Good things often come to those who wait.
That saying could not be truer for Giovanny Alfonzo. After putting together the best season of his professional career with the Ducks in 2017, the infielder had to wait all offseason for a Major League organization to call. Fortunately, the New York Mets did just that late last week, offering him the opportunity to join the team for spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
“I got a phone call from [Mets Director of Minor League Operations] Ronny Reyes, and he invited me to come to a workout/free agent tryout type of deal,” Alfonzo remarked via telephone this week. “After it was all done, nothing too much was said. Just, ‘Thanks for coming, you looked great, keep up the good work and we’ll be in contact with you if something comes up.’”
The 25-year-old was gearing up for a return to Long Island. He had already signed a contract to play a second season with the Ducks, and he was looking forward to making the trek north in approximately one month. Instead, Alfonzo needed to reverse course and head further south from his home in Tampa to earn a place in the Mets’ system.
“A few days [after the tryout], I got my Ducks uniform on and was ready to do a video to announce that I signed back with the Ducks,” Alfonzo recalled. “Right when I put on my shirt, that’s when my agent called me, and that was pretty cool.”
Of all 56 players that put on the Ducks uniform in 2017, few, if any, were more deserving of this opportunity than Alfonzo. He led the team in batting average, hitting .309 over the course of 106 games during the regular season. That average was good for sixth-best in the Atlantic League. He also set career-highs in nearly every other offensive category, many by a wide margin. Yes, last year was just his third in pro ball. However, the dramatic increase in production despite playing against higher-caliber talent was certainly impressive.
“Playing in the Atlantic League, I got the experience of being a Major Leaguer in the sense that I was playing Major League Baseball,” Alfonzo opined. “Most of the pitchers from the other teams were Double-A, Triple-A or Major Leaguers. I learned a lot from the pitchers that threw against me. I’ve played at a high level, and I can say I’ve hit against big leaguers and gotten big hits against big leaguers. That’s something that I’ll use as confidence and take with me to each at-bat that I have.”
Here’s a closer look at Alfonzo’s career progression:
|2015 – Batavia (A-)||2016 – Greensboro (A)||
2017 – Ducks (IND)
|Runs Batted In||
Along with the challenge of facing tough competition and experienced players, Alfonzo also needed to find a way to earn playing time. He came to Long Island in a utility infield role behind the likes of veterans such as Dan Lyons, Cody Puckett and Elmer Reyes. However, some key injuries among his teammates forced Alfonzo into the spotlight early.
“The week that [Nolan] Reimold went down, that was the week that I got my feet wet,” he said. “I was able to play seven days in a row. That’s when I gave myself credit for being able to play in the Atlantic League, because it is high-level baseball.”
During the week he filled in for Reimold, Alfonzo hit safely in every game and compiled a .381 batting average (8-for-21). He then proceeded to collect walk-off RBIs in back-to-back games against the rival Somerset Patriots on May 19 and 20. By the end of the month, Alfonzo became the starting third baseman after Puckett went down with a season-ending knee injury. Thanks to his previous opportunity earlier in the month, the University of Tampa alum was ready to transition seamlessly.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Alfonzo affirmed. “I didn’t stress because I already knew I could play at that level. The only thing was, instead of going all out during practice to try and get my reps to stay in shape, I had to tone it down a little bit. I just took quality [swings in] batting practice and quality ground balls to be ready for each day rather than a thousand of each. That was the only real transition I had to make.”
There were several key factors that Alfonzo was able to point to regarding what made him successful last year. One was certainly the veterans that surrounded him, both in the Ducks clubhouse and that of his opponents. He was able to work with teammates every day on improving his craft and taking his game to the next level. In addition, the experience of those he faced in the opposite dugout forced Alfonzo to prove that he belonged on the same field with such competition.
“Having Delta [Cleary Jr.], Reyes, [Ruben] Gotay, [Marc] Krauss, Quintin [Berry], [Alex] Burg and all those guys with experience that were there for the majority of the season, each one of them taught me something different,” Alfonzo reminisced.
“It was just little things that we worked on throughout the entire season. A lot of it was mental and just not letting the game get to you. Just playing the game. I think that’s the reason why I had such great success.”
Along with those playing the game in the Atlantic League, Alfonzo was also able to enjoy some tutelage from another MLB veteran. That person just so happened to be his uncle, too. Former Ducks infielder Edgardo Alfonzo, who played 12 seasons in the big leagues, including eight with the New York Mets, worked with his nephew every day. Edgardo was in his first year managing the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Single-A affiliate of the Mets, and was able to watch Gio play and work with him when not on the job.
“I lived with [my uncle] last year, and he got to experience the season that I had with the Ducks every day,” Gio recalled. “Before I went to the stadium, we would watch my at-bats from the night before, or he’d talk to me about what I did the night before and how I feel.”
Now that 2017 is in his rearview mirror, Alfonzo is focused on what 2018 can bring. His ultimate destination at the culmination of spring training is unknown, as he will need to prove he belongs in the organization. However, he is not worried about what league or what city he might be playing in. He simply is looking for carpe diem; to seize the day.
“Basically it’s just ‘earn a spot,’” Alfonzo noted. “It’s a clean slate for spring training just like how it was when I was with the Marlins. Any player that goes through spring training with an affiliate knows everybody has to earn their spot for that season. They’re giving me an opportunity to prove what I have.”
Everyone, including his teammates, coaches and fans on Long Island, will be rooting for the popular infielder in his new opportunity with the Mets. They all want to see him playing under the lights at Citi Field one day. If the road leads him there, mission accomplished. Should it bring him back to Long Island, Alfonzo would welcome a return with open arms.
“That was a conversation I had with [Ducks President/GM Michael] Pfaff when I found out the Mets were bringing me to spring training,” he detailed. “I wanted to make sure that I was still a Duck regardless of what happened. He said, ‘D4L man, Duck for Life.’ If things happen, I’ll be coming back up there and playing for the remainder of the season whenever that time comes. I’ll always be a Long Island Duck, and I had the best time of my life last year. I’m going to miss those fans the most.”
Those same fans will certainly miss him. However, you can bet they will be following along, even if it’s from a thousand miles away.
Andrew Barbosa is back in a familiar place.
Three years after first donning the black and orange, the left-handed pitcher will begin his second tour of duty with the Long Island Ducks. He was signed by the team earlier this month, becoming the first pitcher added to the 2018 roster.
“I’m ready!” Barbosa exclaimed via telephone this week. “Last time I played, it was great. The fans are amazing. The organization as a whole is very professional. It’s great baseball out there.”
It’s been quite the journey for the 30-year-old over the past four seasons. He first came to the Ducks in 2015 after getting released by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the same team that drafted him in the 36th round back in 2012 out of the University of South Florida. The move came as a shock to Barbosa at the time, as he was named a Post-Season All-Star in 2013, a Mid-Season All-Star in 2014 and had compiled a 21-17 record with a 3.78 ERA over 64 games (62 starts).
“To be honest, I never knew what independent baseball was when I got released,” he recalled. “It was two weeks into the season, and I knew there was no chance of a minor league team picking me up because rosters were full. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Despite the uncertainty that can come with a new situation upon being released, Barbosa used his opportunity with the Ducks to prove his worth to Major League clubs. He made nine starts for Long Island, totaling a 4-1 record, a sparkling 2.82 ERA and 59 strikeouts to just 19 walks over 51 innings of work. His devastating changeup kept hitters around the league off-balance, and his 6-foot-8 frame made him an imposing presence on the mound.
“When I got [to Long Island], I realized the competition was great,” Barbosa noted. “It was up there with Double-A and Triple-A. It felt like I picked up where I left off.”
He continued to say, “The coaching staff was great; from the pitching coach to the manager everyone was professional…Being here makes you realize that you have to work hard to get back to where you were, and the team helped me so much.”
Thanks to his performance, the Atlanta Braves came calling. They purchased the southpaw’s contract in July and assigned him to the team’s Double-A affiliate in Mississippi. With the gratification of achieving his goal with the Flock and a fresh start in an MLB organization, Barbosa’s success continued. He made 16 appearances (five starts) to finish the year and posted a 5-2 record, a 2.68 ERA and 51 strikeouts over 43 and two-thirds innings. He was even named the Southern League’s Pitcher of the Week at the end of July after tossing 11 scoreless innings over two starts.
“Initially when you get to a new team you say ‘Okay, they’re giving me a new opportunity,’” Barbosa reminisced. “It felt so good to get picked up by the Braves. When I got there I just kept rolling.”
Although he was successful with the Braves, the organization decided to move on from the Puerto Rico native in the offseason. He was granted free agency in early November, but just over a month later, Atlanta’s NL East rival gave him an opportunity. The New York Mets signed him to a minor league deal, making them Barbosa’s third National League organization. 2016 presented a bit of a challenge, as a lat injury sidelined him for nearly two months between May and July and then for another couple of weeks in early-August.
When healthy, though, Barbosa was magnificent. He split time at four different levels in 2016, including Triple-A for the first time in his career, and in 16 games (15 starts) accrued a 3-0 record, a miniscule 1.51 ERA and 71 strikeouts to 19 walks in 71 and two-thirds innings. He was chosen as the Florida State League’s Pitcher of the Week as well on September 4. During that week, he fired seven no-hit innings while striking out 11 on August 29 at Charlotte. After a promotion back to Double-A, he tossed eight innings of one-hit, scoreless baseball on Sept. 4 at Erie to end the season. His numbers were tremendous, especially to close out the year, yet the Mets felt his injuries proved questionable enough to avoid keeping him. He was granted free agency once again on November 7.
“Going into free agency, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Barbosa remembered. “They said they’re going to move on and I was disappointed, but when I got a call from my agent saying there were three or four teams that wanted to pick me up, that reassured me maybe I’m still where I want to be.”
He added, “I still often think about why the Mets didn’t want me back. On one hand it was cool to have a new opportunity, but I always wonder why they didn’t want to pick me up again.”
Much like the previous year, it did not take long for an MLB club to consider Barbosa worthy of a contract. This time, it was the Milwaukee Brewers who signed the lefty in a month’s time following his release. The team invited him to spring training and elected to have him pitch out of the bullpen with Triple-A Colorado Springs once the season began. Despite a pair of minor stints on the seven-day disabled list, Barbosa remained healthy enough to appear in 36 games (four starts). In his primary role as a reliever, he compiled a 7-2 record with a 3.68 ERA.
While he was with the Sky Sox, he also had the opportunity to reconnect with his previous Ducks roots. After pitching with Ducks teammate Mickey Jannis in the Mets organization during the 2016 season, he became teammates with 2017 Ducks outfielder Quintin Berry after the Brewers purchased his contract from Long Island in August. Though Berry’s time in Colorado Springs lasted just 10 games before he was promoted to the big league club, Barbosa was able to chat with the MLB veteran about his time on Long Island and recall the great memories both players made there.
“He came over one day, and I said ‘Hey man, how are the Ducks?’” Barbosa recalled. “He said, ‘It’s good to be here, but it was so much fun over there.’ Quintin’s the man. He got called up at the end of the season, and it was awesome to see that. It showed that if you want [to get back to the Major Leagues], you have to grind it out. There are players who get released, get bummed out and stop playing baseball even though they are so talented.”
Following his release by the Brewers last November, the Florida resident made three starts with Indios de Mayaguez during their abbreviated winter season. Now, three organizations and three seasons of winter league baseball in Puerto Rico later, Barbosa is back on Long Island. Having previously gone through an experience with the Ducks that exceeded his expectations, his focus this season is no longer guided by the promise of getting back to an affiliated club. Instead, Barbosa is fueled by the desire to win and let everything else work itself out.
“I’m just going to take it one pitch at a time,” he stated. “I can only control what happens there, and I’m focused on the Ducks. I want to win games and do well, but I have to take it one pitch and one out at a time and everything else will fall into place.”
And not only will the southpaw have competitive baseball to look forward to. After getting married earlier this offseason, he and his wife, Mallory, are expecting their first child together later this year.
Alex Burg had two goals upon joining the Ducks for the first time in 2017: to win an Atlantic League championship and to earn a contract from a Major League organization. While he came up just short of accomplishing the former, he can now celebrate achieving the latter.
The catcher, who had signed on for a second season with Long Island back on February 1, was inked to a minor league contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend. He will head to Glendale, Ariz. to join the team at its spring training facility, looking to prove his worth to the organization.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity,” Burg said via telephone. “I’m hoping it all works out and that I get the chance to show I can play every day.”
Getting to this point required a decision that Burg made back during the spring of 2017. Prior to beginning his first experience in the Atlantic League, he knew exactly what he hoped to gain from the opportunity. The Washington native was looking for some consistency after spending seven seasons as a utility player in three different Major League organizations.
“I told [Ducks President/GM] Mike [Pfaff] that I wanted to catch every day,” Burg recalled. “I felt like it was my best position but was something I hadn’t really done much of.”
During his time in the San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers’ systems, the first place to look for Burg was not behind the plate. He spent most of his innings in right field (803.2) but was also frequently found at third base (649.0). He spent some time at first base, second base and in left field as well. Versatility is a tremendous asset for any ballplayer and a trait that field managers adore. However, Burg’s belief was that his best position was at catcher and that the key to returning to an MLB organization would be to spend a full season there.
“I felt like that was the best way to get back into affiliated baseball,” he opined. “If I could show that I could catch and still carry an offensive stick, I would obviously be more valued. Throughout my time in minor league baseball, everyone knows that I could go play any position with no issues. However, proving that I could catch would make me more appealing.”
Burg had never caught more than 25 games in a single regular season entering his inaugural year with the Flock in 2017. By year’s end, he would catch 98 games during the season and seven more in the playoffs. While the result was not, at least immediately, a contract with an MLB club, the outcome was what Burg called “the most fun [he’s] ever had playing baseball in [his] entire life.”
2017 represented a little bit of everything for the 30-year-old. While taking to a specific position for the duration of the season, the experience required a great deal of work to prove his worth behind the plate. As the season progressed, Burg received a great deal of help from his teammates and coaches and put in extensive work to refine his craft. The results on the field, in his opinion, were certainly a positive development.
“I was really happy with my defense,” Burg exclaimed. “That was something that was a definite question mark of mine. It was my first year of catching every day and was something I had to prove to myself that I could do. I felt like I made a lot of strides catching-wise. I still have a ways to go in that aspect, but I was really happy with the way I was able to play defense.”
A major reason why the Washington State University alum was able to develop defensively was the work he did with teammate Jordan Pacheco. The former big leaguer, who, like Burg, was signed by an MLB organization this offseason (Twins), was also fine-tuning his craft behind the plate. After suffering a shoulder injury the previous year, Pacheco needed to build back up the strength in his arm while also reacclimating to the role. This dynamic offered the forum for an exchange of tutelage between the two backstops.
“It was never a competition between us, which was really cool,” Burg reminisced. “Baseball can be kind of a dog-eat-dog world, but it never felt like that. He told me that I threw really well and would ask me what I would do to get those results. Hitting-wise, I would tell him that I loved the way he swung and would ask what he did there. It became almost like an offseason friendship where every day we would show up, go over what we wanted to work on and then get out there to get better.”
Though he was happy with the improvements made in his defensive game, his offensive performance was a bit of a bumpy road. Burg got out to a strong start to his season, driving in seven runs over the season’s first eight games and bringing a .278 batting average into the month of June. After securing a spot in the Atlantic League All-Star Game, the wear and tear from catching so frequently began to take its toll. Burg struggled in the second half despite the Ducks earning a postseason berth, and he ended the year with a .225 batting average, well below the .260 average over his previous seven seasons.
“I was extremely disappointed in how I broke down at the end of the season, in terms of my offense,” Burg noted. “I had a huge first half and made the All-Star Game. Being that it was the first time catching full-time, my body wasn’t used to the rigors of that second half. I was really disappointed in the way that I finished.”
Fortunately for the former Giants draft pick, a playoff spot gave him the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and show that he could still be dangerous offensively. In Long Island’s seven postseason games, no other Duck had a batting average within 50 points of him. Burg hit .348 (8-for-23), with the next closest teammate being Marc Krauss at .296. In addition, Burg clubbed two of the team’s three postseason homers, scored five runs and drew four walks.
Because of his tremendous turnaround, the Ducks were able to claim their second consecutive Liberty Division Championship over the rival Somerset Patriots. Looking back now on what allowed Burg to flip the proverbial switch, he was able to attribute the success to a conversation with a close friend and fellow ballplayer whom he works out with in the offseason.
“[Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman] Jake Lamb is a really good friend of mine,” he noted. “He had a second half struggle as well. We were talking, and I asked him, ‘what are you trying to do?’ He said that he just tried to back up on the ball a little more and simplify everything. Being in the playoffs and knowing that you’re 0-for-0 and get to start over helps a ton. Your numbers in the playoffs don’t matter. It’s just about trying to win as many games as possible and trying to bring home a championship. That mindset helped me and reenergized me offensively for sure.”
While his goal of bringing home a championship came up short against the York Revolution, his first experience in the Atlantic League was an overwhelming success. He was able to enjoy a high level of play, focus on winning and develop a consistent presence at one position. All of that has now culminated in a second chance at achieving his Major League dream, a chance that might not have happened otherwise.
“I feel like it exceeded all my expectations,” Burg asserted about his year with the Flock. “I really had no clue what I was walking into, and I had no idea that the baseball would be that good. The star power that you see in the league and the guys that can still play, it was truly awesome. I had more fun playing baseball last year than I probably had in my entire life. That was the main reason I was ready to come back [before the Dodgers offered a contract].”
Now that he has a full year of catching under his belt, Burg knows what to expect from the position. The mental and physical grind is tougher than just about any other position on the field. It has a significant effect over the course of time. Knowing this, and his desire to avoid a downturn as the season progresses, Burg has focused his offseason workouts on keeping his endurance high.
“I’ve just done a little bit more leg work and endurance-type activities,” he claimed. “You’re trying to feel stronger for a longer period of time. I’ve just developed a routine of doing similar things to what I had been but focusing more on my legs or increasing the number of reps. I also created a better maintenance program for the season. I think that will be a big help too. My lifts weren’t as good during the season as I would have liked them to be. I’m just trying to figure out a way to keep my body in better shape.”
It remains unclear where Burg will begin his 2018 season. He split time at Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 prior to joining the Flock, leaving either of those as his likely destination. However, the sky is the limit for him with the Dodgers. With a new workout regimen to keep up his strength, a full year of catching experience in his arsenal and a second chance at living out his dream, Burg could one day be wearing Dodger blue in a big league ballpark.
The Hot Stove has reached its highest temperature of the winter. MLB spring training is right around the corner, the month of February kicked off on Thursday, and tonight, the Caribbean Series officially gets underway. Guadalajara, Mexico will play host to some of the top professional ballplayers representing Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Winter League championships have been crowned in each country, and now it is time to see which will reign supreme. Many of the players from those clubs, as well as those who narrowly missed out on a league title, will be taking the field in this illustrious tournament. Puerto Rico won the Caribbean Series last year, but host country Mexico has taken the title nine times overall.
Atlantic League fans need to look no further than the tournament to see some of their favorite players before the spring. Many Ducks and league alumni from the 2017 campaign, and from years past, will be taking part in the series. Although no league alumni will be featured on the Cuban roster, let’s check out who will be representing the remaining countries taking part in this year’s tournament:
Representing the host country at this year’s Caribbean Series will be a roster primarily featuring players from Tomateros de Culiacan. The squad earned the Mexican Pacific League’s championship title in a thrilling seven-game series over Mayos de Navojoa that featured five games decided by two runs or less. It also saw Navojoa nearly erase a 2-0 series deficit in which they were shut out by the same 4-0 margin in each of the first two games.
Among the players from Culiacan who will play in the Caribbean Series are pitchers Casey Coleman and Derrick Loop along with outfielder Rico Noel. Coleman, who made 23 appearances (four starts) for New Britain in 2017, earned the win in the championship’s decisive Game Seven with one and two-thirds scoreless innings of relief. Loop, who last pitched in the Atlantic League with Sugar Land in 2016, gave up just one run in six and two-thirds innings during the Championships Series. Noel , the former big leaguer and 2017 Lancaster Barnstormer, had a pair of multi-hit games in the Championship. Also joining them is Noel’s Barnstormer teammate pitcher Daniel Moskos, who was a member of runner-up Navojoa. He totaled two saves and a win during the league finals but blew the save in Game Seven by yielding a run in the ninth inning of a 4-3 game.
In addition to those four, a pair of former Ducks will also be playing for Mexico in the Caribbean Series. Nick Struck, who pitched in Mexico during the 2017 regular season, posted a 1.78 ERA in 21 games for Venados de Mazatlan during the Winter League season before his team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. He went on to pitch in Venezuela for eventual-champion Caribes de Anzoategui before he was offered the opportunity to pitch for Mexico’s team in the Caribbean Series. 2015 Duck Ryan Kussmaul will also be on the squad. He had a sparkling 1.45 ERA in 19 games for Aguilas de Mexicali this winter and was part of the team that beat Mazatlan in the first round but lost to Culiacan in the semifinals.
Puerto Rico’s regular season was shortened to 18 games due to the affects of this past year’s hurricane season. Defending league champion Criollos de Caguas led the league with an 11-7 record and went on to sweep aside Cangrejeros de Santurce in three games during the Championship Series, winning two games by a single run.
Representing Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series will be a pair of 2017 Ducks in pitcher Jake Fisher and infielder Ruben Gotay. Fisher was 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA in three starts during the winter season with Caguas and then started Game One of the finals. He allowed just one run in five and one-third innings, and though he allowed five hits and five walks, ultimately tooka no-decision in the team’s 2-1 win. While Gotay did not have the chance to play in the Championship Series, he batted .267 with seven RBI in 13 games during the Winter League season.
Several other Atlantic Leaguers will also be on the roster. Ivan Maldonado, who was part of the 2010 Ducks roster, won the Championship clinching Game Three with six innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 win. 2017 ALPB champion Dayron Varona went 5-for-11 with an RBI and two runs scored during the Championship Series for Caguas to earn a spot on Puerto Rico’s roster. Somerset Patriots infielder David Vidal went 1-for-9 with two walks in the finals for Caguas but was selected to play on the team as well. Though they didn’t play in the Championship, Skeeters catcher Wilfredo Rodriguez and Barnstomers/Bluefish pitcher Luis Gonzalez will also play for Puerto Rico.
Down south in Venezuela, the aforementioned Caribes de Anzoategui claimed this year’s championship with a victory in six games over Cardenales de Lara. The team reeled off three consecutive wins after falling behind in the series two games to one. The only former Duck on the winning squad was Struck, as we also mentioned earlier, though he will represent Mexico in the Caribbean Series. He put together a phenomenal Championship Series, totaling three saves, four and one-third scoreless innings and recording the final three outs in the clinching Game Six.
Veteran Blue Crabs pitcher Daryl Thompson will pitch for Venezuela in the Caribbean Series. He started Games One and Five in the Championship Series for Anzoategui and took no-decisions in both. The righty combined to allow four runs in 11 and one-third innings (3.18 ERA) though he did surrender 18 hits. Two-time former Duck Ricardo Gomez will also represent Venezuela after pitching for runner-up Lara. He threw three and one-third scoreless innings during the Championship Series. Other Atlantic League alumni on the roster for the Caribbean Series include Skeeters pitcher Felipe Paulino, who gave up two runs in two and two-thirds innings and took the loss in Game Four, and Bluefish infielder Luis Hernandez, who did not play in the Championship Series for Anzoategui. Hernandez’s rights are now owned by the New Britain Bees.
Finally, we round things out in the Dominican Republic where a wild Championship Series ended with Aguilas Cibaenas topping Tigres del Licey in seven games. Cibaenas held a 2-0 series lead, saw Licey even the series and then traded wins with Licey over the final three games. Only three of the seven games were decided by three runs or less, and three were decided by six or more runs.
Two Atlantic League alumni that played for Cibaenas and will represent the Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Series are outfielder Alfredo Marte and pitcher Josh Judy. Marte, who spent time in 2016 with Southern Maryland and York, only appeared once in the Championship Series as a defensive replacement. He did bat .271 though with a homer and five RBI during the winter season. Judy, a pitcher for York in 2013 and 2015, gave up two runs in three and two-thirds innings and collected a save in the league finals and had a 1.37 ERA during the Winter League campaign.
Also pitching for the Dominican will be three-year Lancaster starter Bryan Evans (2015-17). He compiled a 2-2 record with a 3.67 ERA in the regular season for Toros del Este but joined runners-up Licey in the Championship Series. He dominated in Game Three, pitching seven scoreless innings, yielding just two hits and two walks while striking out eight but took a no-decision after a pair of relievers coughed up a late 3-0 lead. Evans then came back in Game Five but was roughed up for four runs (three earned) on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings to take the loss.
The Caribbean Series begins on Friday night with five days of round robin play. The top four teams will then do battle in the semifinals on Wednesday, February 7. The Championship will follow on February 8 at 9:00 p.m. local time. Fans wishing to follow all the action can do so on ESPN Deportes by watching on their television or online HERE. Scoreboards are also available to keep track of the action via ESPN and MLB.com. Best of luck to all of the Ducks and Atlantic League alumni participating!
The 18-year history of the Long Island Ducks has seen a wide swath of players don the team’s orange and black colors. From long-time Major Leaguers to players looking for a second chance at reaching the game’s highest level to those fresh out of college, each season’s roster has been a sort of “melting pot” of the professional baseball world. Despite the hundreds of players that have made their way to Central Islip, there have only been a select few to truly cement their place as one of the franchise’s legendary players. Dan Lyons is most certainly one of them.
After joining the club in a utility role prior to the 2011 season, he has been firmly etched into the shortstop position for the past six years. Lyons has batted in seemingly every spot of Kevin Baez’s lineup card, but while his place among the starting nine hitters may change, his presence among the group has been constant. That consistency will continue to remain in place during the 2018 season, after the 33-year-old re-signed with the team on Thursday, making him the first Duck to put pen to paper this year.
His accolades are plentiful. He is twice an Atlantic League champion (2012, ’13), three times an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection (2012, ’15, ’16) and twice a Post-Season All-Star (2012, ’15). The Minnesota native was named the Championship Series Most Valuable Player in 2012 after his infamous waddle-off bunt single, and he was the league’s first-ever winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove Defensive Player of the Year award. Lyons enters the 2018 season with a franchise record in sight as well, sitting just 68 games shy of equaling Ray Navarrete for the most games played in team history.
We sat down with the greatest shortstop in Long Island Ducks history this week to look back on what he’s accomplished thus far and what he is hoping to achieve this year: