Penn Grad Makes Good
As Cyclones Pitcher
It’s the 9th inning and the game is on the line. Lefty Reliever Josh Appell has been called to the mound to get the Cyclones out of a late jam. Appell, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, is focused on retiring the side. As he made his way to the mound, he could hear the noise, the cheers, and could feel the churning energy of the crowd at sold-out KeySpan Park. That’s quite a difference from taking notes in a psychology seminar. Appell made his pitches and got out of the jam. “The fans are so electric. The energy in the stadium when you’re on the mound.” said Appell. “Everybody in the stadium, probably like 9,000 people (are) on their feet. It’s a special atmosphere.” Appell observed.
Appell is riding the baseball wave as far as it will take him. “My job is to play baseball. If baseball ever ends, I could go out and get another job. Hopefully, it won’t have to end for a while,” Appell said.
It’s the beginning of winter and that means the “Hot Stove League” is heating up.
The offseason has seen ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre headed to Los Angeles where he’ll manage the Dodgers, Joe Girardi, was named his successor in New York, and Alex Rodriguez, wants to continue his career as a Yankee, after first refusing to negotiate with the team. Baseball stirs the passions of its fans, even when the teams don’t play.
The teams from the Majors draw the big headlines. But minor league baseball in Brooklyn, was Off-Broadway’s smash hit.
It’s an old adage in baseball that pitching wins championships. A good hitting team is exciting to watch and will win you some ballgames, but to emerge victorious in those “white-knucklers”, the 2-1, 3-2 games, you have to have good pitching.
This past season, the Cyclones, were on the cusp on a New York - Penn League championship as they faced the Auburn Doubledays in a best of 3 game series. The Cyclones compiled the best record in the league and beat their rival, the Staten Island Yankees, in a playoff series, to reach the championship round. They did it with lights out pitching and timely hitting.
The Cyclones’ pitching staff led the league, and as of September 1st, had an impressive 2.95 earned runs average per game. Cyclones’ pitchers had a 2 to 1 strikeout ratio, striking out more than 500 batters, and walking only 214, as of September 1st.
The pitchers also hurled 8 shutouts, second in the league, heading into the final week of the season. That translates into a winning season.
The Brooklyn team, a class “A” affiliate, of the New York Mets, has become a bona fide fan attraction. This summer, the team drew its 2 millionth fan, and averaged over 8,000 fans a game. The team also broke single attendance records twice as the Cyclones were playing for a playoff berth.
The New York – Penn League is a short season league. Games begin in June and end shortly after Labor Day. Many players come to the league just out of college, their first step on the way to baseball stardom. Hall of Famers like Wade Boggs, Nellie Fox, and Warren Spahn, started in the NYPL. Current big-leaguers who have played in the NYPL include Met’s slugger Carlos Delgado, relief ace Billy Wagner, and the youngster, pitcher John Maine, who is showing promise with the Mets.
New York native, Josh Appell, a lefty reliever, with a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, seems to epitomize the grit of the Cyclones’ pitchers. Appell, is one of two players on the team that saw action in 2006. Appell, 24, who majored in sociology at Penn, made the team after a good “extended” spring training down in Florida. While there, he developed a slider and it has become his “out pitch.”
Pitching consistently gave Appell a lot of confidence and the Mets management selected him to play in Brooklyn. “They decided to keep me in extended spring training where I was able to work on a lot of things. I got to develop as a pitcher,” said Appell. The Long Island , NY native is pleased with his progress as a pitcher. “I had a real good extended (spring training). Came to Brooklyn…so far everything is going pretty well,” said Appell. From books to baseball… pretty heady stuff for a young man to commute from Long Island to Coney Island to play baseball in front of 8,000 fans a night.
Postscript: The Cyclones’ quest for their second league title ended in disappointment when they fell to Auburn, 4-1. Auburn took the first two games of the best of 3 game series to win the NYPL 2007 crown.#