The Yankees were on the road when I visited New York this summer, so I ended up at Coney Island for a Brooklyn Cyclones game. The minor league Cyclones (a Single-A team) are the first baseball team to play in Brooklyn since the Dodgers left town in the 1950s, and people are excited. Located just off the Coney Island boardwalk, the 4,000-seat stadium sits in sight of the team's namesake, the famous Cyclone roller coaster. There's a hum in the Coney Island sea air that's not unlike the winning feeling around Safeco Field these days—and they aren't handing out bobblehead dolls, either.
It was past the seventh-inning stretch, and the crowd had grown weary of the mascot antics when an 11-year-old started in. A born hustler with his rapid-fire Brooklyn accent, the imp couldn't have had a better stage than the $6 right-field seats perched over the bullpen where he got down to business:
"Hey, numba 13, how 'bout an audo-graph? Hey, look up, heah, numba 13, you're my hero! Come on, give a fan an audo-graph!"
"Hey, I'm talkin' to yah, numba 13! I saw you on TV last night, no joke! C'mon, sign my ticket. You're the star of the team!"
Finally, Number 13 bowed to the rascal. But was the minor with the big-league mouth done? No way.
"Hey, numba 13, I can't even read this. I don't even know who you are! Heah, I think I see a gah-bage can down there!"
Down fluttered the ticket, to peals of laughter from the stands. I don't have a clue what the final score of the game was, but I won't soon forget the insouciant grin on the kid's face.
As a tried and true Mariners fan, I doubt the fluorescent green glare of the Kingdome's astroturf will ever fully fade from memory. Funny thing though, in this year of Mariners supremacy (and bobblehead frenzy), I've developed a thing for the minor leagues.
With Safeco a sure sellout for the rest of the season, the relaxed attitude at the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers (also in first place in their division) and Single-A Everett AquaSox games is a welcome relief from the Mariner hordes milling around Sodo. You might not get a Brooklyn kid hollering at the players, but you will sit close enough to the field to hear the players' chatter (and actually see their faces). And do bring your transistor radio—it's a guarantee that no one will complain about Dave Niehaus' "My, oh my!" calls from Safeco.