April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Enjoying the Brooklyn Cyclones Jewish Heritage Game

Just because the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1958 doesn’t mean baseball left the city completely. The Brooklyn Cyclones, located on Surf Avenue by Coney Island at Maimonides Park, continue the borough’s legacy by providing competitive entertainment as an affiliate of the New York Mets organization.

Oftentimes, the Cyclones will have special promotions or themes to make games more exciting. At these events, there might be giveaways such as unique jerseys, bobbleheads, hats or even alarm clocks. Other times, there could be exciting programs such as concerts and fireworks. On Sunday, August 21, the Cyclones honored Jewish Heritage Day by offering exclusive merchandise, reciting “Hatikvah” before the game, and inviting the president of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, to throw the ceremonial opening pitch.

I find the history of the Brooklyn Cyclones to be quite interesting. In 1986, the Cyclones team was founded as an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays organization playing in the Class A Short Season, five levels below Major League Baseball. Back then, the team played in Ontario, Canada, and their team name was the St. Catharines Blue Jays. Later, in 2000, the team relocated to New York, where they played in Queens, changing their name to Queens Kings. In 2001, the Mets acquired the team and moved them to Brooklyn. They held a name-the-team contest where it was voted to dub the team the “Cyclones,” after the historical roller coaster on Coney Island’s boardwalk, the Cyclone. Until 2020, the team continued to play in the Class A Short Season as a member of the New York-Penn League. There, they won two titles in 2001 and 2019 out of 14 teams.

Recently, in 2021, the Cyclones were promoted to Class High-A, three levels below MLB, where they currently play in the South Atlantic League against 11 other teams. Each year, the top two teams in the league advance to the finals where they compete in a best of five series to determine the league winner. Notably, the team last season featured the No. 1 prospect in baseball, catcher Francisco Álvarez and current Mets third baseman, Brett Baty. This season the Cyclones are 62-58 (as of August 29).

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my alma mater, YU, encouraging me to come to the Cyclones game against the Hudson Valley Renegades, an entity of the New York Yankees organization. The email stated that it was in honor of Jewish Heritage Day and for just $25 a ticket, I would secure entry to the game, a hot dog, a soft drink and a Cyclones hat. A few days later, I saw that Daniel Weiss, a guest service representative for the Mets, created a virtual calendar event on Facebook, appealing to people to attend the game as well. There, he posted a link to purchase tickets that came with a Hebrew Cyclones t-shirt and a Cyclones hat. Daniel also noted that the first 1,000 fans to enter the stadium would receive a Cyclones fanny pack. Additionally, the first 500 kids got a voucher for a free Dippin’ Dots, and all kids ran the bases after the game.

Several days later, my friend Jack Turrell, who is the manager of alumni relations and was one of the organizers of the event, invited my wife Ahuva and me to come to the game and join him in a private suite. Ahuva and I accepted the offer and went to the game. We parked in a big lot right next to the stadium, which had a special $8 parking deal on game days. As we walked up to the entrance, there was an inflatable Cyclones sign that welcomed us. Much of the outside of the stadium was painted bright blue such as the railing, stairs and Maimonides Park sign. After a few minutes’ wait, we got our tickets from a special booth.

We then walked through security and handed our tickets to the usher who had a black beard and glasses and looked vaguely familiar. Suddenly, it struck me like a bolt of lightning who the man was. It was none other than Daniel Weiss himself! I had never met him in person but recognized him from his pictures on Facebook. I introduced myself to him and told him how big a fan of his social media page I am and thanked him for putting the event together.

Upon entering the stadium, to get to our suite on the third deck, Ahuva and I had to take a special elevator, which took us right in front of our suite. We walked into two large, connected rooms. In one room, there was a huge food spread consisting of burgers, hot dogs, fries, cookies, rugelach, salads and more. There was also a mini fridge filled with soda and water. In the other room, there was a TV, an ice bucket filled with beers, and a table lined with blue and orange Cyclone caps. Each room had a doorway that led to a private box with two rows of seating for viewing the ballgame. To our delight, in our suite, we were reacquainted with a lot of our peers from YU, whom we got to hang out with during the game.

Once we grabbed our food, we went to our seats to watch President Berman throw the opening pitch. The announcer called up President Berman who did not disappoint, throwing a perfect strike down the middle! The crowd cheered. Next up, the announcer declared that Brooklyn Nets basketball player Cam Thomas would throw out an opening pitch, too. This did take away a little bit of the glamor of having President Berman throw out the opening pitch, but Cam’s pitch was off-target, making the president’s pitch look that much better. Following those pitches, Daniel’s father, Dr. Robert Weiss sang “Hatikvah.”

From our seats, it was easy to look out below and spot who was Jewish by seeing the flood of blue and orange Cyclone giveaway caps. By the right field wall, there was a sign that stated that if a ball hit the sign, then the Cyclones pledged to donate $500 to HeartShare, an organization that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

During the game, there were numerous fun contests in between innings for fans to win prizes. One contest had a Jewish kid doing a recycling challenge where he had to move recycling goods from a trash can into a recycling bin within a certain amount of time. Another one was a toilet plunger game where contestants had to aim and launch a plunger into a makeshift toilet several feet away. Another game was a tire-stacking race where contestants had to stack all of the tires onto their partner before the other team.

In the middle of the game, Ahuva and I took the elevator to the second level to walk around the stadium. We passed by numerous kosher food vendors including a Dippin’ Dots stand, Mister Softee (behind sections 3 and 5) selling soft-serve ice cream, and a kosher stand (behind section 2) selling hot dogs, sausages, knishes, pretzels and snacks. We also quickly walked into the team store, which was full of Cyclones memorabilia. There was also a spin-the-wheel table raising money for a non-profit organization called The Gianna Effect Foundation, which supports families with kids diagnosed with pediatric cancer. For $10, you got to spin a wheel to win a prize such as a Cyclones jersey, poster or bobblehead. We also saw a pitching cage game where for $5, contestants had three chances to pitch a strike and a dummy catcher’s glove in order to earn a reward.

By the end of the ninth inning, the score was tied 3-3, forcing extra innings. In the top of the 10th, the Renegades went on a rampage, scoring 6 unanswered runs including a grand slam by Aaron Palensky, winning 9-3. Ryan Miller of the Renegades was credited with the win and Dylan Hall of the Cyclones with the loss.

My favorite part of the experience was the atmosphere of the game. Right behind the stadium is Brooklyn’s famous Luna Park amusement park. We got a great view of people riding the thrill coaster Thunderbolt, which is directly behind the ballpark. There is also a Cyclones team sign shaped as a roller coaster, which is aligned perfectly with the Thunderbolt, creating the illusion that it is part of the ride. It was also beautiful seeing the Atlantic Ocean in the distance and watching boats pass by. The combination of America’s favorite pastime alongside the beautiful scenery made it an ideal setting.

Overall, I loved the game and would rate my experience an 8 out of 10. For those looking to save money by not going to an MLB game but wanting to view a professional game, I highly recommend going to a Cyclones game. Minor League games are definitely a vibe, since many of the players are relatively unknown, but I love the great giveaways and promotions often available. It is quite common for fans who come early or stick around to get autographs from the players, which is an awesome experience. If you time it correctly, sometimes Major League players who are rehabbing from an injury play games for the Cyclones, which happened with Eduardo Escobar and Tommy Hunter this year.

The Cyclones have one remaining home series in Brooklyn concluding this Sunday, September 4 against the Wilmington Blue Rocks (an affiliate of the Washington Nationals). They have six more away games after that.

I loved being in the suite, seeing many of my YU friends, and making some new ones. I hope to be able to return for another game soon, and I suggest you attend one, too!

Season: Generally April-September

Unique Feature: Picturesque baseball stadium by the Atlantic Ocean with roller coasters in the background.

Address: 1904 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224

Website: www.milb.com/brooklyn

Zachary Greenberg is a health and benefits consultant analyst at Mercer and the TABC track coach. On November 12, 2013, Zachary won Nets tickets by hitting a half-court shot on the opening night of the new gym at TABC. Additionally, he recently watched the class romance/thriller “Charade” (1963) on Prime Video. If you have any recommendations of fun places for Zachary to cover, please email him at [email protected].

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