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Donnelly’s summer home, workplace hammered by Superstorm Sandy

November 15, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

Rich Donnelly felt helpless two weeks ago and still does.

The Brooklyn Cyclones manager watched on television as Superstorm Sandy ripped through the New York/New Jersey area, including Brooklyn and MCU Park.

"We got hammered pretty good," he said. "I was told my office was under four feet of water. MCU Park sustained about $2 million in damage. They told me all the first-floor stuff has to be redone - locker rooms and offices. They said it would take about three to four months.

Article Photos

HIT BY SANDY — MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, managed by Rich Donnelly, sustained approximately $2 million in damage by Superstorm Sandy two weeks ago.
-- Courtesy Brooklyn Cyclones

"I was watching CNN the other day and they showed a shelter giving away stuff and I said 'Hey, that's my parking spot.' The parking lot at MCU Park is pretty big so they are using that to help the residents. The water is gone now, but the Boardwalk is literally 30 feet from right field and that is all sand.

"Sand got into all the Coney Island rides, the Cyclone rollercoaster. It's not good.

"Where I live during the season is about three quarters of a mile from the ocean and it was under four feet of water.

"I feel so badly for all those people up there. I know that area and I know a lot of those people. It's like Steubenville being flooded up to Fourth Street.

"Everyone was told to evacuate Coney Island. The batters eye (in center field to help the batters see the pitch) was blown down and destroyed. You cannot believe the sand. It is everywhere. It went up about five blocks and it's in everything.

"I wish I could do more. A lot of people work at that ballpark. They rely on the Cyclones for a living. We employ over 150 people and have anywhere between 7,000 to 9,000 fans a night.

"We have a great fan base. Brooklyn is beautiful. We have every nationality there. They love their Cyclones. There aren't a lot of people left who were there when they took the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, but we have their decendents. They needed a team and we are it."

Coney Island, including Nathan's Famous, was hit by waters from the Atlantic Ocean and Gravesend Bay.

"That's where I go to lunch about three or four times a week," Donnelly said. "They got hit hard. That's my mainstay. They are the Naples of Brooklyn."

On the field, Donnelly finished his second season leading the Cyclones to the playoffs as the wild card entrant for the second year in a row in the New York-Penn League.

"We had a young team," he said. "I was told to not worry about the playoffs. We had the youngest team in the league. I think we had three college players on the field. We had a lot of kids who were 19."

His leading 19-year-old was Brandon Nimmo, who is the first players ever selected in the first round of the MLB draft from the state of Wyoming, where high school baseball is not sanctioned.

He played in 69 of the 76 games, batting .248 with 28 of his 66 hits being for extra bases (20 doubles, two triples and six homers).

Donnelly also had catcher Kevin Plawecki, the Big 10 Player of the Year from Purdue, who ended up hitting .250 with seven home runs after a horrendous start.

"It is not easy on this level," said Donnelly. "We had the Big 10 Player of the Year and he struggled."

Plawecki was a finalist for the Johnny Bench award (nation's top collegiate catcher), was a semifinalist for USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy. He also struck out only eight times in 223 at-bats as a junior.

He struck out 24 times in 216 at-bats in rookie ball.

"That tells you how hard it is up here," said Donnelly. "Players don't make the big jumps here from like rookie ball to double A. If they do, it is very rare. Normally, kids go to each level - to low A, to high A, to double A, to triple A. Players find out this is really hard. These players will move up to either Savannah (low A) or Port St. Lucie (high A) next year."

That means the roster is new each year for Donnelly. The year starts in June and ends in September.

"I tell people all the time that the celebration in our clubhouse is just as satisfying as when they do it in the big leagues," said Donnelly, who spent 27 years in the bigs. "This was a fun year. We had a lot of good players. Our hitting wasn't very good, but our pitching carried us through.

"I love coaching these kids. I think back to when I tried to play this game and how hard it is."

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