The current decade officially comes to a close at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, January 1. At that point, the past 10 years of Ducks baseball officially wraps up and a new chapter begins to be written in the history of the franchise. The first decade of Ducks baseball from 2000-09 saw attendance records be broken, the successful start of professional baseball on Long Island and six consecutive postseason berths. Although the franchise did win its first Atlantic League Championship in 2004, the remainder of the decade saw the club have the opportunity to win a title but come up short in their quest of doing so.
However, the same cannot be said for the current decade that is about to end. As detailed last week, the Ducks were certainly the class of the ALPB during the 2010s. Long Island won three Atlantic League Championships, including back-to-back trophies in 2012 and 2013 and another just this past season. It saw the team earn Liberty Division Championships in seven of the 10 seasons and reach the postseason in eight of them. Add that with more attendance milestones being reached and dozens of player contracts being purchased by Major League Baseball and foreign professional leagues, the 2010s decade is certainly one for the record books for the Ducks and their fans.
Before we put a bow on the 10 years that was, now is as good a time as ever to highlight the best players to wear the Ducks uniform during the decade. Given the success of the era and all impactful names that came through Central Islip, picking out just a select few is no easy task. However, our blog staff did their best to determine the select few who earned a rightful place on the 2010s Ducks All-Decade Team:
CATCHER: J.R. HOUSE
House posted one of the most prolific seasons by a catcher in ALPB history. The backstop hit .305 during the incredible 2011 season with 19 home runs, 81 RBIs, 73 runs, 128 hits, 22 doubles and a .365 on-base percentage over 113 games. He also did not make a single error defensively all year, as the former Major Leaguer helped the Ducks reach the Atlantic League Championship Series.
FIRST BASE: DAVID WASHINGTON
Few players in Ducks history have showcased the power that David Washington has. He helped the Ducks reach the Atlantic League Championship Series in 2018 then returned and won it all in 2019. The former big leaguer combined to hit 47 home runs, drive in 131 runs and score 122 over 217 games during the past two seasons. He also had a flair for the dramatic, highlighted by his game-winning blast in Game Three of the 2018 ALCS.
SECOND BASE: CODY PUCKETT
Puckett was a model of consistency for the Ducks over his first three seasons in a Ducks uniform. While playing both second and third base, he played over 120 games, hit over .270 and scored over 60 runs in each. He suffered a knee injury in 2017 that ended his season early before returning to play a full season in 2018, totaling five seasons in a Ducks uniform. In that time, he helped the Flock to four playoff berths and three Liberty Division Championships.
SHORTSTOP: DAN LYONS
The Ducks all-time leader in games played with 888, Lyons became a fixture at shortstop during the decade. In eight seasons with the Flock (2011-18), he totaled 40 homers, 353 RBIs, 423 runs and 755 hits. Not to mention, he earned three Atlantic League All-Star selections (2012, 2015, 2016), the Rawlings Gold Glove Defensive Player of the Year Award (2015), two Atlantic League Championships (2012, 2013) and Championship Series MVP honors (2012).
THIRD BASE: BRYANT NELSON
“Nelly” was a key contributor to the Ducks back-to-back ALPB Championships in 2012 and 2013. He played over 120 games, collected over 70 RBIs, totaled over 135 hits, scored 72 runs, and hit 30 doubles in each season. The former Red Sox player also earned an Atlantic League All-Star nod during the 2013 season and is one of the league’s all-time greats, spending 11 seasons in the circuit between 2006 and 2016 and playing more games than anyone else (1,013).
LEFT FIELD: LEW FORD
One of the most beloved players in franchise history, Ford has fashioned a 10-year Ducks career as a player and now coach, all but one of which have come in this decade. He is the Ducks all-time hitting leader with a .320 batting average. The six-year MLB veteran has totaled 921 hits, 75 home runs, 448 RBIs and 483 runs over 751 games with the Flock. He’s been a part of three Atlantic League Championship teams, seven Liberty Division Championship squads, was the 2014 Atlantic League Player of the Year and is a three-time Atlantic League All-Star.
CENTER FIELD: KRAIG BINICK
Binick burst onto the scene in 2011 when he won the Atlantic League batting title, hitting .343 with the Ducks. He also led the league in on-base percentage (.429), stolen base percentage (.894) and stolen bases (42) that year. The Hicksville native ended up spending three seasons with the Ducks (2011-13), reaching the Atlantic League Championship Series in each and winning two titles along the way. Binick also hit .352 in 26 playoff games.
RIGHT FIELD: ADAM BAILEY
Bailey demonstrated great power during his two seasons with the Ducks and secured the final out of the team’s 2013 Atlantic League Championship. In 2013 and 2014, he combined to total 35 home runs, 146 RBIs, 119 runs, 277 hits and 47 doubles in 261 games. Bailey also earned a 2014 Atlantic League All-Star Game selection.
DESIGNATED HITTER: RAY NAVARRETE
The legendary #16 played the back half of his eight-year Ducks career during the decade and helped lead the Flock to two Atlantic League Championships. He also earned ALPB All-Star selections in 2010 and 2012. Navarrete set the Atlantic League record for doubles in a single-season with 50 in 2012, and one year later, hit a legendary three-run homer in Game Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series, his final game in a Ducks uniform. He closed his Ducks career as the franchise leader in hits (963), homers (137), RBIs (548), runs (599), doubles (245) and games played (863) before Dan Lyons broke the latter.
STARTING PITCHER: JOHN BROWNELL
We follow up one franchise legend with another in the great #7, John Brownell. Arguably the greatest starting pitcher in team history, he spent seven seasons with the Flock from 2012-18. In that time, he became the franchise record holder in wins (65), strikeouts (755), innings pitched (1,005) and starts (154). He also set Ducks single-season records for starts (29, 2014), complete games (7, 2013), innings pitched (202.0, 2014) and strikeouts (147, 2016). The righty earned two Atlantic League Championships as well as Championship Series MVP honors in 2013. He was also named the league’s Pitcher of the Year in 2015 and an All-Star selection in 2017.
CLOSER: LEO ROSALES
Thanks in part to Rosales’ work on the mound, the Ducks were able to capture consecutive championships in 2012 and 2013. Acquired in a 2012 trade with Camden for outfielder Reid Gorecki, he spent three seasons overall with the Flock, appearing in 54 games and posting 28 saves, a 1.98 ERA, 59 strikeouts and just 24 walks over 54.2 innings. The former big leaguer recorded the save to wrap up the 2013 Atlantic League Championship and earned an Atlantic League All-Star selection 2013 as well.
MANAGER: KEVIN BAEZ
Much of the Ducks success during the decade can be contributed to the work done by Kevin Baez as manager. From 2011-18, he guided the Flock to seven playoff appearances, six Liberty Division Championships (including two stretches of three in a row) and two Atlantic League Championships. The former Ducks infielder also managed in three Atlantic League All-Star Games during the decade (2012, 2013, 2018).
Bobby Blevins – Spent parts of five seasons with the Ducks (2012-16) and earned two Atlantic League Championships in the process. Went 15-11 with a 3.23 ERA and 212 strikeouts over 50 games (47 starts) during his first four seasons with the Flock. Turned in three quality starts during the playoffs with Long Island, including both decisive Game Five matchups in 2012.
Delta Cleary Jr. – Played three seasons with the Ducks (2015-17) and hit .297 with 139 RBIs, 172 runs, 395 hits, 52 doubles, eight triples and 91 stolen bases. Reached the playoffs each season and the Atlantic League Championship Series twice.
Amalio Diaz – Appeared in parts of four seasons with the Flock (2015-17, 2019) and was a major piece of the bullpen during each of the first three years. Recorded 34 saves and 204 strikeouts to just 44 walks over 167 innings in a Ducks uniform, compiling a 2.53 ERA. 2017 Atlantic League All-Star.
Mike Loree – Turned in arguably the best single season by a pitcher in franchise history during the 2011 season when he won the pitching Triple Crown. Led the Atlantic League with 14 wins, a 1.98 ERA and 131 strikeouts to win the league’s Pitcher of the Year honors. Had his contract purchased during the season by the Pirates, came back to pitch in the playoffs, then returned in 2012 before heading having his contract purchased again by the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
L.J. Mazzilli – Instrumental in the team’s 2019 Atlantic League Championship, leading the team in hits, RBIs, runs, total bases and doubles while ranking eighth in the Atlantic League in batting (.293) and 10th in RBIs (74). Also batted .400 with 12 hits in eight playoff games. 2019 Atlantic League All-Star.
Deibinson Romero – Earned 2019 Atlantic League Championship Series MVP honors after hitting .444 with two homers and nine RBIs during the series against Sugar Land. Batted .357 with three homers and 11 RBIs in the playoffs after joining the Ducks midseason and hitting .268 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs. 2019 Atlantic League All-Star.
Jordany Valdespin – Earned Atlantic League Player of the Year and Baseball America Independent Leagues Player of the Year honors in 2018 after leading the league in hits (154), runs (94) and triples (7).
The 2019 season represented many things for the Long Island Ducks and the Atlantic League. It was the 20th Anniversary Season for the Flock, one that saw the franchise reach the 8 Millionth Fan milestone off the field and set a franchise record for wins in a single-season on the field. The year also represented a landmark partnership agreed upon between the Atlantic League and Major League Baseball, highlighted by the implementation of the Automatic Ball-Strike System (ABS). For the first time in professional baseball games, balls and strikes would be determined electronically. Additionally, a host of playing rule changes and equipment initiatives were also debuted league-wide.
Another thing 2019 also represented was the end of the decade. The stretch of 10 seasons from 2010 to 2019 ended when the final out was made during the Atlantic League Championship Series, and what a memorable stretch it was for many of the league’s clubs. As periods of time come to a close, it offers fans, staffs and media the opportunity to look back on what has come and gone and determine who or what stood out from all that took place.
In the case of determining the Atlantic League’s Team of the Decade, there is no question the 2019 postseason had a major impact on determining who could hold that title. Three of the four teams in the playoffs were the Ducks, the Sugar Land Skeeters and the York Revolution. Each one had a legitimate case for why they should be the Team of the Decade, and it appeared at the outset of the playoffs that if any of the three won it all, they would be the most likely to hold the honor. Well, when Cody Mincey’s ninth-inning fastball to Juan Silverio was swung on and missed, the Long Island Ducks officially claimed the Atlantic League Championship and unofficially earned the Team of the Decade billing.
First, here’s a breakdown of the entire decade, including which teams won each half, wild card berths (if necessary), division champions and league champions:
If just going by how many times a team’s logo shows up on the chart, here is the full count:
Long Island Ducks: 20
York Revolution: 13
Sugar Land Skeeters: 13
Somerset Patriots: 12
Lancaster Barnstormers: 8
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs: 7
Bridgeport Bluefish: 2
High Point Rockers: 1
Now, Let’s look at each of the top three teams and why each one had strong cases for the honor:
Atlantic League Championships: 3 (2012, 2013, 2019)
Division Championships: 7 (2011-13, 2016-19)
Half-Season Championships: 9 (First Half – 2011, 2012, 2016, 2019; Second Half – 2011, 2013, 2017-19)
Playoff Berths: 8 (2011-13, 2015-19)
Atlantic League Championships: 2 (2016, 2018)
Division Championships: 4 (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019)
Half-Season Championships: 7 (First Half – 2013, 2018, 2019; Second Half – 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018)
Playoff Berths: 5 (2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019)
Atlantic League Championships: 3 (2010, 2011, 2017)
Division Championships: 3 (2010, 2011, 2017)
Half-Season Championships: 7 (First Half – 2010, 2014, 2016, Second Half – 2011, 2012, 2017, 2019)
Playoff Berths: 7 (2010-12, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019)
To win a championship, you first need to earn a spot in the Atlantic League playoffs. Though 50% of the league’s clubs earn a spot in the postseason, the task still is a challenge for many teams given the ever-changing rosters and grind that come with a 126 or 140-game slate. In the case of the Ducks, the franchise earned a playoff berth in eight of the 10 seasons played in the decade, a feat no one else has accomplished. The only two misses were in 2010, when the team went 70-68, and 2014, when the team went 73-67. In fact, the Ducks posted an overall regular season winning record in eight of the 10 seasons as well. On two separate occasions (2011 and 2019), the Ducks won both the first and second half of the Atlantic League’s regular season. Sugar Land also accomplished the feat twice (2013 and 2018), as did the Somerset Patriots (2014 and 2015). However, neither of those two reached the Atlantic League Championship Series on both occasions. The Ducks did.
Next, we move to the divisional round of the postseason, another area in which the Ducks saw tremendous success during the decade. They say you can’t spell “Liberty” without “Li”, and Long Island essentially laid claim to the division in the 2010’s. After missing the playoff during the decade’s first year, the Ducks reeled off three consecutive Liberty Division Championships from 2011 to 2013. In each of those three years, the Flock dispatched the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the first round of the postseason, earning a combined nine wins in 12 playoff games between the two. Then, after a playoff miss in 2014 and a five-game series loss to Somerset in 2015, Long Island went on to win four consecutive Division Championships from 2016 to 2019. In doing so, they became the first team in the Atlantic League’s 22-year history to win four straight division titles. The first three of those came in incredibly dramatic series against Somerset while the fourth took place against the expansion High Point Rockers.
During the decade, the Ducks posted a combined 23-11 record during Liberty Division Championship Series play. They won the division in seven of the 10 seasons during the decade, while Sugar Land claimed a division title in just four and York in just three. Despite York holding the smallest number of division titles among the trio, they do have a perfect record when it comes to going on and winning the Atlantic League Championship Series.
Ultimately, success in sports always seems to come down to winning the ultimate prize. In this case, that’s the Atlantic League Championship. In the 10 ALPB titles decided during the decade, the trio of Long Island, Sugar Land and York accounted for eight of them, with Lancaster (2014) and Somerset (2015) accounting for the other two. Of the three teams with multiple titles during the decade, Sugar Land has won twice while Long Island and York have each won three times. On one hand, the Revolution never lost an Atlantic League Championship Series that they played in. On another hand, they appeared in just three of them while Long Island appeared in seven. Sugar Land has won 50% of the four ALCS appearances they have made.
At the end of the day, assuming we give a team one point for a half-season title or wild card spot, two for a division championship and three for a league championship, here is the breakdown among the top three teams:
Long Island Ducks: 33 points (10+14+9)
York Revolution: 22 points (7+6+9)
Sugar Land Skeeters: 21 points (7+8+6)
The debate can go on among the fan bases of all three teams, and others, as to which should claim the highest honor over the past 10 seasons. There are a host of other accomplishments among the teams, between player contracts purchased, players reaching the Major Leagues, attendance milestones, post-season awards, and so on. Teams have also battled quite closely in terms of regular season won-loss records over those 10 seasons as well. However, when looking at the most important on-field success factors, including playoff berths, division championships and ALPB titles, it’s hard to argue against the Long Island Ducks as the Team of the Decade.
While all Atlantic League teams are still a couple of months away from announcing additions to their 2020 rosters, clubs have already begun the process of looking at who might take the field for them next season. With the recent news of the New Britain Bees joining the Futures Collegiate Baseball League this coming year and the Road Warriors returning to the ALPB, teams took part in a Player Dispersal Draft last week. This provided the opportunity for clubs to obtain the 2020 Atlantic League negotiating rights to players whose ALPB rights had been held by the New Britain Bees. To be clear, this DOES NOT mean that teams have signed and added those players to their roster. It simply means the team has an opportunity to exclusively negotiate with those specific players about signing with the team, and no other ALPB team can do so at this moment.
The Atlantic League held a very similar Dispersal Draft in 2017 after the Bridgeport Bluefish ceased operations. Seven of the eight clubs (Road Warriors excluded) had the opportunity to select three or more players during the draft, a format that was kept in place during this year’s edition. Draft picks went in reverse order of overall win-loss record from the most recent ALPB season. In 2017, the Ducks had the fifth pick of each round after going 73-67 and selected outfielder Daniel Fields, right-handed pitchers Vinnie Pestano and Elvin Ramirez, left-handed pitchers Wander Perez and Manny Parra, and infielder Sean Burroughs. Fields, Pestano and Perez all eventually signed contracts with the Flock for 2018.
This year, the Ducks posted the league’s best overall record at 86-54, therefore earning the seventh and final pick of each round. Long Island would go on to make four selections: In order, left-handed pitcher David Roseboom, infielder Ryan Jackson, right-handed pitcher Akeel Morris and infielder Rando Moreno. Here are some more in-depth looks at each of Long Island’s four selections:
Roseboom is a New York native, originally hailing from Pattersonville, located near Albany, and attending high school at LaSalle Institute in Troy. He was drafted in the 17th round by the New York Mets in 2014 out of the University of South Carolina Upstate and spent six seasons in the Mets organization, so Ducks Manager Wally Backman is certainly familiar with him. The 27-year-old earned two Mid-Season All-Star selections with the Mets too, coming in 2015 with Single-A Savannah and 2018 with Double-A Binghamton. The southpaw began 2019 by pitching in 10 games combined between Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse before joining the New Britain Bees in July. Roseboom made 15 appearances (12 starts) with the Bees, going 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA. He tossed a complete game shutout on September 8 in game one of a doubleheader against Lancaster and overall struck out 68 batters in 67 innings. Additionally, he gave up just 23 walks and six home runs during that span. In his 15 outings with the Bees, Roseboom allowed more than three runs just twice.
Jackson has the most Atlantic League experience of Long Island’s draft picks, having spent each of the past three seasons in the ALPB. The infielder split time in 2019 with the Bees and Sugar Land Skeeters, combining to bat .257 with two home runs, 33 RBIs, 35 runs, 93 hits, 14 doubles, 11 stolen bases and 41 walks over 102 games played. His numbers were relatively consistent among both clubs, having played just four more games with Sugar Land than New Britain, and he spent time at second base, third base and shortstop. The 31-year-old combined to play in 10 games for the Skeeters in 2017 and 2018 as well, going 8-for-33 at the plate, and had his contract purchased by the Seattle Mariners in June of 2017. A native of Miami, Jackson was originally a fifth round draft choice by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009 and reached the big leagues in 2012 and 2013 with the club, appearing in 20 games. He also played in 22 MLB games with the Los Angeles Angels in 2015. The University of Miami alum was a Texas League Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star in 2011 with Double-A Springfield.
Morris also spent time with a pair of Atlantic League clubs in 2019. He began the season with the expansion High Point Rockers in North Carolina, making 22 relief appearances with the club. The right-hander was 1-0 with a 4.23 ERA, one save and 23 strikeouts to 11 walks. On July 8, he was traded from High Point to Southern Maryland, only to be dealt again four days later to New Britain without having made an appearance for the Blue Crabs. Morris would eventually move into a starting role with the Bees after three games out of the bullpen. Overall, the 27-year-old made 16 appearances (13 starts) with New Britain, going 7-4 with a 4.94 ERA. Like Roseboom, Morris also began his career in the Mets organization, having been selected by New York in the 10th round of the 2010 draft. Though never managed by Backman, he did spend parts of seven seasons with the Mets organization and reached the big leagues in 2015. The U.S. Virgin Islands native was a back-to-back MiLB.com Organization All-Star selection with the Mets in 2014 and 2015, earning Mid-Season All-Star honors both years as well. Morris also made it to The Show in 2017 with the Braves (eight games) and in 2018 with the Angels (nine games).
Ducks fans will certainly be familiar with Long Island’s final selection, as Moreno began the 2019 season with the Flock. The versatile infielder played in 35 games with the Ducks, hitting .245 with 12 RBIs, seven runs and five doubles. Long Island then sent him to New Britain in June in a trade for third baseman Deibinson Romero, who would go on to have a strong season with the Flock that ended as the Atlantic League Championship Series Most Valuable Player. Moreno also found success with the Bees, becoming a regular in New Britain’s starting lineup after playing in a utility role for the Ducks. The Dominican Republic native played 75 games for the Bees, totaling four homers, 28 RBIs, 38 runs, 11 doubles, two triples and 13 stolen bases. The 27-year-old can play second base, third base and shortstop like Jackson. His first season in the Atlantic League came after posting a .305 batting average and earning defensive honors with San Rafael in the Pacific Association during the 2018 season. Prior to that, Moreno spent seven seasons in the San Francisco Giants organization, reaching as high as Triple-A. He was an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star in 2015 with Double-A Richmond.
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The 20th Anniversary Season of Ducks baseball could not have included much more. Off the field, the team celebrated its milestone season by announcing a new partnership with Major League Baseball in the Spring, a new lease with the County of Suffolk at its 20th Anniversary Celebration August 2, and then became the first team in Atlantic League history to welcome its 8 millionth fan, doing so on August 28 when Declan McCann of Yaphank watched the Ducks face the Blue Crabs.
On the field, the accomplishments were also bountiful. 15 players had their contracts purchased by Major League Baseball organizations or foreign professional leagues, the most ever in a single Ducks season. Three Ducks alumni reached the Major Leagues as well, including 2019 Ducks right-hander Tim Melville. Wally Backman took over the reigns as Ducks manager and proceeded to lead the Flock to both a First Half and Second Half Championship, just the second time in team history the Ducks have done that (2011), as well as a franchise-record 86 wins. He then guided Long Island to its fourth consecutive Liberty Division Championship, the first team in Atlantic League history to do that, and the Ducks fourth Atlantic League Championship in franchise history.
It’s hard to argue against 2019 being the most successful and memorable season in Long Island Ducks history. Now that the trophy has returned to Long Island, it’s time to look back at some of the key contributors from the team that helped make the Championship possible. Here are our choices for the “Quack of the Bat” Team Awards:
Player of the Year – L.J. Mazzilli
The Ducks had many changes to the roster during the season, but one aspect of the team that stayed somewhat consistent was the starting lineup. Long Island’s position player crop featured big power hitters such as David Washington and Daniel Fields, speed threats like D’Arby Myers and Vladimir Frias, and on-base machines like Lew Ford and Steve Lombardozzi. One player who could do a bit of everything, and served as the Ducks most consistent offensive contributor, was L.J. Mazzilli. That is why he is our Player of the Year. The versatile former Mets and Yankees prospect led the Ducks in several categories, including at bats (460), plate appearances (508), runs (66), hits (135), total bases (200), doubles (26) and RBIs (74). He posted a .293 batting average with 13 home runs and a .351 on-base percentage as well. After spending most of his season on the infield at second base, he became fixture in left field during the postseason with the Ducks. Not to mention, he batted .400 with a team-high 12 hits and seven runs during his eight playoff games. Despite many of his former Mets teammates leaving during the year (Matt den Dekker, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Pedro Beato), Mazzilli stayed put and ended his season with a Championship trophy held high over his head.
Starting Pitcher of the Year – Darin Downs
Much of Long Island’s success in 2019 was due to their pitching staff. They led the Atlantic League in innings pitched (1,222.1), strikeouts (1,210), batting average against (.243), wins (86) and saves (49) while ranking second in ERA (3.81). The Ducks starting pitching, specifically, was exceptional, leading the league with a .593 winning percentage (48-33), a 3.70 ERA and 701 strikeouts. This was all the case despite Long Island seeing eight starting pitchers have their contract purchased. While there were several candidates for this award, Darin Downs will receive the honor for 2019. The southpaw led the Ducks and was tied for second in the Atlantic League with 140 strikeouts. He also posted a 2.63 ERA, which would have ranked second in the league had he thrown enough innings to qualify. Downs held opponents to a .210 batting average this season and walked only 35. Nine of his 21 starts were quality starts, and the Ducks posted a 17-4 record in his starts well. Downs also had his contract purchased on June 4 by Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League. Honorable mention goes to Vin Mazzaro as well (see Breakout Player of the Year, below).
Relief Pitcher of the Year – Cody Mincey
Long Island’s bullpen was another area of strength during the Championship season. The relievers led the Atlantic League with 38 wins and 49 saves while ranking second with 509 strikeouts. Like the rotation, the bullpen also took several hits in 2019, with five players having their contract purchased, including four closers (George Kontos, Josh Lueke, Enrique Burgos and Michael Tonkin). While several relievers stood out from the pack, none did more than Cody Mincey. In his first year with the Flock, after spending a pair of seasons in the Frontier League, the righty became a reliable option for Wally Backman. He led the Ducks with 49 appearances, 10 more than any other Ducks pitcher, led all Ducks relievers with seven wins (to just one loss) and posted a team-best 2.53 ERA. In 67.2 innings of work, he struck out 96 batters, a total that was third-most among all Ducks pitchers. He walked just 26 batters, held opponents to a .220 batting average, saved five games and led the Flock with 13 holds. Mincey was also outstanding in the postseason, getting the save in all four of his opportunities, striking out 10 in six and two-thirds innings, yielding just two runs, on a hit and three walks, and holding opponents to a .048 batting average. He struck out Tyler Ladendorf to clinch the Liberty Division Championship and struck out Juan Silverio to wrap up the Atlantic League Championship.
Gold Glove – Vladimir Frias
He had been one of the best defensive players in the Atlantic League for two seasons prior and continued to show more of the same in 2019. Vladimir Frias earns the Ducks Gold Glove thanks to his fine work at shortstop this past season. Whether it was showing brilliant range on pop-ups to left and center field or laying out for ground balls up the middle and in the hole or throwing perfect bullets to first base, Frias did a little bit of everything at shortstop. He turned in a .964 fielding percentage at shortstop in 128 games played defensively. Additionally, he recorded 290 assists and 196 putouts while helping turn 77 double plays. Those 77 DP’s and 196 putouts were both career-highs for a single season.
“Rookie” of the Year – Joe Iorio
This award recognizes a Ducks player that greatly excelled in his first season as a member of the Flock. For this year’s honor, we will select the player that Ducks fans voted as the Delmonte-Smelson Team MVP, Joe Iorio. The right-hander came to Long Island after spending four seasons in the Frontier League. Originally given a role as a relief pitcher, he dazzled from the get-go, posting a 0.53 ERA through his first 10 appearances of 2019. He was then, out of need, shifted into the starting rotation and continued to impress. In 19 starts, the 27-year-old went 4-3 with a 3.20 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 104 innings. As the season winded down, Wally Backman needed to move Iorio back into the bullpen, and the Florida resident did so without hesitation. He became a key reliever for the Ducks down the stretch of the regular season and in the postseason as well, appearing in five playoff games. Iorio ended the regular season ranking second on the Flock in innings pitched (128.1), 79 more innings than his previous career high, as well as fourth in ERA (3.09), appearances (32) and strikeouts (92).
Breakout Player of the Year – Vin Mazzaro
For this honor, we highlight which member of the Ducks opened eyes and impressed greatly as the season wore on. It took some time, but pitcher Vin Mazzaro clearly became the winner by season’s end. He arrived on Long Island with the expectation of being a key late-inning reliever. However, the righty struggled in his bullpen role, going 3-4 with a 6.15 ERA over 29 appearances. Opponents batted .354 against him as a reliever. At the end of July, the Ducks coaching staff decided to try out Mazzaro in the starting rotation, and that decision would ultimately pay dividends. In 10 regular season starts, the eight-year MLB veteran went 8-0 and compiled a 2.15 ERA, striking out 57 and walking just 15 in 58.2 innings while holding opponents to a .207 batting average. Mazzaro went on to start three postseason games for the Ducks, including Games One and Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series. He won all three outings, conceding just six runs (four earned) in 20.1 innings, good for a minuscule 1.77 ERA. If Deibinson Romero was the top choice for Championship Series MVP, Mazzaro was absolutely option 1A.
Comeback Player of the Year – Lew Ford
Our next award highlights the player who rebounded best during the 2019 season, whether from a tough previous year or a difficult start to the current season. Our blog staff has selected outfielder and hitting coach Lew Ford for the second consecutive season. Ford played somewhat sparingly throughout the first half of 2019, appearing in just 34 of Long Island’s 70 games. He struggled out of the gate, batting .225 with two homers, 15 RBIs, 14 runs, six doubles and a .279 on-base percentage. After the All-Star break though, everything seemed to change. Ford, who turned 43 in August, found the Fountain of Youth in the second half. He posted an outstanding .363 batting average with 20 RBIs, 11 runs, 61 hits, 11 doubles and even two triples. He also compiled an impressive .412 on-base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage in the second half. The dominance continued into the postseason, where Ford hit .324 with four RBIs and seven runs in eight games.
Teammate of the Year – Hector Sanchez
Although we did not directly poll each of the players that donned a Ducks uniform this season, we find it hard to believe anyone would not think Hector Sanchez is most deserving of this honor. If any player emulated a “warrior” mentality, the Ducks catcher would be it. Sanchez played in 98 games this season, serving as the team’s primary catcher. As we detailed above, he did a magnificent job leading arguably the best pitching staff in the Atlantic League, one that had 43 different players throw a pitch this year. Defensively, he was exceptional as well, committing just four errors during the season and catching 28 runners attempting to steal bases. Not to mention, Sanchez routinely got injured on foul balls and pitches in the dirt yet almost never had to leave a game due to injury. He wasn’t too bad at the plate either, as he accrued a .273 batting average with nine homers, 58 RBIs, 96 hits and 20 doubles. Sanchez was universally appreciated by his teammates in the clubhouse, and pitchers routinely recognized him for the job he did calling games behind the plate at the clutch hits he came up with at the plate.
Community Award – Clint Freeman and Rob Rogers
Despite strong representation from throughout the Ducks roster and community functions during the season, our blog staff has selected pitcher/first baseman Clint Freeman and pitcher Rob Rogers to share this honor. In his first season with Long Island, Freeman was routinely signing autographs for Ducks fans. He could be seen often at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Autograph Booth and next to the field signing for fans. He would frequently catch ceremonial first pitches and thank Ducks sponsors and fans for their support. Freeman also went to Ronkonkoma to take part in a fun-filled day of wiffleball with members of the Beautiful Lives Project, which gives people with disabilities the opportunity to actively participate in events that may not have been available to them previously. Rogers was a repeat volunteer to visit children in local hospitals during the holidays and Valentine’s Day, and he also appeared with the team at parades in the community. He did all of those while simultaneously recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Throughout the season, he was often seen at the Autograph Booth taking pictures with fans and signing baseballs.
Stay tuned all offseason on “Quack of the Bat” for many other updates from the 2019 Atlantic League champions! We’ll have several look-backs on some of the incredible memories made during this past season as well as feature stories and things to look for as the focus shifts towards 2020.
Ducks and Skeeters play winner-take-all Game Five for Championship
7:35 p.m. EDT at Constellation Field (Sugar Land, Texas)
It all comes down to this, as the Long Island Ducks face the Sugar Land Skeeters in the decisive Game Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series. The series is tied at two games apiece, with each team going 1-1 in their home ballpark. Long Island is now 42-41 all-time in postseason play, including 15-25 on the road, and the team is 14-18 in Atlantic League Championship Series play, including 4-11 on the road. The Ducks hold an 82-74 lead in the all-time regular season against Sugar Land but is 33-45 at Constellation Field. In the postseason, the Skeeters hold an 8-4 lead, including a 5-1 advantage in Sugar Land.
GAME FOUR RECAP:
An extra inning thriller saw the Ducks come away with a 3-2 victory in 10 innings over the Skeeters on Saturday night in Game Four.
Sugar Land jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a pair of singles from Rico Noel and Wynton Bernard, along with a two-run triple down the left field line by Denis Phipps. However, Ducks starter Brandon Beachy would settle in after that and record five consecutive scoreless innings. He worked around a pair of one-out singles in the fourth and a leadoff walk in the sixth.
The Ducks closed to within 2-1 in the second inning on singles from Deibinson Romero, Vladimir Frias, and D’Arby Myers off Skeeters starter Chase De Jong. Long Island was unable to grab the tying run until the top of the sixth. L.J. Mazzilli doubled to lead off the inning, and David Washington eventually smacked an RBI single to right field on the ninth pitch of his two-out at bat to tie the game at two.
Both sides would threaten to break the deadlock from the seventh through the ninth, but neither side could do so. In the 10th inning, Mazzilli singled to left and stole second base with one out. Hector Sanchez hit a grounder back to reliever Josh Martin, who elected to throw to third base but threw wildly, allowing both runners to be safe. Romero followed with a sacrifice fly to left-center, scoring Mazzilli with the go-ahead run. Cody Mincey then worked a perfect 10th inning, striking out two, to earn his fourth save of the playoffs.
Joe Iorio (1-0) earned the win with three scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one walk while striking out three. Martin (0-1) took the loss after conceding the winning run on a hit in two-thirds of an inning. Beachy tossed six innings of two-run ball, striking out seven for the Flock, while De Jong lasted five and two-thirds innings, allowing two runs on eight hits with four strikeouts for the Skeeters.
GAME FOUR HIGHLIGHTS:
ON THE MOUND:
Both teams will go back to their Game One starter for Game Five on Sunday night. Right-hander Vin Mazzaro will make his third start of the 2019 postseason. He is 2-0 thus far with a 1.93 ERA, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits and six walks over 14 innings with 15 strikeouts. The former big leaguer started Game One against Sugar Land and earned the win with six innings of three-run ball, yielding three hits and two walks while striking out five batters. During the regular season, Mazzaro went 11-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 39 appearances (10 starts) with the Ducks. As a starter, he was 8-0 with a 2.15 ERA. He made six appearances, all in relief, against the Skeeters, going 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA.
Sugar Land will send Mike Hauschild back to the hill in the decider. The righty has made two playoff starts as well thus far and is 0-2 with a 6.59 ERA, conceding 11 runs (10 earned) on 15 hits and seven walks over 13.2 innings with 13 strikeouts. In Game One on Long Island, the former Major Leaguer was tagged for seven runs (including five in the first inning) on 11 hits and two walks over seven innings with six strikeouts. Hauschild went 4-0 with a 2.50 ERA in nine starts during the regular season for Sugar Land. However, he never faced the Ducks prior to the postseason.
Fans can follow all the action for tonight’s game, and every Ducks game in 2019, on the Long Island Ducks Broadcast Network. Live streaming HD video and audio via BoxCast will be available on the team’s official Facebook page through Facebook Live, on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel and at LIDucks.com in the Ducks Video Center on the homepage. In addition to updates in this post, fans can follow a live account of tonight’s game via the Atlantic League website by CLICKING HERE.
DUCKS GAME NOTES:
Long Island Ducks
#1 Vladimir Frias – SS
#2 Steve Lombardozzi – 2B
#20 Lew Ford – DH
#11 L.J. Mazzilli – LF
#37 Hector Sanchez – C
#21 Deibinson Romero – 3B
#30 David Washington – 1B
#14 D’Arby Myers – RF
#29 Daniel Fields – CF
#34 Vin Mazzaro – RHP
Sugar Land Skeeters
#11 Rico Noel – CF
#28 Wynton Bernard – LF
#21 Anthony Giansanti – 2B
#29 Denis Phipps – DH
#3 Albert Cordero – 1B
#17 Zach Borenstein – RF
#25 Jason Martinson – SS
#12 Cody Stanley – C
#6 Javier Betancourt – 3B
#10 Mike Hauschild – RHP
LIVE GAME UPDATES:
TOP 1: A bases loaded walk by Hector Sanchez has the Ducks out in front 1-0 in Game Five!
BOT 2: A leadoff solo home run to left field by Denis Phipps has tied the game up at one.
TOP 3: Back in front! Deibinson Romero lines a two-run single to left field, giving the Ducks a 3-1 lead!
TOP 5: An RBI single to left field by Hector Sanchez and a sacrifice fly to left by Deibinson Romero have increased the Ducks lead to 5-1!
BOT 7: Skeeters scratch across a run on a sac fly to center by Cody Stanley. Ducks 5, Skeeters 2
TOP 8: Daniel Fields lifts a sacrifice fly to left, scoring David Washington 6-2 Long Island!
BOT 8: Sugar Land closes to within 6-4 on an RBI fielder’s choice from Albert Cordero and a wild pitch.
TOP 9: A two-out, two-strike, two-run home run to left-center field by Deibinson Romero gives the Ducks an 8-4 lead! Romero has drive in five runs tonight!
FINAL: THE DUCKS ARE THE 2019 ATLANTIC LEAGUE CHAMPIONS!!! THEY DEFEAT THE SKEETERS 8-4 IN GAME FIVE AND WIN THE SERIES 3-2! GO CRAZY LONG ISLAND!