From League Leaders to Team Leaders
The Long Island Ducks of 2011 were the class of the Atlantic League. During the entire season, the Ducks never fell more than two games back in the Liberty Division. In the first half, they held first place from June 3 through July 10. In the second half, they were atop the division for all but eight days. Long Island finished the season with a 78-47 record, the best in the league and the franchise’s best since the inaugural season of 2000 (82-58). Ultimately, the Ducks fell just short of their quest for a championship to the York Revolution, but it was certainly a season to remember and be proud of.
For many on that outstanding roster, their careers would continue. Ray Navarrete and Dan Lyons would go on to win back-to-back championships with the Ducks. Lew Ford would get signed by the Baltimore Orioles and achieve his dream of returning to the Major Leagues, rejoin the Ducks and lead them to a championship in 2013. Mike Loree would begin 2012 with the Ducks before going over to pitch in Taiwan and Korea.
However, for others, their career as players would come to a close. It was time for them to begin life after baseball, but they wouldn’t stray too far from the game. Since that memorable 2011 season, several Ducks have gone on to receive coaching positions across minor league baseball and the collegiate ranks. Earlier this week, the Arizona Diamondbacks organization announced that one 2011 Duck was promoted to Manager of the Class-A Advanced Visalia Rawhide of the California League. In addition, they announced that another 2011 Duck would serve as the Hitting Coach for the Class-A Short Season Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League. Any guess who the two are?
The first is J.R. House, the Ducks catcher in 2011. House has been involved with the Diamondbacks organization since his playing days ended. He served as a Hitting Coach for two seasons, working on the staff of the Rookie-Level Missoula Osprey in 2012 and Hillsboro in 2013. Last year, the former Major Leaguer was promoted to Manager of the Hops in 2014, serving on a coaching staff that featured fellow former big leaguers Doug Drabek (Pitching Coach) and Mark Grace (Hitting Coach). House went on to lead Hillsboro to a 48-28 record and the Northwest League championship, the organization’s first-ever title.
The second is Javier Colina, who spent time primarily at shortstop and second base for the Ducks in 2011. The Venezuela native first began his coaching career in 2014, serving as the Hitting Coach for the Diamondbacks’ Rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League. He last played in 2012, appearing in six games for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs before hanging up the cleats. Now, after one season in the Arizona League, he has been promoted to Hillsboro to serve as the Hitting Coach. He’ll be joined on the team’s staff by Drabek and newly-hired Manager Shelley Duncan, who most Ducks fans will remember for his time with the Yankees from 2007-09. Follow Javier on Twitter HERE.
House and Colina are not the only two members of the 2011 Ducks to have been a part of the coaching staff in the Diamondbacks organization since retiring. Jamie Quinn, who served as the Ducks bullpen coach and catcher in 2011, was a Minor League Baseball Video Coordinator/Catching Instructor with the franchise in 2013 and 2014. He has also held coaching positions with Hofstra University and the United States Merchant Marine Academy since that year. Most recently he was hired as the Head Coach for the Shelter Island Bucks of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League on Long Island. Follow Jamie on Twitter HERE.
Continuing on with coaches in the affiliated ranks, Ehren Wassermann has spent the past two seasons with the Minnesota Twins Gulf Coast League affiliate as their Pitching Coach. Prior to joining them, he spent a year as the Pitching Coach with the Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier League. While with Windy City, he guided the pitching staff to a 3.74 ERA and a league-leading 16 complete games. The former Major Leaguer was a steady reliever for the Ducks on their 2011 squad, going 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 11 saves in 51 games.
In addition to these, a couple members of that 2011 team have become coaches in the college ranks. Aside from Quinn, Bob Zimmermann has spent each of the past two seasons as an Assistant Baseball Coach for Maryville College in St. Louis in addition to pitching with the Ducks. Outfielder Kraig Binick also served as an Assistant Baseball Coach in 2014 with St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. The experience and knowledge they both gained playing with the Flock, especially in 2011, helped them achieve each of these positions.
While these players have all become coaches for organized baseball teams, others have chosen to teach some of the younger baseball players in the country. John Rodriguez, who batted .313 with 18 homers and 81 RBI in 2011 with the Ducks, has now become the Director of the Yorkville Baseball Academy in New York City. There, the former big leaguer’s main responsibility is teaching his students about “The Art of Hand Path” so that they improve their swings and become the best hitters they can be. In addition, pitcher Lenny DiNardo has started his own pitching academy (DiNardo Pitching). He currently gives pitching lessons in the Fort Myers/Naples, Fla. area. In 2011, DiNardo spent the first month of the season with the Ducks before getting signed by the Oakland Athletics organization. Two years later, he tossed the first-ever no-hitter in Lancaster Barnstormers history, doing so against Long Island.
And finally, we should mention two other members of the 2011 Ducks who hold coaching/front office positions in the Atlantic League. As most of you know, Ford served as the Ducks Hitting Coach in addition to playing all 140 games during the regular season. It was his first foray into the coaching ranks, and he has said often that he would like to stay in baseball, possibly as a coach, once his career is over. In addition, relief pitcher Jon Hunton has spent the last two seasons with the Somerset Patriots. Along with continuing to pitch for Somerset, he served as the team’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel in 2013 and Director of Player Personnel in 2014. Follow Lew on Twitter HERE. Follow Jon on Twitter HERE.
No one knows for sure exactly where their career path will head once their playing days officially come to a close. The Long Island Ducks have been fortunate to see so many of their alumni become coaches and managers from youth baseball all the way up to the Major Leagues. While there are many more recent Ducks who will likely enter future coaching ranks, the experience and talent of the 2011 roster has already translated into a plethora of coaching positions. If you happen to know of any other members from that team who are coaching or in front office positions, please comment and let us know. In addition, which other former Ducks do you think might end up becoming future baseball coaches or have roles with a team’s front office?
Posted on January 9, 2015, in Feature Articles and tagged 2011, Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlantic League, Bob Zimmermann, Ehren Wassermann, Hillsboro Hops, J.R. House, Jamie Quinn, Javier Colina, John Rodriguez, Jon Hunton, Kraig Binick, Lenny DiNardo, Lew Ford, Long Island Ducks, Shelter Island Bucks, Visalia Rawhide. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.