In 2004, Dante Brinkley was an offensive force for the Cyclones, batting .316 with six home runs, 30 RBI and 14 stolen bases. After the season, the 23rd round pick from Southwest Missouri State was named a New York-Penn League All-Star. The next year, Brinkley hit .364 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI in 61 games with the Hagerstown Suns (A). The outfielder was a top prospect in the organization, which unfortunately led to him being traded to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Brooklyn-born Paul Lo Duca. Recently, he took the time to chat with BrooklynCyclones.com to give Cyclones fans the opportunity to catch up with one of their favorite stars from years past.
1) What have you been up to since you retired from baseball?
I last played in 2008 with the Marlins Triple-A Affiliate in Albuquerque. Currently I work at Northwestern University as a research administrator. I’m also still involved in sports, as a part owner of CBL Sports.
2) What is CBL Sports? How did you get involved?
CBL, which stands for City by the Lake, Sports is an adult recreational league that emphasizes health and fitness for young adults. I got involved through a friend who was looking to creative a more competitive recreational league in the Chicago area. It’s a great way for me to stay involved in sports, and also keep the competitive juices flowing.
3) What are some of your best memories from your time in Brooklyn? Both on the field and off the field.
There isn’t one particular game that stands out to me on the field, I just remember the overall experience of playing in front of sold out crowds and how supportive all of the Cyclones fans were. Off the field, I went to the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on the fourth of July. That was some scene. I’ve never seen anything like it since.
4) Do you keep in touch with any of your teammates from your time in the Mets system?
I stay in touch with a bunch of guys from my playing days. With social media it’s a lot easier to keep tabs.
5) When you got traded to the Marlins in 2005, how difficult was that for you?
It was very difficult for me, both personally and professionally. It was tough leaving all the guys who I had played with for year and had established relationships with. Professionally, I felt like I had just really established myself in the Mets organization, and now I had to start all over from scratch. It was a big hurdle in my career.
6) How were things different in the Marlins organization as compared to the Mets?
There were a couple differences between the Mets and Marlins. The Mets coaching/instructional staff had more big league experience so they knew exactly what you needed to do to make in the big leagues. The Marlins were a small market team, so the focus was more on obtaining and developing prospects. With that type of structure it was very difficult to get an opportunity to succeed due to the numbers game.
7) For a new player coming to Brooklyn for the first time, what advice would you give them?
Stay focused on what you need to do on the field. There can be a lot of distractions, but your job is to perform on the field. You also need to relax and take some time to enjoy the experience. You may never play in front of bigger crowds than you do with the Cyclones. Drink it in, remember it, and use that as motivation. Turn the pressure you feel into motivation and confidence.
8) Have you ever been back to the ballpark, or Brooklyn in general, since you left as a player?
I haven’t been back to Brooklyn since my time with the Cyclones. I’d love to get back there one day. It’s a place of great memories for me, and something I think about frequently. I’d like to say thank you to the Mets and the Cyclones organization for an opportunity to live out my childhood dreams. I really appreciate all that the coaches, front office, and my teammates did to help me grow as a player and a person.