20th Anniversary Team Voting – Catcher

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19 seasons of Long Island Ducks baseball have come and gone. Players from all around the world and of all varieties of baseball experience have worn the Ducks uniform since the first pitch on April 28, 2000. In that time, they have played in front of nearly 8 million fans in Central Islip, and millions more around the rest of the country. Those players and coaches have also earned three Atlantic League Championships, seven Division Championships, 13 half-season Division Championships and over 1,300 victories. As the Ducks 20th Anniversary Season, presented by Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, approaches, it is time to determine which members of the Flock have stood above the rest.

Today begins the voting of our 20th Anniversary Team, featuring the best players in team history at each position as decided by you, the best fans in baseball. Of the hundreds of players to have donned the orange and black, there have been many who have stood out from the rest of the Flock. Whether they became fan favorites for how they played the game, how successful they were on the diamond or how much they interacted with those in the crowd, this elite group of Ducks have forever etched their name into the franchise’s history books.

We begin our fan voting for the 20th Anniversary Team behind home plate. Throughout their history, the Ducks have had a wide range of players fill the catcher position. Some of had extensive Major League experience while others have needed to fill in fresh out of college. Through 19 seasons of play, there have been a bunch of standout backstops that have certainly made their case for a spot on the 20th Anniversary Team. Here are the three nominees for the coveted catcher position:


Francisco Morales
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The first catcher to put on a Long Island Ducks uniform turned out to be one of the best backstops in franchise history. Morales joined the Flock for the inaugural 2000 season after spending time in the Cubs, Cardinals and Expos organizations. He ended up spending three seasons (2000-02) in Central Islip, totaling at least 20 home runs, 85 RBIs and 20 doubles each year. The Dominican Republic native amassed 63 homers, 261 RBIs, 213 runs, 408 hits and 79 doubles in his 367 games with Long Island. Though he was unable to play postseason baseball with the Ducks, he earned a pair of All-Star selections, including the chance to represent the Ducks during the 2002 All-Star Game played on Long Island. Defensively, Morales compiled a .986 fielding percentage with the Ducks and threw out almost 30% of runners attempting to steal. Previously, he was chosen as catcher on the Ducks 10th and 15th Anniversary Teams in 2009 and 2014, respectively. After his time with the Ducks, Morales went on to serve as the bullpen catcher for the Cleveland Indians.


Jamie Pogue
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Our second catcher nominee for the 20th Anniversary Team also spent three seasons with the Ducks. Pogue first joined Long Island in 2003 and played 71 games that season, hitting .255 while scoring 38 runs. The native Canadian returned to the Flock in 2007 after spending one season apiece in the Atlantic League with Nashua and Bridgeport. He went on to play two more seasons with the Ducks in 2007 and 2008, increasing his totals in nearly every offensive category each year. Pogue ended his Ducks career with a .257 batting average, 17 homers, 85 RBIs, 130 runs and 210 hits in 245 regular season games. Defensively, Pogue was one of the best backstops in team history, committing just 13 errors in three seasons and totaling a .991 fielding percentage. He helped lead the Flock to a pair of postseason appearances in his final two years and earned a pair of All-Star Game selections (2003, ‘08). Pogue eventually took on the role of bullpen catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, a position he still holds today.


J.R. House
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Last, but certainly not least, is our third nominee for the 20th Anniversary Team catcher: J.R. House. House only spent one season in a Ducks uniform, but his 2011 campaign was unquestionably one of the best by a backstop in franchise history. After some initial struggles, which he attributed recently to being away from his family and some mechanical issues, the five-year MLB veteran took off. House went on to play 113 games for the Ducks and batted .305 with 19 home runs, 81 RBIs, 73 runs, 128 hits and 22 doubles. His .365 on-base percentage was due in large part to striking out just 37 times during the season while drawing 40 walks. Behind the plate, and a bit at first base, House did not make a single error all year. He also guided a pitching staff that led the league in wins (78) and saves (41) while ranking second in ERA (4.17) and strikeouts (863). The Charleston, W.Va. native deservedly earned an All-Star Game selection and helped the Ducks to their first Atlantic League Championship Series appearance since 2004. House has since put together a successful coaching career, leading to his recent appointment as the Cincinnati Reds Third Base/Catching Coach.


The time has come to cast your ballot for the 20th Anniversary Team catcher. Click the link below to be taken to the voting page and select which of our three nominees is most deserving. Fans can vote as many times as they would like over the next week. The winner, along with the remainder of the 20th Anniversary Team, will be unveiled at the beginning of the 2019 season!

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Be sure to check back again next week, as we’ll unveil our three nominees for the first base position.

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Wally Backman’s First Comments as Ducks Manager

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The Long Island Ducks certainly made headlines this week throughout the Atlantic League, professional baseball and sports communities. Their first bit of news came on Tuesday when the Rockland Boulders announced the hiring of Kevin Baez as their manager for the 2019 season. The hire brings an end to an eight-year run as skipper of the Ducks for Baez, one that was highlighted by six Atlantic League Championship Series appearances, back-to-back league championships in 2012 and 2013 and the most wins by any manager in franchise history (600 total, including 571 in the regular season).

That announcement was followed up on Wednesday with the introduction of the sixth manager in Ducks history: Wally Backman. The 59-year-old will guide the Flock after spending one season managing in the Atlantic League with the New Britain Bees. Backman’s Bees were 33-30 in the first half of the season a year ago, finishing just two games behind Somerset in the Liberty Division. His club ended the season at 61-65 overall after he saw six players have their contracts purchased during the season, including five by Major League organizations, four of whom reported to Triple-A clubs.

Overall, Backman brings 20 seasons of managerial experience to the Ducks, including 11 with MLB organizations. He has amassed over 1,100 regular season victories and a .511 winning percentage as a manager, and he has won three league championships as well. Prior to his coaching career, the Oregon native enjoyed a 14-year career in the Major Leagues. Nine of those were spent with the New York Mets, where he helped the team win the 1986 World Series and drew the admiration of many local baseball fans in this area.

Members of the media had the chance to speak with Backman on Wednesday following the announcement of his hire. Here is a transcript from the conference call:


What made you want to join the Long Island Ducks?

“I think what made me want to join the franchise is the people that I have to work with. I think they’re good baseball people. They care about the same things I care about, and that’s winning and trying to put a good product on the field every day.”

How excited are you about coming here, and how quickly did all of this happen?

“It happened pretty quickly. I’m excited about it! I’m back in my old stomping grounds, and I always showed my interest in being in the New York area. With this opportunity becoming available, I thought it was a great opportunity to go back to where I really wanted to be, and that was in New York.”

What did you learn about the Atlantic League last year from being in New Britain?

“Well, I think one of the positives was just how good the baseball was. It was very good caliber baseball. I think I had 14 or 15 guys that had played in the big leagues. I liked the level of play and the way the league was run. I had done independent baseball before I ever went and did affiliated ball, and to come into the Atlantic League last year and see the way it was run and the people that were involved in the Atlantic League, I was excited about it.”

Why did you want to be back in New York?

“The knowledge of baseball from the people of New York. The playing days that I had in New York and the respect that I had for the people because the knowledge of the game was so much different in New York than it was in any of the other cities that I played in or even managed in. They keep you on your toes. They expect good things to happen, and they’re knowledgeable people about the game. That part of it excited me and just coming back to be around the New York media. I’ve always had a good rapport with those people. I know a lot of them are a lot older, like I am…but I’ve always enjoyed the media and had a good relationship with the media. I look forward to the upcoming season.”

Is getting to the big leagues still a goal for you, and how many obstacles have you faced to get there?

“I’ve faced some obstacles, there’s no question, but it’s definitely my goal still. I’ll say this, and I’ll say it to anybody else, that my focus this year is 100% on the Ducks. Yeah, I would like to get back to the big leagues at some point in time, but again, I just signed a contract with the Long Island Ducks, and they’re going to get 100% of Wally Backman.”

How much of a challenge do you think it will be to get to the big leagues?

“You know what, I’m not even really thinking about that at this point. I’m excited about where I’m going. Everything’s a challenge, but I’ve never been a quitter and I’m not going to quit at anything I do.  I would like to reiterate though that my focus is the Long Island Ducks and trying to win a championship there now.”

How much of a factor was it coming to a team that has the foundation and culture of success?

“Well, it’s huge. Knowing that you’re coming to an organization that really wants to win, is about winning and will do just about everything to try to help you accomplish that, I hope that I’m one of the ingredients that puts us over the top and helps us win a championship.”

What’s the biggest difference between managing at Triple-A and in the Atlantic League?

“Probably the biggest difference would be development. You’re trying to develop players in affiliated baseball. You’re still trying to develop, somewhat, in the Atlantic League, but it’s really more based on winning and trying to get guys back to where they can get an opportunity to go back to affiliated baseball or even to the big leagues.”

How nice will it be to reconnect with Bud Harrelson?

“Well, it would be huge. We did reconnect last year when I would come to town when I was with New Britain. Buddy and I have a long history together. I wish Buddy the best, and I hope he’s out there every day with us.”

How does it make you feel that your reception from New York fans always seems to be universally positive now more than three decades removed from that special 1986 championship team?

“Well it’s too long ago, that’s for sure. I’m getting too old now. Like I said, I enjoyed my time in New York. I always did, and I always wanted to come back to New York. To get this opportunity, I’m very grateful for it and hopefully good things come out of it.”

In the analytics-driven world that baseball has become, how much can analytics play a part in managing at this level?

“I’ve been using analytics since they’ve been available. I use the things that I believe help me, things like ground ball percentages, fly ball percentages and the way guys pitch in certain situations. All the information that I’m able to get, I try to go through all of that and use it to the best of my ability to help the team win.”

Do your instincts play a part in making managerial decisions as well? Do you balance the two?

“I think you’ve got to use both. You’ve got to use your eyes and use the things that are on paper too. These are human beings that are playing against you, and the analytics make a big part of that. It helps you tremendously on your defense, and it also helps your players. If you can give them certain parts of that to where they can analyze it themselves, it also helps make them a better player.”

How would you describe yourself in terms of managerial style?

“I’m an aggressive manager but under control. I use the information that’s given to me. I like to be aggressive on the bases. I like to see our guys go first to third. Those are things that I really demand of the players, just not to go through the motions. But I’m a player’s manager as well. I played for some of the best managers in the game, starting with Joe Torre as my first manager in New York to Jim Leyland, Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella. I could go on with other guys that I played for in the big leagues, but you try to take a piece from each one of them. The way that Jim Leyland communicated with his players, I thought, was one of the best that I had ever seen. Davey was a smart manager, and we had a great team in ’86. You try to take pieces from a little bit of all those guys and try to use it as an asset for yourself and go from there. I’m still Wally Backman, but I’ve taken a piece of a lot of those guys and tried to use it to the best of my ability in the way that I manage a game.”

Is it in some ways more fun at the minor league level now because it seems to be more of an old-style, fundamental type of baseball?

“I think it’s a big part in winning. Fundamentally, you have to be able to bunt and move runners over. Everybody loves the home runs, but you can win baseball games a lot of other ways than just the home runs. The strikeouts are a concern with me. A lot of people say, ‘an out is an out,’ but a strikeout, to me, can never be a productive out.”

How much time have you spent on Long Island previously, especially here in Suffolk County?

“Well, I lived in Dix Hills. I built a house in Dix Hills in the 80’s when I was playing in New York, so I’m pretty familiar with the Island.”

What have you learned in 20 years as a manager? How are you different from when you were managing with the White Sox organization to now?

“You know, I’m not a whole lot different. I respect the game, and I expect the players to respect the game. The thing that I probably have changed in those 20 years is the analytics. I’ve tried to use the analytics as far back as I can remember, whatever it might have been. Everything’s available to you today, and I think if you go through certain parts of the analytics, it can really help you win games.”

Is the rotation of players the most difficult part of independent baseball, with guys often going back to affiliated ball?

“Well, I think that’s a part of the Atlantic League. I think that’s why the Atlantic League is, without a doubt, the number one independent league there is in baseball. I don’t know exactly how well we’re affiliated with Major League Baseball. I know we follow all the guidelines and all the rules, but I think it’s important to show those players that we care about the players and are trying to get them back to affiliated ball. Whether it’s the minor leagues or overseas or back to the Major Leagues, we’re there for them. They can show what they can do on the field, and we get scouted very heavily.  There are opportunities for those players, and we’re just a piece of it. We’re giving those players an opportunity to show what they can do on the field and possibly give them another opportunity to get back to the big leagues or just get to the big leagues.”

What did your year managing in Brooklyn teach you about managing in New York that you can bring to Long Island?

“I don’t know that it really taught me anything. I know I played the game a long time, but I think the first and utmost important thing that you do with a player is you earn the player’s respect. Once you can earn the player’s respect and the trust of the player, then it’s like a good marriage. Things go better, and you can get more out of a player. For me, I think respecting the players is one of the most important things for a manager because once you earn a player’s respect, you’re going to get everything they’ve got.”

Former Ducks Backstop Back in the Big Leagues

J.R. House Reds Coach

J.R. House came to the Ducks in 2011 with five seasons of Major League experience. At 31 years of age, his ultimate goal was pretty simple: Get back to an MLB organization and have one final shot at returning to “The Show”. While he was unable to fulfill that task during his playing career, the mission has officially been achieved…as a coach.

The Cincinnati Reds announced on Monday that House has been hired as the team’s Third Base/Catching Coach for the 2019 season. He joins the likes of many other former Ducks who are now on MLB coaching staffs such as Kimera Bartee (Pittsburgh Pirates), George Lombard (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Jamie Pogue (St. Louis Cardinals). He also joins a staff highlighted by new manager David Bell, a 12-year Major League veteran as a player and former manager/coach for four seasons in the Reds organization (2009-12). Bell spent four seasons coaching in the St. Louis Cardinals organization (2014-17) as well before joining the San Francisco Giants following the 2017 season to become their Vice President of Player Development. When he was hired by the Reds on October 21st of this year, one of his first calls was to House.

“It all happened really fast,” House recalled via telephone this week, “David got the job as the new manager of the Reds, and then he called me to do an interview. We went through the process, and I think it worked out really well.”

The call was a bit of a surprise, as the two did not have much of a relationship beforehand. According to House, the two had shaken hands a couple of times previously but had not indulged in much dialogue aside from that. Though they’ve played against one another at the big league level, they had not been teammates or worked on the same coaching staff. However, House, who has served as a manager or coach in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization since retiring after the 2011 season, pointed out the tight-knit community that is the professional baseball world.

“I think baseball’s a small world,” he noted. “We kind of know how each other works, what we observe and each other’s reputation. With as much technology and communication as there is in the game today, it’s really hard to fool people anymore.”

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The former catcher joins the Reds after spending the 2018 season as the Field and Catching Coordinator for the Diamondbacks. According to House, the role allowed him to beef up his experience overseeing the prospects throughout the organization, gaining an analytical view of catching and filtrating that through the system, and making sure clubs were providing a good atmosphere for their prospects to flourish in. The experience was everything he could have hoped for after focusing predominantly on managing teams from rookie-level to Double-A prior to that.

“I’m just so thankful for the environment that I was able to work in,” House asserted. “Every day it was just so enjoyable to be able to go work within a tremendous culture and a place that allows you to bring your own individual strongpoints and personality to the job while at the same time keeping the camaraderie of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Since moving on from his playing days, House has devoted his life to helping those who have followed in his footsteps. As a coach, his objective has not been to win championships or receive more accolades. He’s accomplished both of those, claiming the 2014 Northwest League Championship as manager of the Hillsboro Hops and being named California League Manager of the Year in 2015 with the Visalia Rawhide. However, House hangs his hat on watching the players he has coached improve their game and advance higher up in the organization.

“When you’re a coach,” he stated, “your number one goal should be impacting players and helping them reach their peak performance, whatever that is. If you’re in it just to get to the big leagues or to try and make as much money as you can, you’re going to fizzle out. Those that have passion and love to coach and help human beings reach their max potential are the ones that usually flourish in this game and stay around for a long time.”

He continued to say, “I like to be able to impact players as much as I can and be around them because I just really enjoy those relationships. At the same time, you want to compete at the highest level there is. It’s enjoyable to try and be part of that and be part of a group that can come together and do some magical things. It makes work a lot of fun.”

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House developed his affinity for coaching and improving players from a moment during his brief Ducks career in 2011. One month into the season, he was batting just .258 and had an on-base percentage only slightly higher at .298. Frustrated at the dish and away from his family, which was living in Florida at the time (they have since moved to Scottsdale, Arizona), he was in need of some guidance.

“Our hitting coach was Jay Loviglio,” he recalled, “who was a good friend of mine and was actually my first manager in professional baseball when I was with the Pirates. He had a sit down, sort of “come-to-Jesus” moment with me as far as my swing and approach to the game. It really helped turn around that season; we called it the ‘metamorphosis.’”

The talk certainly seemed to work, as House would go on to hit .304 in June and .337 in July. He never looked back, en route to one of the best offensive seasons by a catcher in Ducks history. The season ended with House batting .305 while totaling 19 home runs, 81 RBIs, 73 runs and 128 hits. A lot of that, according to the Charleston, W.Va. native, can be attributed to his work with Loviglio.

“Those are the types of moments that we as coaches strive to have with players,” House said. “When you see the impact that you can make just by advice or a type of approach to a mechanical flaw, you just see how wonderful your job is. You really live for those moments and try to see the development process go in an upwards direction.”

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After focusing on work with prospects and younger players over the past seven years, House will now be on a Major League coaching staff for the first time. Though the Reds roster does feature many youngsters, it also boasts Major League veterans such as Joey Votto, Billy Hamilton and Homer Bailey. Knowing the veteran leadership that exists in Cincinnati, House will be relying partly on some of the techniques he observed from Ducks manager Kevin Baez during his time on Long Island.

“The biggest thing I think was his communication with the players and the trust that he had with us,” he recalled. “We had a lot of guys on the roster that had played in the big leagues that knew what they were doing and the expectations of the season. To see Kevin not try to micro-manage and actually be a little hands-off, allows us to play, have freedom, and enjoy it was really impressive on his part. Sometimes, we as coaches can get a little controlling and overbearing at times because you care so much and want players to learn right.”

While it remains to be seen just how much the Reds, who finished last in the National League’s Central Division in 2018 with a 67-95 record, can turn things around, the new coaching staff appears to be step one of the process. Fast success on the field will certainly be a challenging goal to achieve, but there are plenty of other obstacles that House is looking forward to overcoming first.

“Just learning everyone,” he commented regarding what his tallest task might be. “From the strengths and weaknesses of everyone’s skillset to just learning the names of the staff and players, the challenge is just going to be the learning curve and trying to get through that and rolling as fast as possible.”

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In a world where the emphasis is often placed on team success, House’s approach to coaching has always been focused on individual success. His desire to improve a player’s game and seeing that play out on the field continues to be the fuel that keeps him going. While one day’s goal is to improve one man’s game today, the next day’s task is doing the same for another player. With enough time and dedication from House and the rest of the Reds, the result could end up being a parade down Vine Street in Cincinnati.

Offseason Updates from Around the Globe

Although baseball season has come to a close here in the United States, there is still plenty of news and action on the diamond around the world. Several Ducks alumni have been featured and spotlighted in various other leagues throughout the Far East and the Caribbean. Regular seasons have recently wrapped up over in Korea and Taiwan, while winter leagues are getting underway in countries such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Let’s catch up on what some former Ducks players have been up to in recent weeks:

KERN WINS THE CROWN
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Long Island native Bruce Kern spent the 2018 season in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, marking his second full season and third year overall in Taiwan. The right-handed pitcher turned in outstanding numbers with the Flock in 2015 and 2016, combining to go 13-7 with a 3.02 ERA in 58 appearances (24 starts). In 170 innings of work, he struck out 163 batters and walked just 49. That performance earned him the opportunity to pitch in Taiwan with Brothers Baseball Club. He struggled initially in two starts at the end of 2016 and then battled injury in 2017 to go 8-5 with a 5.16 ERA. He returned to Long Island late last year but was limited to just one and two-thirds innings due to arm troubles.

Looking to bounce back in a big way during the 2018 season, Kern was signed by the Lamigo Monkeys, a club that has been home to several Ducks alumni in recent years. The Yaphank native did not disappoint, making 25 starts during the regular season and putting together a dazzling 13-3 record, ranking second in the league in wins, with a 3.28 ERA, good for third in the league. In 156.1 innings of work, a career-high, he struck out 110 batters. Kern’s efforts helped lead Lamigo all the way to the CPBL title, earning a 4-2 series victory over the Uni-President Lions. The championship marked Lamigo’s second title in a row and fourth in the past five years.

He also played some stellar defense:

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#athlete

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Kern pitched Game One of the Taiwan Series against the Uni-President Lions, with his team leading 1-0 from the get-go after they won both halves of the regular season. Lamigo earned a 15-6 victory in a high-scoring series opener, with Kern tossing the first four innings of the game, yielding three earned runs on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts. The Lions were able to even up the series, thanks in part to two scoreless innings in Game Two by former New Britain Bees pitcher Andy Van Hekken. One of Kern’s teammates was former Sugar Land Skeeters pitcher Michael Nix, who threw six scoreless innings in Game Two but could not get the win. Lamigo would go on to win the series with victories in Games Four and Five, with Nix giving up just two runs (one earned) in five and two-thirds innings, picking up the win. Van Hekken contributed to the Lions’ loss, surrendering four runs in one-third of an inning out of the bullpen.

Here was Bruce addressing the fans after Lamigo’s win:

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#克恩三世 ✌🏻 Taiwan

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Congratulations to Bruce and the rest of the Lamigo Monkeys! Included in the group was former Duck Darin Downs, who made 10 starts with the club earlier in the season but struggled, going 4-3 with a 7.08 ERA. However…


DOWNS AND STRUCK CLAIM MEXICAN TITLE
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Downs would come away with a title of his own after he signed south of the border with Sultanes de Monterrey in the Mexican League. The southpaw joined the team during the second half of their season and turned in a 3.42 ERA along with one save in 12 appearances (five starts). He pitched 26.1 innings, striking out 28 batters while walking seven. He was reunited on the team with another former Ducks pitcher in right-hander Nick Struck. The two hurlers were teammates together with the Flock in 2015 and 2016 and now had the opportunity to pitch together once again in Mexico. Struck posted a phenomenal season in 2018, making 41 appearances out of the bullpen for Monterrey. The righty compiled a miniscule 1.50 ERA, striking out 45 batters in 42 innings, walking just 14 and conceding only seven earned runs.

Despite a strong first half of the season, Monterrey would lose the first half championship to Leones de Yucatan in a thrilling seven-game series. However, Monterrey came back with a 4-2 series victory in the second half championship over Guerreros de Oaxaca. After dropping the series opener, the pair of Downs and Struck helped even the series in Game Two. Downs pitched two and one-third innings of one-run ball in relief, while Struck tossed back-to-back scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth innings. Struck threw another scoreless inning in the eighth of Game Three along with an inning and two-thirds of scoreless baseball in Game Four to put Monterrey up 3-1 in the series. The pair dazzled again in Game Five, with Downs pitching two and two-thirds hitless and scoreless innings before Struck threw two more innings of shutout ball, but Monterrey would drop the game in 10 innings. The series ended one game later with a walk-off victory at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey.


VALDESPIN TAKES MOUND IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
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After an MVP season and a Liberty Division Championship in his first year with the Flock, Jordany Valdespin is not taking any time to sit back and catch his breath. The infielder is right back on the baseball diamond in his native country of the Dominican Republic, playing with Toros del Este in the Caribbean Winter Leagues. His bat remains hot, as Valdespin has posted a .333 batting average through 19 games. After leading the Atlantic League in hits (154) and runs scored (94) during the 2018 regular season, he is doing the same in winter ball, collecting 25 hits and 15 runs thus far to go along with a homer, eight RBIs, eight stolen bases and a .405 on-base percentage.

However, one of his more bizarre moments came early on in the winter season. In the team’s fourth game, they played an epic 19-inning contest against Tigres del Licey that saw Licey come away with a 7-5 victory. The game, which lasted eight hours and seven minutes, saw neither team score from the eighth inning through the 18th inning. Valdespin started the game in right field and went 2-for-5 at the plate with a double, an RBI and two walks. However, after his club had used 12 pitchers without being able to secure the win, Valdespin took the mound for the start of the 15th inning. Having pitched just one before in his professional career, allowing a run in two-thirds of an inning with Triple-A Toledo in 2016, no one knew what to expect.

All the right-hander would do was toss four scoreless innings out of the bullpen to keep the ballgame tied. He surrendered four hits and two walks while hitting a batter in that span but struck out three and failed to concede the go-ahead run. Unfortunately, his offense was unable to get him a victory, and Ruben Sosa allowed two runs in the 19th inning to give Licey the win. 2018 Ducks teammate Fernando Abad also pitched in the game for Toros del Este, throwing one and two-thirds perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts. Former Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia started the game for Toros and pitched three innings of two-run ball. Current Met Dominic Smith is also on the team and was 0-for-8 with a walk in the game.


MIKE LOREE RE-UPS IN TAIWAN
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Heading back over to the far east, we also wanted to give a quick shout-out to former Duck starting pitcher Mike Loree. The righty, who was selected by fans to the 15th Anniversary Ducks team in 2014, has become a staple while pitching in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. He just signed another contract with the Fubon Guardians for the 2019 season, which will be his seventh in the CPBL.

After his Triple Crown year of 2011 with the Ducks, in which he led the Atlantic League in wins (14), ERA (1.98) and strikeouts (131), Loree departed Long Island for Taiwan during the 2012 season. He has since pitched two seasons with the Lamigo Monkeys, two with the EDA Rhinos and two with Fubon. In his six seasons combined, he has accrued a 72-41 record, a 3.26 ERA, 797 strikeouts and just 189 walks over 970.2 innings of work. He has made 154 appearances (150 starts) in that span, winning a championship in 2016 with the Rhinos and 2012 with Lamigo. His only break from the CPBL was in 2014 when he spent the season with KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball Organization.

This past season, Loree helped Fubon to the semifinals of the postseason before they were defeated. During the regular season, he led the Chinese Professional Baseball League in strikeouts with 157. His 3.47 ERA was good for fourth in the league, while his 10 wins ranked fifth. Loree was 10-8 overall in 26 starts and walked only 16 batters in 161 innings of work according to the league site. That stat might be the most impressive of all.

Congratulations to all of those who claimed championships during the 2018 season, and best of luck to those currently playing winter baseball around the world!

2019 Schedule Features Many Mouthwatering Matchups

20th-Anniversary-Field-Behind

It’s been a busy past couple of weeks at Bethpage Ballpark! With the Atlantic League awards season now wrapped up, the focus has shifted primarily towards the 2019 season. In recent days, the league’s schedule has been announced for next season, featuring the addition of the High Point Rockers to the eight-team circuit. The North Carolina-based club, which will replace the Road Warriors in the Liberty Division. The league-operated Road Warriors bridged the one-year gap between the end of the Bridgeport Bluefish lease and the completion of construction of the new High Point ballpark, which is slated to open on May 2, 2019. With a schedule now in place, the Ducks also debuted the team’s official logo for the 20th Anniversary Season (pictured above), which will be celebrated in 2019. The logo will be featured on promotional items, merchandise and marketing platforms leading up to and throughout next year.

With the addition of the Rockers to the league, the schedule returns to a 140-game regular season after being trimmed to 126 in 2018. The Ducks will play 70 home games at Bethpage Ballpark along with 70 road games, and the first and second half will be separated by the Atlantic League All-Star Game, which will be played at PeoplesBank Park in York, Pa. on July 10th. The schedule is not completely balanced though, as the Ducks do not play each team 20 times nor have an even home/road or first/second half split with each opponent. This chart helps break down their matchups against league opponents:

OPPONENT

OVERALL GAMES

HOME GAMES

ROAD GAMES

FIRST HALF

SECOND HALF

High Point Rockers

19

9 10 10

9

Lancaster Barnstormers

21

10 11 11

10

New Britain Bees

21

11 10 11

10

Somerset Patriots

19

10

9

9

10

So. Maryland Blue Crabs

21

10

11

10

11

Sugar Land Skeeters

19

10

9

10

9

York Revolution

20

10

10

9

11

Let’s take a look at some of the most notable games/series on the schedule for the 2019 season:

OPENERS

Two games that are always circled on the calendar of every baseball fan are Opening Day and the Home Opener for their favorite team. Sometimes, they end up being on the same date. However, for the Ducks, it has almost always proven to be on separate dates. 2019 will mark the ninth consecutive season in which Long Island begins the season on the road, as they will open against the York Revolution in Pennsylvania. The Ducks and Revs will play a three-game series to kick off the season, with the opener taking place on Friday, April 26th at PeoplesBank Park. The Ducks last opened the season in York on April 24, 2015, coming away with a 5-2 victory. Meanwhile, the Ducks will return home following a week-long trip in Pa. for the Home Opener, which will take place on Friday, May 3rd. Coincidentally, that game will also be against the Revolution, who will be in town for a three-game weekend series. The last time the Ducks played their Home Opener against York was in 2014, when the Flock fell 6-1 on May 2nd.

CHAMPIONSHIP REMATCH

After a thrilling Atlantic League Championship Series in 2018 that saw the Ducks and Skeeters need a decisive Game Five to determine a league champion, Ducks fans will surely be wondering when the two sides will collide again. Long Island will face Sugar Land, looking to exact a measure of revenge after this past season’s tough series loss, in Texas from May 10th-12th. Constellation Field was the site of that memorable Game One between the sides that took 13 innings and a total of four hours, 57 minutes. The Ducks will host the Skeeters for the first time in 2019 on Memorial Day Weekend, May 24th-26th, which will mark Sugar Land’s first visit since celebrating the 2018 championship at Bethpage Ballpark.

CAROLINA CLASH

As we detailed earlier, the High Point Rockers will be making their debut in the Atlantic League this season. There is always excitement around a new club when it enters the league, and this should be no different. The team will be playing their home games in a brand new, state-of-the-art ballpark and for a fan base that has shown tremendous support in anticipation of the team’s arrival. The Ducks are slated to get their first look at the Rockers and BB&T Point Ballpark when they make the trek to High Point, N.C. for a three-game set May 21st-23rd. Meanwhile, the Rockers will make their first visit to Long Island for a three-game weekend series June 7th-9th.

DIVISIONAL BATTLE

2018 saw the Ducks and Patriots both clinch postseason berths and meet in the Liberty Division Championship Series for a fourth consecutive year. In what has become an annual installment between the two teams, fans around the Atlantic League often expect the two sides to be in close division races down to the wire during each half. Last year, the two teams played all of their meetings in each half early, with clubs wrapping up their nine first half games against one another by May 27th and their second half meetings by August 8th. That prevented the teams from playing some tense, dramatic games late in the halves. This year will be a different story. Long Island and Somerset will meet nine times in the first half, all during the month of June. During the 20-day span between June 11th and 30th, Long Island will host Somerset for three games and visit the Patriots twice, including a three-game set at TD Bank Ballpark June 28th-30th after which there are just seven games left in the half. These matchups could very well decide the first half Liberty Division champion. Should the Ducks be battling another team for the first half title, June will still be an important month. Of Long Island’s 28 games in June, 23 are against Liberty Division opponents. The Ducks and Patriots will also face off in two important series against Somerset late in the second half, hosting Somerset for four games August 19th-22nd and three more games August 30th-September 1st.

FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION

The Ducks and the Fourth of July have almost become synonymous with one another on Long Island. Fans have frequently been able to enjoy celebrating the holiday at Bethpage Ballpark in recent years, with the team often having home games on and around the holiday. However, 2018 represented a rare instance when that was not the case, as the team played a three-game set in New Britain July 3rd-5th. That marked just the second time since 2011 the Ducks did not have a home game on July 4th, with 2016 being the other as the team played in Lancaster. However, Long Island hosted home games July 1st-3rd. This year, the Ducks will be back home for a seven-game homestand during the first seven days of July. Long Island will host a four-game series against the Skeeters July 1st-4th to begin the month before welcoming in the Blue Crabs for a three-game set to wrap up the first half. While fireworks dates have yet to be announced, fans can expect to enjoy the best fireworks show on Long Island July 4th! Stay tuned for the announcement of additional fireworks shows, as well as the full promotional schedule.

HOME FINISH

It has not been often that the Ducks have finished the regular season at home in recent years. During each of the past two seasons, the Ducks have ended their year in Texas against the Skeeters, needing road wins to clinch a playoff berth in each season. In fact, you must go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time the Ducks ended their regular season at home. That year, Long Island ended their season with a six-game homestand, including three against the Barnstormers and three against the Blue Crabs. Now, five years later, the Ducks will end the 2019 season with three home games. The Rockers will come to town for the series the weekend of September 20th-22nd. Though the Ducks hope to have a postseason spot clinched prior to that point, it is typically a bit more comfortable for a team to be playing in its home ballpark for games with added importance.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2019? Let us know in the comments section of this post!

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