In this year’s New-York Penn League All-Star game on Staten Island, the Brooklyn Cyclones are well-represented as 5 players are on the Team Blue roster. All of them found out that they had made the team on a bus ride in Vermont after their road series against the Vermont Lake Monsters.
The uniqueness of finding out that special milestone can be great for the individual, but it was also a team-bonding experience as reliever Mitch Ragan would describe.
“While we were all on the bus in Vermont, coach Fonzie [Edgardo Alfonzo] announced our names on the loudspeakers so everyone was cheering us on going crazy, which was really cool. I didn’t expect it to be honest. I was one of the last names to get my name called. I was kind of surprised I got my own name called,” said Ragan.
Ragan was the Mets’ 15th Round pick in this year’s MLB Draft out of Creighton University and will be pitching in the sixth inning. The right-hander has a 2.45 ERA, 24 strikeouts to 2 walks, and has a .194 batting average against in 12 appearances. The key for Ragan this year has been establishing his offspeed pitches to go with the fastball:
“Being able to throw offspeed for strikes in any sort of count. In college, no matter where you go to school, it is fastball-dominant. Now, you have better hitters, so guys can do more with any kind of pitch. That’s the biggest thing. Just filling up the zone,” said Ragan.
First baseman Joe Genord also shared the same sentiment of surprise when he found out he would be in the All-Star Game:
“Shocked. I was really shocked. I was listening to the names and I heard mine. I didn’t think I was going to get in but I did, and I’m here and I’m really grateful for it,” said the Mets’ 9th Round pick in this year’s MLB Draft.
Genord took part in the Home Run Derby, which included members of the FDNY and NYPD. He would go on to hit 1 home run in the 1 minute time frame. The former South Florida Bull is familiar with the Home Run Derby as he once faced off in one against Brendan Rodgers for a travel team called the Orlando Scorpions.
The fun part about an All-Star Game for some players is to play with some of the guys that you competed against both in the league and before professional baseball. For Genord, that is the case this year:
It was good. I had good coaches, good teammates. We had a lot of fun down there playing against Joe Davis and Jared Triolo here and now I am playing with them for a game. I had a good time in college,” said Genord about his collegiate experience.
For right-hander Matt Cleveland, the 12th Round pick in 2016 found out about his All-Star appearance before Alfonzo told the team:
“I was actually going to do one of our promotional things and the video guy was like congratulations on making the All-Star team. Our manager told us on the bus over the intercom and I was really excited about it,” said Cleveland.
Cleveland has a 3.70 ERA in 12 appearances this year and will be pitching in the fifth inning of tonight’s game. His 58.1 innings pitched this year is ninth in the league and he has been trying to use his secondary pitches more this season, particularly his slider:
“Beforehand, I was more of a thrower instead of a pitcher. This year, I’ve done very well at mixing my pitches and take people out in certain counts. Just developing the secondary pitches and playing off the pitches prior,” said Cleveland
With Edgardo Alfonzo and his coaching staff leading Team Blue, there is a familiarity for the Cyclones as to who will lead them in this game and for the Cyclone players, it “makes it a little more comforting” according to Cleveland.
The only pitcher ahead of Cleveland in innings pitched on the Cyclones is Garrison Bryant. The 36th Round pick in 2016 leads the league in WHIP (0.83), is second in batting average against (.173), and is third in innings pitched (64). Bryant will pitch in the second inning tonight and feels the honor is a reward for the work he has put in.
“It was a cool moment you know. Put a lot of work in the offseason, and getting rewarded for it is pretty special,” said Bryant.
Bryant, who grew up a fan of the late Roy Halladay, put a lot of work in this past winter from the mental aspect of the game and his durability. It has yielded productive results for him as he has a 2.88 ERA in 13 appearances (10 starts).
“I throw a lot of strikes and a go a little beyond just the game. The mental side of the game and look to see how I can miss bats and take advantage of weaknesses and holes in their swings,” said Bryant.
“I think I have become a lot smarter, a lot more involved in the game on the mental side. When I was drafted, I was about 170 pounds. I am up 40 pounds since that day. That has helped with my durability, staying healthy.”
Wilmer Reyes was the other Cyclones player selected and he will be batting third and playing shortstop for Team Blue.