Top Moments of 2016 – #2
Just two more great memories remain on our Top Moments of 2016 countdown! It has been a fun countdown thus far with all of the outstanding achievements and exciting wins that took place throughout the year. Most recently, we unveiled our #3 moment: the 6-1 win over the Skeeters on July 2 that saw the Ducks clinch the First Half Liberty Division title and John Brownell become the winningest pitcher in franchise history. Before we can drink some egg nog, light candles and flip the calendar to 2017, we must find out our final two moments on the list.
The Ducks have attracted more fans to their games than any other team in the Atlantic League. In fact, they have been one of the most successful franchises in all of professional baseball, filling the ballpark to near-100% capacity since the inaugural 2000 season. As the 2016 season began, the team was approximately 350,000 fans away from reaching the magical 7 million fan milestone, knowing that if it would be reached during the regular season, it would likely come in one of the final few games. Sure enough, fate would have it that the moment would come during home game #70.
A Fanatical Finale – September 11, 2016
With a postseason berth wrapped up and a first round rematch with the Somerset Patriots set, there was no too much that needed to be determined in the final weeks of the 2016 season. With several team records achieved and plenty of wins accumulated, many in the Ducks organization hoped to be able to celebrate another accomplishment with their fans who made it possible. Entering the final three home games of the season, Long Island sat just over 16,077 fans away from reaching the magical 7 million fan mark. That meant the team would need to average over 5,300 fans per game during the final home series to achieve the milestone.
Not only were the Ducks eager to reach the mark, but the fans showed a great desire to see the team reach the mark as well. Past-capacity crowds of 6,802 on September 9 and 7,220 on September 10 put the Ducks just about 2,000 fans shy of the mark entering the home season finale. It was undoubtedly clear that the moment would indeed come in 2016. As the gates opened on a beautiful Sunday for Fan Appreciation Day, folks began streaming through the gates in hopes of being the lucky one to push the Ducks over the brink. As the counter kept clicking, it finally reached the milestone number when Victoria Sardegna passed through the turnstiles. The Riverhead resident, attending the game with her son, T.J., and his dad, Tim, was overjoyed upon learning the news.
The family received a day at the ballpark they would never forget. As the lucky 7 millionth fan, Victoria was presented with a commemorative team jersey with the words “7 Million” displayed on the back and the number “16” to represent 2016, in which the milestone was achieved. All three received the opportunity to enjoy the “Best Seat in the House” for the entire game, and Victoria’s name was displayed on the scoreboard. Finally, she received an autographed bat from the entire team, a $250 gift card from Bethpage Federal Credit Union and a luxury suite for her and 19 of her closest friends for Opening Night of the 2017 season on Long Island.
To top it all off, the Ducks gave her a victory to celebrate the day. Long Island opened up the game with an RBI double by Dan Lyons and a sac fly by Lew Ford in the first inning. They increased the lead to 4-0 in the fourth thanks to a two-run home run by Cody Puckett. Nick Struck also was strong on the mound, striking out eight batters in six and two-thirds innings and not allowing a run through the first six innings. York threatened to ruin the day when Bryan Pounds hit a three-run homer in the seventh, but that was as close as they would come. Lyons’ triple in the eighth pushed the lead back to two, and Amalio Diaz sealed the game in dramatic fashion, striking out three consecutive batters with the tying runs in scoring position. It was a thrilling end to a memorable day at the ballpark in Central Islip.
President and General Manager Michael Pfaff commented after welcoming the lucky fan, “There is truly no better day to reach this milestone and recognize the tremendous support of Long Islanders than on Fan Appreciation Day. We are proud to have welcomed 7 million fans since our inaugural season and eternally grateful for all that have shared this experience with us.”
Tomorrow, we unveil our Top Moment of 2016! You won’t want to miss it, as it was one of the greatest days in franchise history and a memory that fans, players, coaches and front office staffers will never forget. Come back and visit “Quack of the Bat” on Friday afternoon as we look back at our #1 moment from this past year.
Posted on December 22, 2016, in Feature Articles and tagged 2016, 7 Million, Atlantic League, Attendance, Bethpage Ballpark, Fan Appreciation Day, Long Island Ducks, Nick Struck, Riverhead, Top Moments, Victoria Sardegna. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.