Sabatella’s Coming Home

Barnstormers Riversharks
When Adam Bailey signed with the Kansas City T-Bones of the American Association in December, it became immediately clear that the Ducks were going to need a new right fielder. Not to mention, they would also need to replace one of the most potent bats in their lineup from the past two seasons. On Monday, with a blizzard bearing down on Central Islip, the Ducks took a step towards filling that void by signing Bryan Sabatella. In essence, he and Bailey are trading spots considering Sabatella was a member of the T-Bones in 2014.

“I’m real excited,” he exclaimed via telephone on Monday. “It was a no-brainer for me. The Ducks were pretty much the only situation where I would be able to play with work and things like that. It’s worked out great, and I’m excited to be able to play another season and do so on Long Island.”

Playing for the Ducks may be new to the 30-year-old, but Long Island certainly is not. Among the many assets he brings to the table, being a native Long Islander is one of the most notable. Sabatella was born in Port Jefferson, grew up in Wading River and now resides in Aquebogue. He’s been quite familiar with the place the Ducks call home, and now, he’ll get to play for his hometown team, a team he grew up watching during its early years.

“My parents are both teachers, so they ended up splitting a Ducks ticket package with their co-workers,” Sabatella recalled. “We had like 10 or 12 games a year, so depending on my own baseball schedule, I always got out to four or five games a year, and my parents came out to a few more than I did. I always followed the team when they started, and I think it was my junior or senior year of high school where they held one of the county tournaments at the Ducks’ stadium. It was always the big goal to make it to the Ducks’ ballpark for counties.”

When you look at some of the biographical notes about Sabatella, one thing that stands out is his size. He stands in at 6 feet 5 inches and weighs approximately 235 pounds. For the majority of ballplayers, that usually equates to a power bat in the lineup. For example, Brandon Sing was also 6-foot-5, weighed 225 pounds and slugged 26 home runs for the Flock in 2012. However, a quick look at Sabatella’s career numbers show that power has not been paramount in his game. He’s only reached double-digit homers in three of his 10 professional seasons, with a career best of 17 in 2008.

While he does have ‘pop,’ the name of his game is speed. Over those same 10 years, he has stolen 20 or more bases in all but one, including a career high 42 with the New Jersey Jackals in 2012 and an American Association best 40 in 2014. It’s a deceptive look and approach to the game that’s enabled him to find success on the diamond.

“It’s kind of a mix of what people expect vs. what people would never expect,” Sabatella noted. “I like to run. I like to think that I kind of bring some energy to the game. Personally, I know I’m always a threat to hit one out, but if I hit a single, I know I can easily turn that into a double because I can run. At first glance, people don’t expect me to play the way that I do, and that’s good because I can surprise people. Guys have to kind of change their game plan around after realizing it.”

Another area of Sabatella’s game that is a welcome sight is his ability to get on base. Over 961 career games, he has a batting average of .303 and an on-base percentage of .377. Those numbers over a few Major League seasons could earn a player a huge pay day in free agency. Over a Major League career, they could be Hall of Fame worthy. While Sabatella has only reached the Single-A level in affiliated ball, he has proven to be as consistent as they come. His 2014 batting average of .307 and on-base percentage of .378 show that his play has not tapered off. In fact, they are improvements from the totals he put up in 2012 and 2013. His ability to “do it all” has made him as versatile as they come.

“I have the ability to hit really anywhere in the lineup,” he added. “Growing up, I was mainly a 3-4-5 hitter. Then once I played with managers that liked to experiment with the lineup, I hit first and second, then I hit sixth and seventh. I can kind of fit anywhere in the lineup, which is probably my best attribute.”

One final asset that Sabatella brings to the Ducks in 2015 is a familiarity with the Atlantic League. The Quinnipiac University alum spent parts of two seasons with the Lancaster Barnstormers in 2008 and 2009. While donning the red and black, he batted .283 in 93 games and was successful on 22 of his 28 stolen base attempts. The former Seattle Mariners draft pick also earned an All-Star Game selection for his efforts in 2009 before he was traded in Shreveport-Bossier in the American Association to make way for former Major Leaguer Matt Watson.  Despite his time in the league being somewhat short, the experience was one that kept Sabatella’s career going and prepared him for what’s now to come.

“I learned the most in my entire professional baseball career during those two years there,” Sabatella recalled. “From working with those guys in batting practice and in the cages to seeing how real professionals carry themselves and treat the younger guys, those two years really taught me a lot. If it weren’t for those years and those guys that I played with, I don’t think I would still be playing because they really set the tone for the rest of my career and gave me something to reach for.”

He went on to say, “I know what to expect now. Being younger in this league can get overwhelming, especially when you’re always worried about who teams are bringing in. Now that I’m older, have some more experience and am from Long Island, it’s just going to be more comfortable this time around.  I can really just focus on winning and enjoying the whole time.”

After a career that has spanned 10 seasons and seen time with a Major League organization as well as five Independent baseball teams across four leagues, Sabatella is finally coming home. But it’s not to hang up his cleats just yet. He’s getting an opportunity to suit up and take the field in front of his family and friends just a short drive from where he learned the game of baseball. Aside from games against the Ducks while with Lancaster, that moment hasn’t come along in quite a while. That has Sabatella smiling from ear to ear.

“This will be my first time playing on Long Island since I went to college,” he said. “It’s been probably 13 or 14 years since I even spent the summer on the Island. It’s going to be great for me personally, and it’s going to be great for all of my friends and family to be able to see and not miss anything this year. I’m real excited!”

While having those closest to him in attendance at Bethpage Ballpark will be a dream come true, there’s only one thing on Sabatella’s mind this year: a ring.

“Once you get older, you start realizing what’s important and what’s not important,” he noted. “The whole reason that I play is to win. There’s only one thing that people can’t take away from me, and that’s a championship ring. Getting drafted is nice and you can tell people about it, but there’s really nothing to show for it. When you have a championship ring, that’s something that nobody can take away from you. Once you get your first one, it’s real addicting, and all you want is another one.”

His quest begins in just under three months.

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Posted on January 27, 2015, in Ducks News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Sorry to see Adam Bailey go, yet from the new I just read, welcome to Bryan Sabatella.
    I look forward to summer fun with the Ducks. Especially after the last 2 days of snow. I can’t wait to say good bye to winter and hello to the best game in town!

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