Before last Friday’s Aberdeen game, the Cyclones hosted the introduction of MiLB’s new black outreach initiative “The Nine,” named in honor of Jackie Robinson’s minor league number.
To introduce the program, various members of the black community in the worlds of sports, government and community activism were recognized in the breakthrough spirit of Robinson. Ingrid Lewis-Martin, chief advisor to Mayor Eric Adams, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams represented New York City along with other citywide leaders.
In part, the gathering was also a reunion for some of the participants, such as former Cyclones hitting coach Donovan Mitchell (2002, 2004-05). Now the New York Mets’ director of diversity, equality and inclusion, Mitchell returned to Maimonides Park to win the home run derby contest over former Chicago Bull Scott Burrell and Mark Ross, a former Cyclones batboy. Ross, the son of Cyclones administrative assistant Sharon Lundy, is a graduate of Morrisville State College and works in Coney Island’s Urban Neighborhood Services.
Mitchell addressed the fans about “The Nine” and talked about the state of today’s game.
“Growing up, baseball was very big in my life,” he said. “Mets like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden were my heroes and I saw something that I thought I could be. Lately in the game of baseball, we’re seeing less and less black faces in the game that I fell in love with.
“This program will reach out to our youth through our minor league programs. It’s a fresh start to incorporate a more diverse community. Hopefully we could have a general manager or a manager come from this program.”
The Cyclones salvaged their 2-5 homestand Saturday night when they broke a six-game losing streak with a 10-3 win over the first-place Aberdeen Iron Birds (38-18). Second baseman Justin Guerrera, a recent St. Lucie callup, hit his first home run in only his second game in Brooklyn.
Closing out the homestand on Sunday, centerfielder and Canarsie native Jaylen Palmer sent fans home happy by hitting a grand slam in a 5-2 win.
This week the fourth-place Cyclones (24-31) travel to Wilmington to play a six-game series against the second-place Blue Rocks (28-21).