As is his wont, the King deigned to walk among his people. His red crown and visage was recognized, and his subjects rallied. He was dispensing the coin of the realm: $5 coupons to Brooklyn Cyclones games.
It was a recent beautiful Kings County afternoon, the kind that makes you ready for nine innings of the Mets Single A short season affiliate. And Guy Zoda, 49, aka King Henry, was ready to make the case to Downtown Brooklyn, in costume.
“Summer’s not over yet,” King Henry boomed on the corner of Remsen and Court, a plastic bag of GAME NIGHT flyers slowly emptying at his feet.
Baseball came back to Brooklyn via the Cyclones in 2001. Seasons have come and gone. Nineteen-year-old prospects and the Angel Pagans of the world move up or out in the blink of an eye. But King Henry is basically forever.
He has been an on-field announcer and general MC of the Cyclones experience for every home game since 2006. Now, he still waddles around the stadium in character, supervising the all-important mid-inning contests and entertainment. Plus, he’s in charge of getting New Yorkers to come down to the minor league park by the waves.
“You gotta be out there,” the King says, explaining his process. If you convince someone to see a Cyclones game once, “statistically, people come back.”
“Brooklyn Cyclones,” the King preached, loose red pants hiding the ends of his royal blue jersey. Passers-by grinned, took pictures, said they’d seen him at a game last year.
One man approached the King with his camera phone rolling. “You don’t have nothing for comedy?” the man asked. He meant coupons.
The King explained he only had baseball flyers. But here was some humor: He had just been on a diet for two weeks: “I lost 14 days.”
The man laughed hysterically.
In earlier days the King was a clown, a Borough Park/Bensonhurst native studying business in college looking for a side job to get him through school. A friend put him on a job doing magic tricks for a children’s entertainment company. His first show, two kids were scared. His second, his magic trick didn’t work. The water-based clown makeup was runny and uncomfortable. But at his third, the kids applauded and he got a $10 tip. The rest is clown history.
He honed his craft, learning tricks and amusing the children of the five boroughs with his Fa-Chi the clown routine. It was a humorous spelling of Italian for “face.” He says he did clown bits on early Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien. Then one day when he was getting around to starting his company, he hit on an idea — king costumes were funny. And he wouldn’t have to wear the damn face makeup. King Henry was crowned.
Selling the kingdom
There have been other masters of ceremony at the Cyclones’ stadium. There was Party Marty, for instance, the 20-something front-office employee who it turned out had a knack for getting the people going in the stands. The royal succession was enacted when Party Marty went on to pursue a career in law enforcement. For a decade now, King Henry has run the classic mid-inning games that are minor league baseball’s calling card: guess what someone was drawing and win a Geico gecko toy. Earn extra concert tickets if you dare get spaghetti and meatballs, or cream of mushroom soup, dumped on your head.
Such are the draws of minor league baseball, for those who, with a hotdog in one hand, for some reason don’t want to watch 19-year-olds who might someday be baseball’s next big thing, on a smooth turf field with the iconic Coney Island parachute jump in the background.
But it’s New York, and people have plenty of draws on their leisure time (including the Mets and another major league team). So the King can often be found stumping his kingdom, even the neighboring realms of Manhattan and Queens. There he encourages different generations and audiences to a ballpark that is no longer quite so excitingly new as it was when the Cyclones first came to town and tapped into old Brooklyn baseball nostalgia.
His grace extends to Yankees fans, one of whom took a picture with the King that afternoon; and also Seth Sherman, 59, who asked if “you got any prospects down there?” The King said the Cyclones did.
“You need earplugs when you go,” Sherman remarked, unhappy about the decibel level of the ballpark’s speaker system. You can’t win them all.