On August 19, the Cyclones hosted the 10th annual New York Penn League All Star Game at MCU Park. In operation since 1939, the Penn League is celebrating its 75th anniversary for the longest continuous run of any Single-A minor league.
“The league has come a long way,” stated former minor league catcher Duke Davis of Vestal, New York, who played in 1944 for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Penn League affiliate, the Olean Oilers. “Back then, we rode from town to town in two station wagons with just 18 players on a team,” said the 92-year fan of the Mets’ Double-A minor league team in Binghamton. “We were given a hammer and nail to hang our clothes in the locker room and we all drank out of a water bucket with a ladle back then.”
With certainly more amenities than the pioneers of the Penn League, the 2014 New York Penn League All Stars were treated to a boat ride banquet around New York harbor the night before the game and a celebrity charity softball game just before their own field appearance.
A mid-season Penn League All Star Game was first introduced in 2005 when current Mets pitcher Bobby Parnell first took the mound for the Cyclones to lead the National League All Stars to a 4-3 win. From that 2005 All Star team, along with Parnell, 12 other players have gone on to make major league teams including Gaby Sanchez (Miami Marlins), who was named MVP for that inaugural All Star Game.
With an unequal number of the 14 American and National League affiliates, teams were broken down to North and South squads with Brooklyn landing on the South’s side headed by Cyclone Manager Tom Gamboa. Hudson Valley Manager Tom Parenton headed the North team since his Renegades carried the best record, 42-22, at the All Star break.
Just like Parnell in 2005, the Cyclones’ best pitcher, 19-year-old Marcos Molina, opened the first inning of the All Star Game as the league’s strikeout leader at 73 Ks and as the hurler with the second best 1.58 ERA.
Throwing a scoreless first inning, Molina struck out two and gave up a first inning single to Tri-City’s Nick Tanielu. With the North All Stars leading 1-0 in the seventh inning, Staten Island’s Luis Torrens sent a sacrifice fly to the outfield that sent home Williamsport Crosscutter Derek Campbell to tie the game at 1-1.
Going into the ninth inning and hoping to break the 1-1 deadlock, the South team managed to get a runner on third base after Jamestown Jammer Kevin Ross walked, stole second and reached third on a throwing error. With two out on a 2-2 count, Cyclone third base coach Benny Distefano told Ross to get ready to steal home for what would have been a dramatic win to end a well-pitched game for both sides.
“We had that pitcher’s timing down and we were going to steal home on the next pitch,” said Distefano. “We had nothing to lose; either he’s out at the plate or we win the game,” explained the Lafayette High School grad. “But you saw what happened, we tapped back to the pitcher for the final out.”
Given the exhibition nature of the game and with the pitching staff depleted on both sides, the league decided to let the game stand at a 1-1 tie. At the conclusion of the game, Penn League President Ben Hayes awarded the game’s MVP Award to Tri-City’s Nick Tanielu for his three-for-three game effort, which accounted for the North team’s sole run in this pitching-dominated game.