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BATTER UP! MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IN THE BIG CITY É AND BEYOND

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by Cynthia Tavlin

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If you wanted to take your kids to a minor league baseball game 10 years ago, you might have driven upstate to Oneonta, Rochester or out to Western Pennsylvania. Not anymore. Major League expansion, the growing popularity of Minor League baseball, and urban renewal efforts have brought the game much closer to home.

Offering small-scale stadiums, accessible ball players and affordable tickets, thereÕs never been a better time to introduce your children to the national pastime - minor league style. HereÕs where you can see some great professional teams play in the New York area:

Brooklyn Cyclones Many Brooklynites can tell you exactly where they were that fateful day, October 8, 1957, when Walter OÕMalley announced he was moving the Dodgers to Los Angeles. The borough never fully recovered, but after 44 years, professional baseball finally returns to Brooklyn, when the Brooklyn Cyclones - a new class A affiliate of the New York Mets - begin their inaugural season at the newly constructed Key Span Park.

ÒThere is a huge excitement and anticipation,Ó says Ken Hochman, a representative for the organization, reporting that nearly 100,000 tickets have been sold for the 38 home games at the 6,500-seat ballpark. Located on the former site of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, the team has already arranged discounted youth admission for certain games and an alcohol-free family section.

Met fans can look for 1986 World Series champs Bobby Ojeda and Howard Johnson, whoÕve signed on as pitching and batting coaches for the Cyclones. ÒWe donÕt look at it as competition to the major leagues,Ó notes general manager, Steve Cohen. ÒWe see it as a link to Shea Stadium. ThereÕs a possibility of getting to know the players. A six-year-old who came to 20 games at Key Span Park will remember ÔJoe Smith'and that heÕs now playing in the major leagues.Ó

Significant Stats Brooklyn Cyclones Key Span Park, 1904 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn (718) 449-TIXS, www.brooklyncyclones.com • Short Season A Affiliate, New York-Penn League •Team Affilitate: NY Mets, 2001 • First home game: Monday, June 25 • Game time: Monday-Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 6pm, Sunday at 5pm • Tickets: $10 Field Box, $8 Box Seats, $7 Reserved Field Grandstand, $6 Reserved Grandstand. Mini-packages and season ticket plans are also available. Season tickets for Field Box seats have sold out. • Mascot: To be announced. • Fun Fact: Brooklyn Cyclones was the most popular suggestion in the ÒName the TeamÓ contest last year. It also happens to be the name of a semi-professional Brooklyn team that played in the 1930s.

Staten Island Yankees You couldnÕt call it a Subway Series, since most fans can take the ferry to see the Staten Island Yankees play the Brooklyn Cyclones at another brand-new stadium, Richmond County Bank Ballpark in St. George. A short walk from the Ferry Terminal, the 6,500-seat ballpark features stunning views of New York Bay, state-of-the-art audio and video, and plenty of between-innings antics to keep kids entertained.

The Class A Met and Yankee rivals are scheduled to meet eight times during short season play, and though the Yankees have the distinction of winning the 2000 Penn-New York League championship, the 2001 team is an entirely different one.

ÒWe receive top draft picks from the Yankees,Ó says Joshua Getzler, CEO of the ball club, noting that several players from the 2000 team have moved up to the 40-man Yankee roster. ÒWe donÕt get players coming down, we only see players on their way up.Ó

Significant Stats Staten Island Yankees Richmond County Bank Ballpark, St. George, SI (718) 698-9265, www.siyankees.com • Short Season A Affiliate, New York-Penn League • Team Affiliate: New York Yankees, since 1999 • First Home Game: Sunday, June 24 • Game Time: Monday-Saturday, 7:30pm, Sunday 5pm • Tickets: $8 box, $6 reserve seats. Full-season, half-season and 10-game ticket plans and birthday party packages are available. • Mascot: Scooter the Holy Cow • Fun Fact: Order any season ticket plan, and youÕre likely to get a call from one of the team owners.

Long Island Ducks In their 2000 inaugural season, the Long Island Ducks finished an impressive 42-28, placed second in their division and had part-owner and former Met shortstop, Bud Harrelson, named Atlantic League Manager of the Year.

Started in 1998, The Atlantic LeagueÕs aim is to bring professional baseball to communities not served by major or minor league teams. The independent league may play a longer season than other Class A affiliates, but their mission - a fun, affordable night at the ball game - is still the same.

Significant Stats Long Island Ducks EAB Park, Central Islip, Long Island (631) 940-DUCK, www.liducks.com • Atlantic League, 2000 • First Home Game: May 4 • Game Time: Monday-Saturday, 7:05pm, Sunday 1:35pm • Tickets: $9 Field Box, $8 Box, $7 General Admission-Adult, $6 Standing Room, $5 General Admission-Child. There is an extensive waiting list for season ticket and 10-game ticket plans. Group and birthday party packages are available. • Mascot: Quacker Jack • Fun Fact: Before each home game, the Ducks arrange for a Little League team to take the field for the National Anthem.

Hudson Valley Renegades After seven seasons, the Hudson Valley Renegades, a Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have got all the family entertainment and promotions associated with minor league ball down.

ÒItÕs solid, professional baseball and all the extras,Ó says Ryan Leone, team spokesperson. Asked how minor leagues provide a more intimate experience to fans than the major league, Leone responds, ÒOur players are very accessible and are available before and after the game to sign autographs. ItÕs a little more family-friendly.Ó

Significant Stats Hudson Valley Renegades Dutchess Stadium, Route 9D, Wappingers Falls. (845) 838-0094, www.hvrenegades.com • Short Season A Affiliate, New-York Penn League • Team Affiliate: Texas Rangers, 1994-97, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, since 1997 • First Home Game: Wednesday, June 20 • Game Time: Monday-Saturday, 7:11pm, Sunday 5:11pm • Tickets: $8 Box Seats, $7 Reserve, $5.75 Reserve Bleacher, $4.75 General Admission. Monday-Thursday, kids and seniors 60+ pay $3.25. Season tickets, mini-pack plans and birthday party packages are also available. • Mascots: Rookie and Rene Renegade • Fun Fact: If you always wanted to be a team mascot, youÕre in luck. The Renegades are auditioning new mascots; contact Ryan Leone at (845) 838-0094 for further information.

Newark Bears Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Newark was home to several fine minor league teams including the Newark Eagles of the National Negro League and the Class AAA Newark Bears in the International League. Both teams left town in 1950, and baseball didnÕt return until Yankee catcher and Newark native, Rick Cerone, spearheaded the resurgence of the modern day team.

Playing in the Atlantic League, the Bears got off to a dismal start in 1998, playing all their games on the road, but finished a respectable 74-66, their first full season in their new ballpark, Riverfront Stadium.

Significant Stats Newark Bears Riverfront Stadium, 450 Broad Street, Newark, NJ. (973) 848-1000, www.newarkbears.com • Atlantic League, 1998 • First Home Game: Friday, May 11 • Game Time: Tuesday-Friday, 7:05pm, Saturday, 6:05pm, Sunday 1:35pm • Tickets: $8 Box Seats, $6 Reserve. Season, Half-Season, 10-ticket plans and birthday party packages are also available. • Mascot: Rip ÔN Ruppert • Fun Fact: For the second year, the team honors former Newark Eagles and Bears players with Old Timers Day, Sunday, June 17.

Trenton Thunder If you canÕt wait for the New York-Penn or Atlantic Leagues start dates, check out the Trenton Thunder, the Class AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, who play their first home game April 16.

As a Double A team, the Thunder will play a 140-game schedule over the course of 153 days, leaving one or two off days a month. ÒThe players are a little bit more advanced and the level of competition is a lot better,Ó says Dan Loney, spokesperson for the team, regarding the differences between Class A and AA baseball. ÒThe desire and heart of these kids is more.Ó

Significant Stats Trenton Thunder Waterfront Park, One Thunder Road, Trenton, NJ. (609) 394-3300, www.trentonthunder.com • Double A Affiliate, Boston Red Sox, 1995 • First Home Game: Monday, April 16 • Game Time: Tuesday-Friday, 7:05pm, Saturday, 6:05pm, Sunday 1:35pm • Tickets: Pavilion: $8 Adults, $7 Seniors, Kids 5-14. Terrace: $5 Adults, $4 Seniors, Kids 5-14. Standing Room Only: $4. Season, Half-Season and birthday party packages are also available. • Mascot: Boomer - a bright blue thunderbird. • Fun Fact: The Red Sox and the Thunder are scheduled to play an exhibition game at Waterfront Park, Monday, May 21.


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