears costumes from the Star Wars universe and performs choreographed light saber shows, took the field to stage a battle. As it did, the kids in the stands chanted, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

After order had been restored to the galaxy, it was time for fireworks. Only after the grand finale did the field gate finally open for fans to run the bases.

At brunch on the rooftop the next day, Maurice Geary, who lives in Barbados, said coming to Coney Island for the Cyclones, the amusement park and Brighton Beach was his favorite thing to do in New York.

His friend Amy Maxmen said she hated sports but had quickly found that Sunday’s experience would be different.

“There’s a lot going on,” she said. “There’s a lot to look at over here. There’s brunch. All you can drink. Good times.

“I’ve only been to serious baseball games and did not like them,” she added. “I like the idea of this being minor leagues. This is much better for me.”

When the game started, the regulars were already in place near the first-base dugout. David Pecoraro was wearing a Cyclones bucket hat, as well as a T-shirt with No. 7 and “Alfonzo” spelled across the back — for the former Cyclones manager Edgar Alfonzo — and a lot of zinc oxide on his face. A pedantic scorekeeper, Pecoraro has been a season-ticket holder for about a decade.

His favorite memory, Pecoraro said, was attending a game with his son, Danny, in 2019, when the Cyclones clinched the championship over the Lowell Spinners.

“The Brooklyn Cyclones experience is about having a great time on the beach and getting to see the future Mets,” he said.

The hope is that these future Mets will bring their winning ways with them to Queens, sooner rather than later.