Top Moments of 2016 – #6

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Our countdown of the Top Moments of 2016 is officially underway! Yesterday, we highlighted one of our five walk-off wins during the season as the #7 moment on our list. Tyler Colvin’s first-pitch grand slam in the ninth inning on July 21, giving the Ducks an 8-4 win over the Bridgeport Bluefish, was one of the many jubilant memories of the year. Moments like that are what made 2016 so special for Ducks fans across Long Island and for the players, coaches and front office.

Aside from great wins and tremendous hits, this past season also featured a large helping of milestones achieved both on and off the field. From players surpassing franchise records to record crowds passing through the turnstiles, the historic nature of the Ducks’ 17th season on Long Island will always be remembered. For the #6 moment on our list, we highlight one of our 72 victories during the regular season, though this one meant a little bit more.

Baez Stands Alone – July 8, 2016
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Kevin Baez had seemingly done it all in a Ducks uniform. He joined the team in 2002 and earned an All-Star Game selection and the game’s Most Valuable Player honor in 2004. He also won an Atlantic League championship later that season. The Brooklyn native went on to serve as a coach for the team after retiring in 2005 and served in that role through the 2010 campaign. 2011 presented him with a new challenge though, as Baez was named the team’s manager.

Five years later, he has added so many more accolades to his Atlantic League career. Back-to-back Atlantic League championships in 2012 and 2013, three consecutive Liberty Division titles from 2011 to 2013 and a pair of All-Star Game managerial selections are just a few of them. 2016 saw Baez add another Liberty Division championship to his resume, but he also became the winningest skipper in franchise history.

Don McCormack amassed 399 wins as manager of the Ducks between 2001 and 2006, including the famous victory over Bridgeport in 2004 that clinched Long Island’s first-ever playoff berth. Though not counted in that number, he also led the Flock to three consecutive wins in the 2004 Atlantic League Championship Series. However, Baez had quickly equaled the man he had both played for and coached under thanks to several tremendously successful regular seasons (78 wins in 2011, 73 victories in 2014 and 80 wins in 2015).

Baez would tie McCormack’s wins total in the opener of a three-game road series against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. He used seven pitchers to piece together a 5-3 victory and also got four hits and three RBI from Delta Cleary Jr. The next night, Baez’s ace made things a little bit easier for him. John Brownell fired seven innings of one-run ball in a vintage performance against Southern Maryland. The lineup was superb again, combining for five runs in the fifth and sixth innings to turn a 1-0 lead into a six-run advantage. The Blue Crabs would get to within four, but that was all they could muster. Nick Struck induced a groundout from Jon Dziomba to seal the win, making Baez the winningest manager in franchise history and also giving him his milestone 400th win.

It was also appropriate that Baez tied the milestone and then surpassed it against a team he had accrued so many important victories against. Though not included in those 400, the manager led the Ducks to series victories over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in each of his three consecutive Liberty Division titles. Two of those series, 2011 and 2013, were clinched at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, Md.  Following win #400, his team proudly posed for a photo on the field with the lineup card, happily sharing the moment with a manager that has received nothing but praise from those who have had the pleasure of playing for him.

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Baez later recalled the milestone win to Newsday: “It was an awesome feeling. The guys were pumped when they heard I was at 398 or 399 wins and getting close. It was a good time. Afterward, the guys sprayed me with champagne, water and stuff like that.”

He went on to say, “I love this organization. I love being a part of it. I do know that, in my business, it’s day-to-day. But I will be here as long as they’ll have me.”

Be sure to check back in with “Quack of the Bat” on Monday, as we continue our countdown of the Top Moments of 2016!

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Posted on December 16, 2016, in Feature Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Two good stories in a row. I look forward to more.

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