“It’s Just Another Home For Me”
Make it six members of last season’s Atlantic League championship squad and four guys who played with the Flock during the 2012 and 2013 championship seasons who have come back for 2014. Bobby Blevins has signed on to play for the Ducks in 2014, the team announced on Wednesday, making him the 10th player to join the roster this year. For Ducks fans, it’s a welcome sight. A key member of both title winners will now begin the season on Long Island rather than join at the end.
Every Atlantic League team reinforces their roster come late August/early September once the season ends in the American Association and Can-Am League, two other independent leagues. Teams that are in the playoff hunt or those that have already punched their ticket will be especially active in signing seeking out additional talent. For the Ducks the last two years, Blevins has been one of the guys that has been one of those key late-season reinforcements.
In two seasons pitching with the Ducks, he has appeared in eight regular season games (six starts). The numbers on Blevins:
Innings Pitched: 39.0
Earned Runs: 14
Home Runs Allowed: 1
Blevins has been outstanding down the stretch for Long Island, but his performances in the playoffs are what stand out the most. He’s pitched in three postseason games with the Ducks, and though he personally hasn’t earned a decision in either, the Ducks won two elimination games with the other serving as one of the most classic games in Atlantic League history. Let’s take a look at them:
2012 Liberty Division Championship Series – Game Five
Blevins’ Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Long Island had shocked Southern Maryland by winning Games One and Two at Regency Furniture Stadium. However, the Blue Crabs stunned the Ducks right back by taking Games Three and Four at Bethpage Ballpark, setting up a winner-take-all Game Five. Blevins tossed three perfect innings to open the game and carried a 2-1 lead into the fifth. However, Southern Maryland took the lead on a groundout and sac fly. Still, the righty pitched a scoreless sixth inning and kept the Ducks within one. Two innings later, Bryant Nelson launched a two-run homer, Shawn Williams added a RBI single and Leo Rosales closed the door on a 5-4 series-clinching win.
2012 Atlantic League Championship Series – Game Five
Blevins’ Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
The Ducks had found a way to battle back from 1-0 and 2-1 series deficits to force a decisive Game Five. Facing Dwayne Pollok, the leagues’ Pitcher of the Year, Long Island gave Blevins four runs of support with two in the first, one in the second and one in the fifth. Blevins made just two mistakes all game, solo homers to Tommy Everidge and Ryan Harvey, but was strong on the mound throughout. Leaving with a 4-2 lead in the seventh, the Ducks were poised to give him the championship-clinching victory. However, a stunning rally in the ninth tied the game at two. Fortunately, Dan Lyons quickly turned the shock to jubilation with his walk-off bunt single in the bottom of the frame to secure the championship for Long Island.
2013 Atlantic League Championship Series – Game Four
Blevins’ Line: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
In what would be one of the greatest games in the Atlantic League’s history, Blevins took the ball to try and close out the series over Somerset. Determined to get his first postseason win, the righty allowed just two baserunners over the first six innings of the game. The Ducks had a 1-0 lead in the seventh, but two singles and a RBI double tied the game up. Blevins rebounded with a perfect eighth inning and left the game hoping for another ninth inning rally. However, neither side would push across a run until the 16th when Angel Sanchez’s walk-off single tied the series some five hours and 18 minutes after the first pitch was thrown. While Blevins took a no-decision and the Ducks failed to close the series, Blevins’ performance was once again outstanding.
These three games, and the Briarcliff native’s overall pitching on Long Island, has spoken for itself. He’s been a great addition to the staff and is sure to be an important piece of manager Kevin Baez’s rotation in 2014. Let’s hear from the man himself about his decision to start the year with Long Island and his experience winning two championships with the Ducks:
Why did you decide to begin the 2014 season here with the Ducks?
“For me, it’s a great opportunity, especially at the point of my career where I am. I’m at the highest level, and I’m coming down to begin a part of something special. Being part of championships the past two years really made me want to start from the beginning and try for something extremely special in the highest profile league that there is out there…It’s just a great organization with great character, great fans and an especially great coaching staff. Being a part of it for the last two years really made me want to come back from the beginning and see what happens.”
When you first came to Long Island in 2012, was it tough joining the team so late in the season?
“The second I walked through the door, it was not tough at all. I knew a couple of guys from the past, but honestly, the clubhouse was very welcoming and that made it all that much easier. Especially me being from about an hour away and having some family out on Long Island, it’s just another home for me. That’s what I liked about it, especially with the front office and everyone around the organization. They just made it feel like home, and that’s really why I wanted to come back.”
What was the experience like for you to win the first title in 2012?
“It was almost a storybook ending to my 2012 season where I came down and got to be a part of something special with a remarkable ending. Of course, it was capped off by Dan Lyons’ bunt for a base hit. One of the biggest things for me was coming down, being a part of a new team and being welcomed so quickly. It was like I was part of them for the whole year.”
What do you think has been the biggest contributing factor to your postseason success?
“That I can stay composed. I’m out there to win every time and give my team a chance to win every time. I strive for the big situations because I’m an undersized guy as a pitcher, and any time I can get a chance to be in a big moment, make myself bigger than what I am, and make the team bigger than what I am, you can’t ask for any better situation. I finally got those opportunities, and I just tried my best to make the most of them. I was brought in to help the team win, and that was part of my job.”
How much have you enjoyed being a part of pitching coach Steve Foucault’s staff?
“He’s just an awesome guy, very personable. You can tell him anything, and he doesn’t judge. He’s very helpful with his mindset. He understands what it takes to go out there every fifth day or even with your bullpens and training. When I first got down there in 2012 I never had a curveball, and he decided to show me the grip. Next thing you know it was added to my repertoire, and it became a very useful pitch for me the last two years. I continue to want to go down there with ‘Fookie’ and grow from him. I think being down there for a full season will be extremely helpful, and I’m excited to see where it can go.”
Talk about the importance of coming back to a team with so many returning players:
“With teams that have won championships, it’s tough to keep them together, but the biggest thing you’ve got there is experience and people that know what it takes to win. They know what it takes when it comes down to the tough parts of the season, how to get through it and how to stay healthy. Overall, it’s going to take that leadership to go for three in a row. I’m not jinxing it or anything, but it’s something that’s out there that’s never been done [in Atlantic League history]. It makes a lot of people hungry. What better place to do it than Long Island, one of the best organizations out there?”
Only time will tell if Blevins and the Ducks can make history this season. Either way, the signing of the 29-year-old is sure to excite fans of Long Island’s hometown team and increase the hopes of a third consecutive championship. Bobby is thrilled to be coming back to the Ducks, and having players excited about playing here is exactly what you want on your ball club.
Posted on February 26, 2014, in Player Signings and tagged 2012, 2013, 2014, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Bobby Blevins, Briarcliff, Championship, Duck Pond, Kevin Baez, Long Island Ducks, Player Signing, Steve Foucault. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.