Having grown up in New York approximately a half century too late to take in ball games at Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, and the original, pre-70’s Steinbrenner
engineered renovation of Yankee Stadium, I was left with the park in the Bronx and Shea Stadium. Both held special places in my heart. Shea was where I took in my first game and was initiated in the art of booing players. Thanks Bobby Bonilla!
Two summers ago, I attended my first professional baseball game in Brooklyn. Since the summer of 2001, the New York Mets New York-Penn League affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, have played in Keyspan, now MCU, Park. Located on Surf Avenue, the park sits in the shadow of Coney Island and at the edge of the beach looking out towards the Atlantic Ocean. The New York-Penn is a short-season league and is considered low-A in the minor league system. With the season beginning in late June, the rosters consist of guys from that year’s draft, players who spent the previous season in lower rungs of the minor league system, and guys who couldn’t quite hack it in High-A ball.
I started going to these games when a good friend of mine got stuck with an extra set of season tickets. Since these games are far cheaper and seats are much closer to the field than the major leagues, I jumped at the opportunity. The Cyclones did not disappoint. On the field, they had some good young prospects and the games were always entertaining. And like any respectable minor league team, they had a bevy of special events to keep people coming. My favorite was when a Barack Obama impersonator threw out the opening pitch, gave a speech, and stuck around for the game. Would have been better if he was a lefty, like the real Obama. That night, the team was called the Baracklyn Cyclones.
There is one “entertainment” feature where the Cyclones and I split. Besides fielding
a roster of 25 baseball players, the team also fields 12 teenage girls dressed in tight-fitting shirts and short-shorts. Collectively, they are the “Beach Bums.” The bottom line is that they don’t add much to the game and if anything, they detract from what is going on between the foul lines. On numerous occasions over the last two summers, they’ve kept dancing on top of both dugouts while players are at the plate and the ball is live. Not only are they blocking people’s view of what is gong on, but one of them could easily end up on the business end of a screaming foul ball.
At first, I though to myself, maybe I’m being too much of a baseball purist. It isn’t like these are the type of games that Ken Burns is going to chronicle for PBS or where Roy Hobbs will knock out a light tower. This is one of the lowest rungs of minor league baseball. There had to be a reason the Cyclones kept running these girls out there at every home game.
Clearly, it wasn’t to get the baseball fans out to the park. For these people, the game is the draw as is the opportunity to see guys who could one day make the big leagues. These “bums” are not a draw for the kids, maybe the pre-teen boys, but I’m not sure that is a smart demographic to be banking on for scooping out a ton of tickets. While the Beach Bums invite young fans on to the dugouts once every game, lets just say some of their dance moves are less than family-friendly. And then one game, I noticed the demographic who were fans of the entertainment. It was old guys. Skeevy as it is, the old guys were all about these dancers and their moves.
Most of what the Cyclones do for mindless entertainment is amusing and quirky. Even King Henry and Jay are folks I look forward to seeing at the ball park during the summer. It doesn’t hurt that I sort of kind of know the guy who plays Sandy the Seagull and the fact that the team’s GM is the guy in the pink gorilla suit who mans the t-shirt gun is downright awesome. But the “Beach Bums” are a dud. Call me a prude if you will, but some of their moves were provocative to the point of unseemly. Get these kids some real clothes and maybe instead of dancing on dugouts, they could be in charge of a Kids Zone or be stadium concierges. George Will out.