Pinstripe purgatory: Staten Island Yankees said they felt like the red-haired stepson of a big league team

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The author is a published sports reporter who gives readers a first-hand account of the Staten Island Yankees’ difficult relationship with the New York Yankees, their unprecedented lawsuit against MLB and the Yankees, dating and financial struggles, internal strife within the franchise, and deteriorating groundwork.Angles of human interest, such as the impact of COVID on team personnel, are also examined. )

THIRD IN A SERIES

Operating a minor league baseball team like the Staten Island Yankees is tough. Operating one in a city with competing attractions and other professional sports franchises doesn’t make it any easier. The owners, despite their optimism, have understood this.

“Running a business in New York is a challenge,” concedes Glenn Reicin, a partner at Nostalgic Partners LLC, the group that owned the Staten Island Yankees since 2011. “And the Yankees had a lot of demands and an unusual amount. control – just look at the “Pizza Rats” situation.

READ PART 1 OF THE SERIES HERE

READ PART 2 OF THE SERIES HERE

Staten Island may have faced off against the Bronx on some issues, but team chairman and Staten Island Yankees operating partner Will Smith has never felt any animosity when interacting with the Yankees leadership of New York.

“We came out of meetings with them with smiles on our faces,” Smith recalls. “Who knows, maybe there was a closer relationship when the Yankees owned more of the squad, but I’m not sure.”

While the Major League franchise offered Yankee Stadium tickets and vouchers to Baby Bombers season ticket holders, it did no additional favors to the Staten Island club.

CHILD RED STEP

“We were the red-haired son-in-law of the affiliates,” regrets Anthony Silvia, the club’s stadium operations manager from 2017 to 2019. “The Yankees generally didn’t send us their best prospects. In fact, more people would come to see the perspectives of opposing teams. “

The Staten Island Yankees hosted the 2019 New York-Penn League All-Star Game at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark. (Courtesy of the Staten Island Yankees)

In addition, Staten Island has rarely sent a star player to rehabilitation from the main league club. To have such a player on the roster, even for a few games, would have generated excitement and increased attendance. The Mets, on the other hand, have sent stars such as Noah Syndergaard, Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano and Jeurys Familia to its Brooklyn branch in recent years.

The Staten Island Yankees may also have been hampered by internal challenges over the past five years. Several employees say that the front office and the staff were not on the same page. An employee was reportedly dismissed for having a “bad attitude”. Others, despite supposedly insufficient performance, would have been maintained indefinitely.

“There was no cohesion and limited communication,” recalls David Percarpio, who worked for the Staten Island Yankees from 2014 to 2020.

“The Staten Island Yankees were where the careers went to die,” says Silvia. “Management was stuck in its own way, there was nepotism and favoritism, and credit was never given where credit was due.”

Reicin and Smith, however, believe the work environment was good and cannot recall unique and unusual work issues.

“Differences will emerge naturally, especially when front office changes are frequent,” Smith acknowledges.

Smith is right – the Staten Island franchise has undergone multiple changes in ownership and staff over its short history, especially in relation to the Brooklyn Cyclones, a team with a record of exceptional consistency and stability.

BAD PLAYERS AND COACHES AT STATEN ISLAND

More importantly, the people providing the product – the players and coaches – would have been unhappy on Staten Island. One reason may be that there was no team bus. Instead, a van shuttled between the players, six to eight at a time, between the stadium and the team’s hotel on the island. In addition, sources claim that the coaches were aware of deteriorating conditions at the stadium and often argued with members of the front office over match day issues, such as rain delays. The players were apparently not fond of the food served. It was common knowledge among team insiders that players and coaches preferred other Yankees affiliates. We must assume that the news of this discontent reached the Bronx.

But when the New York Yankees severed ties with the team in November 2020, Staten Island management publicly said they were blinded by the decision.

The best moments in Staten Island Yankee history

Staten Island Yankees winning pitcher Chein Ming-Wang celebrates with his teammates in the locker room after winning the NYPenn League Championship in 2002 (Staten Island Advance)

“We thought we would get there,” Reicin said, explaining how he thought his team would survive the contraction. “In November 2019, [New York Yankees President] Randy Levine issued a statement in our favor. Politicians like Max Rose supported us.

“We thought we had a chance to stay because the MLB had emphasized geographic proximity to the MLB park in its restructuring plan,” said Smith. “When the cuts took place, Baseball America ran an article saying the New York Yankees had contacted their affiliates – but we had never been contacted. Then the next day we received the email with the news. In fact, I discovered it on Twitter before I opened my inbox.

A GREAT LEAGUE TEAM WAS LOOKING FOR NEW OWNERS ON STATEN ISLAND?

As reported in its lawsuit, Nostalgic Partners LLC claims New York Yankees COO Lonn Trost approached the group in late May 2020 and inquired about a possible change in ownership. Nostalgic Partners LLC was open to change and ready to help the Yankees find a new owner. But, according to Reicin and the ownership group, Nostalgic Partners LLC has not received a “substantial” response afterwards, despite its weekly contact with the Bronx.

“It never felt like there was a clear picture or even that a negotiation was going on between us and the Yankees,” said Smith.

Pimpsner, employees and other sources, however, argue that plans to contract with the Major League squad were already underway shortly after MLB revealed its restructuring plan in late 2019 and Staten Island was aware of his fate.

Some say the Staten Island club has expressed surprise at fueling the rallying cry to save minor league teams across the country, a movement led by minor league leaders and politicians.

Ownership and management clearly wanted the “Baby Bombers” to succeed. However, Pimpsner suggests that the team leadership, like other MiLB team owners and leaders, may have been overwhelmed and short-sighted.

“I have no doubt that they came with the best of intentions,” Pimpsner emphasizes. “But I think they didn’t know what they were getting into and had no vision for the future of the team other than just being a Yankees farm team.”

COVID-19 WAS THE FINAL BLOW

Many may debate what led to the demise of the Staten Island Yankees, but no one can deny that COVID-19 has sounded the death knell – as it potentially has been for other minor league teams across the country . The team got a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, which Reicin describes as “modest,” in early April. By the end of that month, however, most of the employees had been put on leave. By July, most had been made redundant. The process cost Reicin, Smith, and everyone involved.

“It was really difficult,” Reicin admits discouragingly. “We, like everyone else, obviously had no idea how serious the pandemic was. We have done our best to keep everyone employed as long as possible. “

“We were focused on the present and trying to be efficient,” says Smith. “We closed the office and asked people to work from home. But we ended up having to go with a small staff.

Despite a tough job market and months without sports or entertainment due to the virus, former employees have found work, be it at other college and professional sports franchises, travel and entertainment companies, or Amazon.

All, despite a few bumps in the road, say they were treated well by the Staten Island Yankees. They miss the camaraderie among the staff and the fast, fun pace of their unique job. During the busiest times of the season, many had spent more time at the stadium with their colleagues than with their families. Above all, they will always be remembered for interacting with the fans and the surrounding community.

Superfans Cocozello and Vaiano aren’t the only ones who wish they could say goodbye to the team they’ve watched and loved for two decades. However, both are grateful for the “priceless” memories and friendships formed over the years. They still connect with former players, coaches and fans through social media.

On the contrary, the experience of the Staten Island Yankees was a necessary contrast to the experience of the New York Yankees. A trip to Yankee Stadium is notoriously expensive, impersonal, and inconvenient. A minor league game, on the other hand, is affordable and local. The players are more accessible; fans can meet them and get their autographs.

Staten Island Yankees

Scooter was the Staten Island Yankee mascot. (Staten Island Advance / Jan Somma) Staff-Shot

WHAT’S NEXT NEXT FOR BALLPARK?

No one wants an empty Richmond County Bank Ballpark stadium. MLB, city officials and Staten Island politicians are working to bring an independent Atlantic League baseball team into the stadium. The stadium will receive synthetic turf, new seats and changes to the pitch as part of the city improvements. Such changes will enable rugby, football, concerts and other entertainment options, all expected to arrive at the stadium in the near future.

The success of future tenants will tell if the SI Yankees had problems on Staten Island, Yankees problems, and / or self-inflicted problems.

Maybe Staten Island never wanted a minor league baseball team as much as small towns in Central America could. Perhaps the decline of the team began with its inception.

One thing is certain: the legacy and demise of the Staten Island Yankees, as well as those of other minor league teams, will be debated for years to come.


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