Alumni Continue to Highlight Coaching Ranks
As the calendar now officially reads “2017,” the thoughts of baseball and freshly cut grass are beginning to seep into everyone’s minds around Bethpage Ballpark. Sure, the brand new sod that was laid down earlier this offseason may be covered by eight inches of white powder and the thermometer may read below freezing. However, we are now approximately 12 weeks away from the start of spring training, 14 weeks from the season beginning and 15 weeks from Opening Night on Long Island!
With the arrival of January, the time for teams around the Atlantic League to begin signing players for the upcoming season is just about upon us. News is sure to surface among the eight teams in the coming weeks of roster additions for 2017. Until then, there have been several recent stories about Ducks and Atlantic League alumni involved in coaching ranks around minor league baseball. Let’s take a look at who has been making headlines of late:
ALUMNI DUO TO LEAD BROOKLYN
Local baseball fans here on Long Island will surely remember the name Edgardo Alfonzo. The 12-year Major League veteran spent eight seasons with the New York Mets, earning an All-Star selection in 2000 and helped the Mets to a National League championship later that season. He went on to play just over 1,500 games in his big league career, batting .284 with 146 home runs, 744 RBI and a .299 postseason batting average. Alfonzo would also play for three Atlantic League teams, including Bridgeport (2006), Newark (2010) and the Ducks (2007-08).
Now, the 43-year-old will be managing with the organization he’s best remembered for playing with. The Brooklyn Cyclones announced this past week that Alfonzo will serve as the team’s manager for the 2017 season. He will become the 11th man to lead the New York-Penn League franchise, taking over for the departed Tom Gamboa. Alfonzo has served on Gamboa’s coaching staff for the past three seasons and has developed a strong understanding of both the club and league. After finishing two games under .500 this past season and missing the playoffs, the club is hoping that “Fonzie” will be able to find more success this year while continuing to cultivate a youthful talent pool.
While in the Atlantic League, Alfonzo’s best moments came just down the road from his former office of Shea Stadium. The infielder combined to play 164 games with the Ducks and compiled a .289 batting average with 13 home runs, 83 RBI, 90 runs and 36 doubles. He spent the entire 2007 campaign with the Flock and rejoined the team in 2008 after beginning the year with Quintana Roo in the Mexican League. In each of his two seasons, the Ducks earned postseason berths. Alfonzo would join the Atlantic League again in 2010 with the Newark Bears but hit just .154 in 26 games. He would play three more seasons of winter league baseball in Venezuela before retiring from the game.
Joining Alfonzo on the Cyclones’ staff will be former big league pitcher Royce Ring, who has been hired as Brooklyn’s pitching coach. The left-hander’s name should also ring a few bells for local baseball fans, as he spent time with both the Mets and Yankees in his career. He struggled over 15 games out of the bullpen with the Mets in 2005 but rebounded during their magical 2006 campaign by posting a 2.13 ERA in 11 games. Ring would then make stops with the Padres and Braves before joining the Yankees in 2010. However, he allowed four runs in two and one-third innings of work out of the bullpen, in what would be the final stay of his Major League career.
Ring’s name should also be familiar with Ducks fans, as he spent time on the roster during the 2013 championship season. The southpaw pitched in four games for Long Island and surrendered three runs over three and one-third innings in late May/early June. He was subsequently released and would retire a year later after becoming the pitching coach for the Mets’ rookie-level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League.
Best of luck to Edgardo and Royce in Brooklyn!
HOUSE CONTINUES TO CLIMB THE LADDER
J.R. House, whose time with Long Island was short but certainly sweet, continues to advance up the ladder in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. The former Major League catcher has been named the manager of the Double-A Jackson Generals in the Southern League. He will have the pleasure of managing a squad that just earned the league championship a year ago, albeit while serving as an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
The advancement for House continues to impress since retiring from the game of baseball. After serving as a coach for two seasons in the Diamondbacks organization, he held a managerial role with the Hillsboro Hops (2014) and Visalia Rawhide (2015-16). In that time, he has compiled a record of 213-143, good for a .598 winning percentage. He led the Hops to the Northwest League championship in 2014 and earned California League Manager of the Year honors with Visalia in 2015. Although his ballclub did not bring home a title in 2016, he led them to a league-best 46-24 record in the first half and a spot in the league’s Championship Series.
House’s time with the Ducks lasted just one season, but it was one of the best offensive seasons by a catcher in team history. The West Virginia native played 113 games and batted .305 with 19 home runs, 81 RBI, 73 runs, 128 hits and 22 doubles. He did not commit a single error in the field, threw out 20 percent of runners attempting to steal and led the pitching staff to the best ERA in the league at 4.17. He was selected as an Atlantic League All-Star during the season and helped the Flock to their first Atlantic League Championship Series appearance since 2004.
Congratulations on the promotion, J.R.!
HOBSON HEADS TO KANE COUNTY
Although he has never donned a Ducks uniform, fans that have frequented Bethpage Ballpark are sure to know the name Butch Hobson. The 65-year-old has amassed more wins than any other manager in Atlantic League history and most recently served six seasons at the helm of the Lancaster Barnstormers. Despite all of his success, including a championship with Lancaster in 2014, the Barnstormers elected not to bring Hobson back following a 2016 season where they missed out on the postseason. The former big leaguer did not have to wait long though, as the Kane County Cougars have hired him to be their manager.
While it may seem large at times, the baseball world is indeed a small one. According to an article from the Chicago Tribune, Hobson reached out to good friend Buddy Bell, who is the Vice President and Assistant GM of the Chicago White Sox. The team had just signed his son, K.C., who played for his dad in Lancaster a year ago after earning Post-Season All-Star honors. Although the White Sox did not have an opening for Butch, the Diamondbacks did. Buddy’s son, Mike, who is the Vice President of Player Development with Arizona, interviewed Hobson and presented him with the job at Kane County.
We are all happy for Butch to have received an opportunity to continue managing the game he loves! However, we will certainly miss playing his favorite tune at the ballpark:
Coaching was certainly a theme today, but that is not all the news there is to share! Be sure to stay tuned to LIDucks.com and “Quack of the Bat” later this week for an announcement regarding the Ducks’ 2017 coaching staff. In addition, be sure to check out the team’s visit to A.P. Willits Elementary School in Syosset last week where a third grade student was honored as part of the TD Bank “Take a Duck to Class” essay contest. CLICK HERE to see the full story!
Posted on January 9, 2017, in Ducks News and tagged Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Brooklyn Cyclones, Butch Hobson, Coaching, Edgardo Alfonzo, J.R. House, Jackson Generals, Kane County Cougars, Keyboard Cat, Lancaster Barnstormers, Long Island Ducks, Royce Ring. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.