Cyclones-Yanks rivalry opens season

New York-Penn's Opening Day matchup boasts familiar names

By Josh Jackson / Special to | June 17, 2013 8:53 PM ET

They're at it again.

The Class A short-season New York-Penn League opened Monday and the only intra-city rivalry in Minor League Baseball started a new chapter as the Staten Island Yankees edged the Brooklyn Cyclones, 2-1.

It featured names familiar to New York baseball fans.

Michael O'Neill, nephew of former Yankees All-Star Paul O'Neill, played in left field for Staten Island. The Yankees' third-round pick from this year's Draft doubled, singled and stole two bases.

L.J. Mazzilli, who was picked in the fourth round by the Mets, is the son of former Mets All-Star Lee Mazzilli. The elder Mazzilli is also a graduate of Coney Island's Lincoln High School. The younger played second base for Brooklyn on Monday.

"They both did good. O'Neill played well tonight. He's a good player out of the University of Michigan and we're getting his [former] teammate Patrick Biondi tomorrow," Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly said. "L.J. had a good night -- two hits, turned a double play for us."

Over the past 13 years, Staten Island and the Mets' Coney Island-based affiliate have swapped McNamara Division titles, alternating by year during some stretches. The Yankees claimed the crown in 2000, '02, '05, '06, '08, '09 and '11, and the Cyclones in 2001, '03, '04, '07 and '10.

The two teams perennially put up impressive attendance figures, with Brooklyn drawing nearly a quarter million in its 38 home games last season. Borough pride tends to run high when they meet.

"We have great fans," Donnelly said. "They have good fans too. I know our fans are dyed-in-the-wool fans. They come see us everywhere."

After the Opening Day loss at Staten Island's Richmond County Ballpark, the Cyclones are looking forward to Tuesday's home opener, Donnelly said. The two teams will traverse New York's Lower Bay to play at MCU Park.

Monday's victory marked only the second Opening Day win for Staten Island in franchise history, and the game was Brooklyn's third Opening Day loss.

Donnelly is excited to return for his third season with the Cyclones, but said he has more to worry about than the team across the bridge.

"I love it here. It's my second home," he said. "But to be truthful, every night we play, it's a rivalry. We have enough trouble trying to win a game without worrying about rivalries."

What he looks forward to most is "seeing all the guys you drafted and seeing what all the guys from extended [spring training]," he said. "It's their first chance at pro ball for a lot of them."

Josh Jackson is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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