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Ruben Gotay and the island of Puerto Rico persevere amid disaster
When a baseball player steps onto the field of play, he is expected to perform. It is his job to be completely immersed in the game at hand and to compete by making positive contributions that result in victories. The bat must meet the ball, the pitch must be in the strike zone, the glove must snare the liner and the throw must be on point. The expectation is for them to perform almost as if they’re robotic.
When push comes to shove though, these ballplayers are human. They make errors, they allow walks and they strike out. They all have lives outside of the white lines, the clubhouse and the ballpark. Each has a family and friends thousands of miles away, whom many don’t see for months at a time. It is near-impossible for a ballplayer to go through the grind of a season without thinking about life back home.
That way of life took on a new meaning for Ducks infielder Ruben Gotay this past year. As he helped the Ducks to a third consecutive playoff appearance and sixth Division Championship, his native homeland of Puerto Rico was being ravaged by an unforgiving hurricane season. First, it was Irma in early September. Then, it was Maria just two weeks later. As Maria churned its way towards the island, his hometown of Fajardo was preparing to take the storm’s first punch.
“I was born and raised in Fajardo on the east side of Puerto Rico,” said Gotay by telephone from his home this week. “I love the town. It’s where I started my career, and my whole family is over here. It’s where the whole hurricane basically entered Puerto Rico…one of the first areas that got it.”
Fajardo is still home for Gotay during the offseason, and his parents still live there as well. In the month of September though, he was playing crucial games for the Ducks some 1,600 miles away. The team needed his veteran presence in the clubhouse and the lineup, and he knew the stakes riding on every game, especially once the postseason began. However, with family and friends back home riding out a pair of major storms, it became increasingly difficult for Gotay to keep his focus on the field.
“I tried to hide it a little, but it wasn’t easy,” he recalled. “Once I saw all the images and the aftermath, it was kind of hard to comprehend that this just happened to the island where I come from. It was kind of hard to concentrate on the game and not think about my family and everyone back home.”
Gotay went on to add, “It was the first time that I’d been through something like this in my whole career, and believe me, it was not easy. I think it might have been a little bit easier when actually playing the game because you’re concentrating so hard and adrenaline is flowing, but once you leave the field, and I’m not talking about the clubhouse I mean from between those two white lines, it’s kind of hard not to think about anything else but your family.”
Aside from the physical damage caused throughout Puerto Rico by the hurricanes, several other aspects of life were greatly altered. Gotay mentioned that many residents, especially those in the mountain regions, had a great deal of trouble getting access to food, water and first aid. Several bridges and roadways were damaged from the storm, and clean water was hard to come by. Much of the island lost power during and following the storm, and regaining that electricity would not come swiftly. With no power and communications down, it became very difficult for Gotay and others affected to maintain contact with one another.
“I talked to my parents about a day or two before the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico, but once it hit, I lost touch with them for like three or four days,” he noted. “All of the communications went down. I was fortunate that I was able to talk to my parents so soon. Some of my friends that were on other teams didn’t get to talk to their families for a week or two. It was very hard for them to play a game without thinking about what was going on back home.”
Gotay’s extensive experience in professional baseball often put him in the position where he could help support younger players on the roster. He was able to make communication easier for them and put their minds at ease during slumps or intense games. However, the challenge of being far from home during a disaster like this and difficulty of staying in touch put him in the opposite role. In this case, Gotay’s teammates were the ones who provided the support he ultimately needed.
“I really have to thank each and every one of those guys because they talked to me every day to see how I was and how my family was back home,” he reminisced. “It’s good and bad because sometimes you’re trying to concentrate and do something, but at the same time, they’re worrying about me and my family. That is something I will always appreciate about my teammates with the Ducks. There were a couple of my teammates from winter ball that we were playing against [in the Atlantic League], and every time we got on the field, we were talking about the storms and wondering how everybody was.”
Thankfully for Gotay, his and his parent’s homes were relatively spared. They suffered minimal damage, though the same could not be said for the rest of Puerto Rico. The former New York Met mentioned how roofs were torn off homes, cars were badly damaged and that most of the land was flooded from heavy rainfall. Recovery and relief efforts began as the Ducks were playing postseason baseball, and Gotay was juggling his goal to win an Atlantic League championship with determining how he could help out his homeland.
While in the playoffs, he urged fans at Ducks games to donate to the Red Cross as well as to the Go Fund Me effort started by his close friend, St. Louis Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina. Following the season’s conclusion, he met up with Molina in Florida and expressed a great interest in helping him give back to his fellow Puerto Ricans. Molina was all-in on having Gotay join him and his foundation’s efforts.
“I flew with [Yadier] to Puerto Rico and made a few stops around the island giving food and other supplies to the community,” Gotay explained. “We got together to do everything we could so that people had something to eat. A few of our other friends and their family members joined us also. Yadier really did all of the hard work to make it happen, and I was there to help him out. It was good to come back over here and help some families around the island.”
Following his assistance in relief efforts, Gotay was able to make his way back home to Fajardo and reunite with his family. He was beyond thankful to see first-hand that his parents were okay and that their homes had not sustained the damage originally predicted. He also was able to realize that while others were also as fortunate as him, many weren’t and needed support in one way or another. The people of Puerto Rico used this as an opportunity to unite with a collective spirit and provide each other with whatever was needed, be it some water to drink or a shoulder to lean on.
“When you see people giving generators and food for those who don’t have it, you can see how people are coming together to get better and help each other,” Gotay stated. “Many people are sharing food and water and other things, and that’s when you know our people on the island are getting stronger.”
He also noted, “You don’t just want people to help each other when there is a tragedy like this. You want to see it on a daily basis. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for everybody to get together daily and help each other out.”
Much of Fajardo has regained power, at least 75% according to Gotay, and Puerto Rico as a whole is continuing to recover from the storm. However, the work is not nearly complete. Repairs from historic storms such as Irma and Maria would take extensive time in any location, and the island is not as easily equipped to respond to such devastation as other areas would be. As the holiday season approaches, Gotay, who turns 35 on Christmas Day, remarks that his fellow residents are all trying to regain a sense of normalcy.
“Are things getting better? Absolutely,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that the whole island is better. We still need water, food and first aid to some people in Puerto Rico. Some towns still have no power. It’s still tough for us to feel happy when you know of some families around the island are still not getting the stuff they need.
“It’s not easy to concentrate on celebrating Christmas when you know others aren’t. We are trying to have as normal of a Christmas as possible, but it’s tough to do. You have to keep going and help other people as much as you can.”
Another way Puerto Rico is trying to return to normalcy is through baseball. Many of its stadiums that host Caribbean Winter League baseball were badly damaged by the storms. The inability to repair them quickly enough prevented the season from beginning on its originally scheduled date of October 27. However, rather than cancel the season outright, the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente decided it would shorten its season to 21 games, begin it on January 6 and not charge any admission to fans. When asked about the decision, Gotay expressed a range of emotions.
“It was a tough choice to have the season because it’s not that easy for people to make it to the field,” he opined. “It is not easy to have a league in this situation, but at the same time, I’m happy that this is happening so that people can get away from everything that’s been happening in their houses and on the streets, go to the field and enjoy a good game. When the directors and baseball people in Puerto Rico got together, they said they needed to do this to show that Puerto Rico is strong.”
Much like Houston’s response to Hurricane Harvey this year, Puerto Ricans have displayed tremendous resolve and spirit during one of the worst times in its history. The Astros brought Houston a World Series championship in the wake of Harvey, which, in turn, brought the city even closer together. Perhaps Puerto Rico will follow suit and keep the Caribbean Series title, which it won last winter, on the island.
You won’t find too many ballplayers stepping on a baseball diamond this time of year in the northeast. Even with temperatures still reaching into the 50’s as we reach late-November, the weather is simply not favorable for those looking to stay in shape during baseball’s offseason. With that in mind, several Long Island Ducks and Atlantic League alumni have received opportunities to make the trek south and play ball outside of the United States this winter.
The Caribbean Winter Leagues have begun in three of the four countries thus far: Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Due to the impact of Hurricane Maria earlier this year, Puerto Rico has yet to see the start of winter baseball. The league, which was slated to begin on November 15, has elected to delay the start of its campaign until January 6 and will hold an abbreviated schedule for this year. In addition, this past week marked the beginning of play “down under” in the Australian Baseball League, where several 2017 Atlantic Leaguers are participating.
Let’s go country by country to highlight those who are taking part in this year’s winter baseball leagues:
Venezuela features eight teams spread out across the country. Since the league opened play back on October 10, each team has played between 30 and 35 games thus far. Leones del Caracas currently maintains a three-and-a-half game lead for first place at 23-12, which can be partially attributed to a terrific pitching staff. 2008 Long Island Duck Jason Simontacchi is the team’s pitching coach, and among those he is watching over are three members of the 2017 Somerset Patriots. They are right-handed pitchers Lucas Irvine and David Kubiak, along with left-hander Efrain Nieves. In addition, outfielder Trayvon Robinson is also on the squad after having spent this past year with the Lancaster Barnstormers. Robinson previously was with the Ducks in spring training prior to the 2015 season before being signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would go on to play with Somerset and Lancaster in 2016.
Two other former Ducks are also coaching in Venezuela. Tiburones de La Guaira features Luis Rodriguez as its bench coach under manager Ozzie Guillen. Rodriguez was part of Long Island’s 2004 championship team and most recently served as manager of the Bridgeport Bluefish. York Revolution alumnus Liu Rodriguez is also on the staff as the third base coach. The roster includes eight players who were in the Atlantic League during the 2017 season. Henderson Alvarez, a starting pitcher for the Ducks before making his way back to the Major Leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, is one of them. The others include Atlantic League Player of the Year Alonzo Harris and Post-Season All-Star Isaias Tejeda (York), 2016 ALPB Pitcher of the Year Jonathan Albaladejo and Ozney Guillen (Bridgeport), 2017 All-Defensive Team selection Jake Hale (Sugar Land), Dustin Antolin (Somerset) and Brad Bergesen (Lancaster). The other squad is Navegantes del Magallanes, which currently has 2008 Duck Richard Hidalgo on staff as an assistant hitting coach. Their roster includes Hassan Pena (Somerset), who leads the league right now with 11 saves, and Jerome Williams (Somerset), who previously went from Lancaster to the big leagues.
Only one other 2017 Duck is playing in the league currently. Right-handed pitcher Wanel Mesa, who made a brief appearance with Long Island in August, is on the roster for Tigres de Aragua. He is teammates with infielder Alberto Callaspo, who began 2017 with Bridgeport and whose rights are now owned by Somerset.
The Venezuelan Winter League’s other four teams combine to include 18 players who spent time in the Atlantic League during the 2017 campaign. Here is a list of those players:
|Aguilas de Zulia||Bravos de Margarita|
|Julio DePaula (York, Sugar Land)||Manny Corpas (York, Sugar Land)|
|Cody Hall (Lancaster)||Logan Darnell (Somerset)|
|Reinier Roibal (Bridgeport)||Jay Gause (York)|
|David Vidal (Somerset)||Scott Maine (Sugar Land)|
|Dayron Varona (York)||Anthony Marzi (New Britain)|
|Felipe Paulino (Sugar Land)|
|Cardenales de Lara|
|Ricardo Gomez (York)||Caribes de Anzoategui|
|Chase Huchingson (York)||Daryl Thompson (Southern Maryland)|
|Ryan Kelly (Somerset)||Edwin Garcia (Southern Maryland)|
|Gustavo Molina (Bridgeport)||Michael Crouse (New Britain)|
The Dominican Republic has a league that is a bit smaller than Venezuela, hosting just six teams in total. However, the decrease in teams does not represent a major off in terms of Atlantic League talent. A total of 17 Atlantic League alumni from the 2017 season are now playing baseball this winter in the Dominican. The league began play back on October 13, and with approximately 25 games played thus far, the race is tight at the top of the league. Estrellas de Oriente sits in first at 16-9, but they are only ahead by a half-game.
Right behind Estrellas is Gigantes del Cibao at 16-10 thus far. Much of their success thus far has been due to a sparkling team ERA of 2.76 and a league-high 189 strikeouts. Sure enough, their roster includes two members of the 2017 Long Island Ducks. Former Major League pitchers Rafael Perez and Alfredo Simon, who were both in Long Island’s starting rotation, are off to strong starts with the team. Perez has been pitching out of the bullpen and has made nine scoreless appearances, spanning six and one-third innings of work. Simon has pitched in three games (two starts) and has a 1-0 record with a 3.00 ERA over nine innings of action. Also on the club is pitcher Patrick Johnson (Somerset).
Leones del Escogido currently has a member of the 2017 Ducks on its roster along with another pitcher that could potentially be on next year’s roster. Lefty pitcher Dustin Richardson, who began the year with Sugar Land before eventually signing with the Flock, is included on the roster but has yet to appear in a game. Another southpaw, Wander Perez, spent time last year with the Bluefish but now has his rights owned by the Ducks following the Bluefish Player Dispersal Draft. He has walked the only batter than he has faced thus far. Among their teammates are former York Revolution pitcher Edward Paredes, who reached the big leagues with the Dodgers this past year, Yankees outfielder Tyler Austin and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The following are the remaining 2017 Atlantic Leaguers who are playing in the Dominican Republic:
|Aguilas Cibaenas||Toros del Este|
|Angel Franco (York)||Bryan Evans (Lancaster)|
|Pat McCoy (Southern Maryland)|
|Estrellas de Oriente||Elvin Ramirez (Bridgeport)|
|Dustin Molleken (Somerset)||Cory Riordan (Bridgeport)|
|Luis Cruz (York)|
|Tigres del Licey||Jonathan Galvez (Bridgeport)|
|Keith Hessler (Somerset)||Sean Halton (Lancaster)|
|Kevin Munson (Lancaster)|
|Angelys Nina (Bridgeport)|
Our last stop in the Caribbean takes us south of the border to Mexico. Just like Venezuela, the league features eight teams across the nation. Only nine members of the Atlantic League’s 2017 rosters are currently down in Mexico, but there are four Ducks alumni from previous years playing and two others that are coaching. A three-way tie exists for first place 35 games into the season, which began back on October 10.
Tomateros de Culiacan are one of the three squads sitting at 20-15 thus far. Among their coaching staff is Robinson Cancel, the former big league catcher who put together an excellent season offensively with the Flock in 2010. The roster also includes two players who were in the Atlantic League this past season. Outfielder D’Arby Myers, who ended the year with the league’s highest batting average at .337, is joined in the outfield by Andy Wilkins. Wilkins began the year with Sugar Land before having his contract purchased by the Minnesota Twins in June.
The other two teams tied with Tomateros are Venados de Mazatlan and Naranjeros de Hermosillo. The roster for Venados currently includes former Ducks pitcher Nick Struck. After spending two seasons with Long Island, the righty pitched in Mexico during the 2017 campaign for Sultanes de Monterrey and went 3-0 with a 2.09 ERA in 41 relief appearances. He has a 1.17 ERA and one save thus far in seven relief appearances with Venados. Naranjeros currently has former Bees pitcher Casey Coleman, who began the season with New Britain before having his contract purchased by the Houston Astros in May.
One game out of first place with a 19-16 record is Charros de Jalisco. Their staff includes 2010 and 2011 Duck Javier Colina as hitting coach. Their roster also includes three Atlantic League alumni from this past season. Joining 2017 ALPB Pitcher of the Year Gaby Hernandez (Southern Maryland) are pitcher Will Oliver (Somerset) and infielder Rico Noel (Lancaster).
Aguilas de Mexicali does not have any players from this past ALPB season but does have two former Ducks on the roster. Right-handed pitcher Ryan Kussmaul, a 2015 Duck who nearly won a championship with the Wichita Wingnuts this past year, has a 1.72 ERA and 10 saves in 16 games thus far. Infielder C.J. Retherford, a 2014 Duck that played in Mexico and for the Sussex County Miners in 2017, has five homers and 18 RBI in 35 games.
Mayos de Navojoa has a roster which includes outfielder Quincy Latimore, who joined the Ducks for spring training back in 2014 before his contract was purchased by the Washington Nationals. Also on the club are infielder Jovan Rosa (New Britain) and pitcher Daniel Moskos (Lancaster). Rounding out the Atlantic League alumni playing in Mexico is infielder Olmo Rosario. He is currently on Caneros de los Mochis, joined by former Patriot and Skeeter Roy Merritt, who pitched in Mexico this past regular season.
We’ll close out our first look at this year’s winter baseball roster by heading around the world to Australia. The league has just begun for the six teams that make up the circuit, and two squads are out to perfect starts. The Sydney Blue Sox lead the way at 4-0, and although they do not feature any ALPB alumni, the defending champion Brisbane Bandits do. Among the squad, which has started out 3-0, is right-handed pitcher Zac Treece. He won a championship with the club last year and has gone to the Atlantic League Championship Series with the Ducks in each of the past two seasons as well. The side-armer has recorded a strikeout and a walk to this point with Brisbane.
Right behind Brisbane in the standings is the Perth Heat, who jumped out a 3-1 start this year. Their roster includes right-handed pitcher Kyle Simon, who led the Atlantic League with six complete games as a member of the New Britain Bees in 2017. He allowed four runs (two earned) in two and two-thirds innings of relief but struck out five during his only outing thus far.
The roster featuring the most ALPB alumni is that of the Canberra Cavalry. Three players on that squad were in the Atlantic League last year. They include pitchers Frank Gailey and Michael Click, who won a championship with York, and pitcher Brian Grening, who collected the win for the Freedom Division at the Atlantic League All-Star Game while representing Southern Maryland. Finally, pitcher Mark Hamburger is currently with the Melbourne Aces in Australia. The right-hander joined Somerset late in the year and earned the win in Game One of the Liberty Division Championship Series.
That will do it for this look around the winter baseball leagues currently taking place. If you know of any player currently playing abroad that we may have missed in this report, please let us know in the comments section or by filling out a contact form. As the seasons all progress, we will be sure to provide further updates here on the blog. Stay tuned!
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving has just about arrived, and the holidays are right around the corner. It seems like just yesterday that the Ducks were playing in their second consecutive Atlantic League Championship Series and fifth in the past seven years. The offseason is officially in full swing for Long Island’s hometown team, as season ticket packages, 10-game mini plans and group ticket outings are all now on sale for the upcoming All-Star Summer.
In short order, the Waddle In Shop will be re-opening for the holiday shopping season. Shortly thereafter, the Ducks Street Team will be heading to local hospitals to hand out donated toys to children in pediatric units. More information on all of that is soon to come on LIDucks.com. For now though, let’s get you caught up on some other news that has surfaced among some Ducks alumni as well as around the rest of the Atlantic League.
2009 DUCK ADDED TO MLB COACHING STAFF
Though his time win the Flock was short, Jim Brower is still a part of the Long Island Ducks alumni family. The right-handed pitcher joined the Flock during the 2009 season and would appear in seven games out of the bullpen. He earned one save and pitched eight innings without yielding a single earned run. Brower allowed five hits and three walks while striking out five and helped the Flock to the Second Half Liberty Division title under manager Gary Carter. Prior to joining the Ducks, he had accrued nine seasons of Major League experience with eight different teams, including the New York Yankees in 2007.
After his playing career ended following the 2010 season in Italy, Brower moved into the coaching ranks. He joined the Kansas City Royals organization as a pitching coach in the minor leagues, where he remained through 2015. In 2016, he joined the Chicago Cubs as their Minor League Pitching Coordinator. Now, he has made his return to the big leagues!
The Seattle Mariners announced their Major League coaching staff this week and have brought on Brower as an assistant coach. He will be joining a staff led by manager Scott Servais and featuring former Mariners slugger Edgar Martinez (hitting coach), Mel Stottlemeyer Jr. (pitching coach) and 1998 World Series MVP Scott Brosius (third base coach). He joins the likes of several former Ducks who are coaching in MLB, including Jamie Pogue (Cardinals bullpen catcher), Kimera Bartee (Pirates first base coach) and 2009 Ducks teammate George Lombard (Dodgers first base coach).
JANNIS KEEPS KNUCKLING PAST COMPETITION
We have highlighted 2015 Long Island Ducks pitcher Mickey Jannis at length here on the blog previously. Two years after his impressive first half with the Flock earned him a contract with the New York Mets organization, the right-hander is continuing to impress the baseball world. He has earned another opportunity to represent the Mets in the Arizona Fall League, and he has made six starts thus far with the Scottsdale Scorpions. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has compiled a 2.33 ERA, yielding just seven earned runs in 27 innings. He has given up just 23 hits and five walks as well while striking out 24 batters and holding opponents to a .223 batting average. These numbers come after making 21 starts during the 2017 season with Double-A Binghamton and going 8-7 with a 3.60 ERA, two complete games and 83 strikeouts to 38 walks over 122 and one-third innings.
The on-field success hasn’t been the only news of note for Jannis either. The Nevada native also got married this past weekend to his fiancée, Emily. In a bit of a coincidence, Andrew Barbosa, his teammate with the Ducks in 2015 and with the Mets organization in 2016, also tied the knot this offseason. He was married back in October to his fiancée, Mallory. Barbosa is still continuing his baseball career, as he spent 2017 with Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, appearing in 36 games (four starts). Take a look at the happy couples:
TWO NEW ATLANTIC LEAGUE MANAGERS HIRED
Though we are still a ways away from players being signed for the 2018 Atlantic League season, a pair of teams have already made managerial changes. First, the Sugar Land Skeeters announced at the end of September that Gary Gaetti, who had managed the team since its inaugural 2012 season, would be stepping down from his role. Last week, the team unveiled that his replacement would be 12-year Major League veteran Pete Incaviglia. The new skipper played at the game’s highest level from 1986 through 1998, spending the majority of his time with the Texas Rangers (’86-’90) and reaching the World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993. He had a brief stint with the Yankees as well in 1997. During his 12 years, he played in 1,284 games and compiled a .246 batting average with 206 homers, 655 RBI, 546 runs and 194 doubles. Since his playing career ended, Incaviglia has gone on to coach and manage for over a decade. The 53-year-old served as the inaugural manager of the Grand Prairie AirHogs in the American Association from 2007-2010 and was the manager of the Laredo Lemurs in the same league from 2012-2016, earning a championship in 2015.
This week, the New Britain Bees also announced a change in their manager’s seat. Stan Cliburn, who had led the team in its first two seasons of existence, will be replaced by none other than Wally Backman. The fiery skipper had a lengthy 14-year Major League career, highlighted by a World Series championship with the Mets in 1986. He is now the third member of that team to become a full-time Atlantic League manager, joining Bud Harrelson (Ducks, 2000) and Gary Carter (Ducks, 2009). Backman’s MLB career saw him play 1,102 games and accrue a .275 batting average, 240 RBI, 482 runs and 117 stolen bases. He has since become a long-time manager in the professional baseball ranks, spending 19 years in that role. The 58-year-old has been a skipper in the Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks and Mets organizations as well as in several independent leagues. He has won three championships as a manager, earning titles with the 1999 Tri-City Posse (Western Baseball League), the 2002 Birmingham Barons (Southern League, AA, White Sox) and the 2007 South Georgia Peanuts (South Coast League).
Welcome to the Atlantic League, Pete and Wally!
Stay tuned to the blog for upcoming news regarding which Ducks and Atlantic League alumni have taken the field to play more baseball this winter. We will have a full report in the coming days.
The 2018 Atlantic League schedule has officially been released, and the Long Island Ducks now know who and when they are playing during the upcoming All-Star Summer. There were many important notes that came out of this year’s schedule release, and if you happened to miss the announcement, let’s summarize some of the key things to know:
- The 2018 season will feature a 126-game schedule with two 63-game halves.
- With the addition of the Road Warriors, a league-operated travel team, the Ducks will play 72 home games and 54 road games to make up the 126-game slate (normally 70 home, 70 road, 140 total).
- The Ducks’ regular season begins on the road against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (for the second year in a row) on Friday, April 27.
- The 2018 Home Opener for Long Island will be on Friday, May 4 against the Blue Crabs at 6:35 pm.
- Bethpage Ballpark will host the Atlantic League All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 11 at 6:35 pm.
- First Liberty Division Championship Series rematch vs. Somerset Patriots: May 1-3 in New Jersey (Home: May 25-27).
- First Atlantic League Championship Series rematch vs. York Revolution: June 7-10 in Pennsylvania (Home: June 25-28).
The following is the complete 2018 Long Island Ducks Schedule (click to enlarge):
There is so much to look forward to during the Ducks’ 19th season of play, between the increased amount of games played on Long Island, the All-Star Game coming to Central Islip for a third time in franchise history and so much more. Fans can secure their seats for every game now with season ticket packages currently on sale. Here is a timeline of when other ticket options will become available for fans:
Group Ticket Packages & Experiences: Wednesday, November 8 at 10:00 am
10-Game Mini Plans: Monday, November 13 at 10:00 am
Birthday Party Packages: January 2018 (Date TBD)
Promotional Schedule Release & Individual Game Tickets: March 2018 (Dates TBD)
In other league news, the seven clubs returning from the 2017 season all took part in a Dispersal Draft on Wednesday morning. This draft was held to allow teams the opportunity to obtain the 2018 negotiating rights of players whose rights had been controlled by the Bridgeport Bluefish. This included players who were on Bridgeport’s active roster, inactive list, disabled list or had their contracts purchased from the Bluefish during the course of this past season. Those not included were players who had been released or traded by Bridgeport. Rather than having all Bluefish players become free agents and all seven teams battling for their services, teams drafted in order (based on 2017 overall regular season win-loss record) to obtain the rights to desired players they hope to sign for 2018.
The Ducks, with a record of 73-67 in 2017, had the fifth pick in the draft. Three rounds were held for teams to make selections, with additional rounds all optional. Four teams made selections in the fourth round (New Britain, Sugar Land, York and Long Island). The Ducks would make two more selections after the fourth round, while the Bees made four additional selections. Let’s take a look at the six players whose negotiating rights Long Island obtained during the Bluefish Player Dispersal Draft:
FIRST ROUND: DANIEL FIELDS (OF)
Fields brings a little bit of everything to the table should the Ducks eventually sign him. The outfielder played in 85 games for Bridgeport in 2017 and showcased an ability to get on base as well as some power. He compiled a .297 batting average and 88 hits to go along with a .387 on-base percentage and an .873 OPS. The 26-year-old finished the season with 12 home runs, 51 RBI, 54 runs scored, 18 doubles and 37 walks. Although Fields did not possess tremendous speed (one triple, one stolen base) and was a bit strikeout-prone (90 K’s) in 2017, he has 36 triples and 93 stolen bases in 787 career games. Defensively, Fields made just three errors in 63 games played in the outfield last year and posted a .990 fielding percentage in his seven seasons of affiliated baseball before joining the Atlantic League. The Detroit native reached the Major Leagues with his hometown Tigers in 2015, picking up a double and a run scored in his lone big league game. He spent six seasons in the Tigers organization before splitting 2016 in the White Sox and Dodgers’ systems, reaching Triple-A with both.
SECOND ROUND: VINNIE PESTANO (RHP)
Like Fields, Pestano is also a former Major Leaguer. The right-handed reliever has six seasons of MLB time with the Cleveland Indians (2010-14) and Los Angeles Angels (2014-15). In 223 career appearances, he accrued an impressive 2.98 ERA, 11 saves and 244 strikeouts in 202 and two-thirds innings, good for a 10.8 K/9 ratio. The 32-year-old impressed out of Bridgeport’s bullpen in 2017, pitching in 26 games and going 1-1 with a 3.25 ERA, one save and 30 strikeouts to just five walks in 27 and two-thirds innings. With the Bluefish bidding for a playoff berth, he tossed 10 consecutive scoreless appearances from August 16 to September 7 spanning a total of 11 and one-third innings. The California native also threw two scoreless innings at Bethpage Ballpark, striking out three. Prior to joining Bridgeport, Pestano made eight appearances with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa. in 2016, yielding four runs in 10 and two-thirds innings while striking out 16 and walking one. Not to mention, he was once referenced in an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” by Ted Mosby (Season 8, Episode 4)!
THIRD ROUND: WANDER PEREZ (LHP)
Dominant left-handed relief pitchers are not easy to come by, but the Ducks got the rights to one in the third round on Wednesday. Perez compiled a miniscule 1.71 ERA in 22 games for the Bluefish this past year, surrendering just four earned runs in 21 innings of work. He also struck out 25 batters while yielding only five walks and picked up a save along the way. After joining the team at the end of July, the 32-year-old made 15 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run to encompass the month of August. He also pitched three and one-third scoreless innings on Long Island, striking out six. The Dominican Republic native also was a member of the Bluefish in 2015, tossing five and two-thirds scoreless innings over six games. Perez has previous experience in the Chicago White Sox organization and began 2017 with Lehigh Valley (AAA, Phillies).
FOURTH ROUND: ELVIN RAMIREZ (RHP)
The Ducks inked the rights to a third consecutive relief pitcher in the fourth round with Ramirez. The right-hander had tremendous success for Bridgeport last year just like Pestano and Perez, going 5-2 with a 2.16 ERA and two saves in 31 games for the Bluefish. He struck out 30 batters in 33 and one-third innings while walking just six, including none in his final nine outings of the season. The 30-year-old joined Bridgeport at the end of June and began his tenure by not allowing an earned run in 11 straight outings, spanning 11 and two-thirds innings. He then went 13 consecutive outings with no earned runs from August 4 to September 12. The Dominican Republic native also pitched four and two-thirds scoreless innings on Long Island in 2017. Ramirez reached the big leagues with the Mets in 2012, striking out 22 batters in 21 and one-third innings. Control can sometimes be an issue, as he walked 20 batters with the Mets and 260 in affiliated ball experience over 463 and one-third innings, but he averages over seven strikeouts per nine innings. In addition to spending six seasons in the Mets organization, Ramirez has also pitched in the Angels and Reds’ systems.
FIFTH ROUND: MANNY PARRA (LHP)
Parra marked the fourth pitcher and second lefty whose rights the Ducks acquired. The southpaw joined the Bluefish late in the 2017 season and made nine starts with mixed results. He was 3-4 overall with a 5.87 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 46 innings. He allowed 19 walks but surrendered 60 hits. The 35-year-old began his Bluefish career with a strong performance against the Ducks, pitching five and two-thirds innings of two-run ball while striking out seven at Bethpage Ballpark. He then bounced back after a couple of tough outings to allow three earned runs or less in five of his final six starts. The California native carries eight seasons of MLB experience, including five with the Brewers (2007-10, ’12) and three with the Reds (2013-15). He was 29-41 with a 4.90 ERA and 592 strikeouts in 322 games (74 starts) at the game’s highest level. Parra began 2017 with Triple-A Iowa in the Cubs organization and has split time throughout his career as a starter and a reliever.
SIXTH ROUND: SEAN BURROUGHS (INF)
Ducks fans are surely familiar with Burroughs. The former big league infielder spent parts of the 2015 and 2016 seasons in a Ducks uniform and also donned a Bluefish jersey for parts of four years (2014-17). He has showcased a tremendous hitting ability since entering the Atlantic League, compiling a .334 batting average, 144 RBI, 145 runs, 67 doubles, 115 walks and a .394 on-base percentage in 336 games. In his two seasons with Long Island, the California native combined for a .321 batting average and 33 RBI in 79 games. He also brought a very likable personality to the clubhouse, always sporting a big smile and sharing laughs around the batting cage and dugout. Last year with Bridgeport, the seven-year MLB veteran ranked second in the Atlantic League with a .328 batting average. However, fans wondering why he was not drafted earlier on Wednesday must remember that he played in just 92 games last year after twice leaving the team (6/27-7/19 and 9/5-end of season) for the birth and care of his son, Knox. Though he has not announced his official retirement, it certainly remains possible.
Stay tuned for more news and notes as the offseason progresses. Over the next couple of months leading into the holidays, we will be highlighting which Ducks alumni are playing winter baseball in the Caribbean or overseas. In addition, we will also have feature articles on members of the 2017 Ducks and eventually will count down some of the top moments from this past season.
It’s officially awards season in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball! Now that the 2017 season has come to a close, the league has begun handing out its post-season awards to celebrate individual and team achievements from this past season. Among the Ducks to have been honored thus far are outfielder Marc Krauss, who has been selected to the league’s Post-Season All-Star Team, and infielder Elmer Reyes, who was named to the Red, White and Blue All-Defensive Team. The Atlantic League will unveil its club awards on Wednesday to round out its awards announcements.
We also decided to get into the spirit of handing out accolades by announcing our annual “Quack of the Bat” Ducks Team Awards. Long Island’s hometown team saw its share of outstanding performances this past year en route to a fifth Liberty Division championship in the past seven seasons and a second consecutive Atlantic League Championship Series appearance. Although the team fell just short of its ultimate goal in bringing home the Atlantic League title, there were plenty of individual achievements to be proud of. Here are our choices for the “Quack of the Bat” Team Awards:
Player of the Year – Marc Krauss
He was voted by the fans as the Delmonte-Smelson Team MVP, and we at “Quack of the Bat” could not have agreed with the selection more. Krauss’ first season with the Ducks was an all-around success, especially at the plate. He led all Ducks players and ranked in the top five of the Atlantic League in runs batted in (84), runs scored (75), walks (83), extra-base hits (53), on-base percentage (.400) and slugging percentage (.508). In addition, the former big leaguer led the team in doubles (30), ranked second in home runs (21) and sat third in games played (126). Krauss’ season was fueled by a tremendous second half that helped the Ducks clinch the Second Half Liberty Division title and a spot in the postseason for the 12th time in the past 14 seasons.
Starting Pitcher of the Year – Matt Larkins
Long Island saw its share of tremendous starting pitching this season. Two hurlers had their contracts purchased by Major League organizations (Tim Melville, Henderson Alvarez), and both of them eventually returned to the game’s highest level. However, our choice for Starting Pitcher of the Year was Matt Larkins. In his first full season with the Flock, the right-hander impressed across the board. He led the Ducks and ranked second in the league with 139 strikeouts, trailing only the league’s Pitcher of the Year Gaby Hernandez (150). He was also the league leader in shutouts (3) and the team leader in both innings pitched (156.0) and complete games (4). Both totals ranked in the league’s top five. Finally, the Idaho resident posted the league’s fourth-best ERA at 3.69, trailing only John Brownell for the team lead (3.44). Larkins’ season was highlighted by several historic performances. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning on June 15 at Somerset, tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout against the Barnstormers on July 5 and struck out a career-high 12 batters in a complete game win over Somerset on August 16.
Relief Pitcher of the Year – Amalio Diaz
In his third season with the Ducks, Amalio Diaz once again proved to be a dominant force at the back end of the bullpen. The right-hander led all Ducks relief pitchers (minimum 25 games) with a 2.25 earned run average. He was also second among relievers with 66 strikeouts and 56 innings pitched, trailing only Zac Treece. The Venezuela native ranked third on the team in appearances (57) and allowed just 14 earned runs and 22 walks all season. He took over the closer’s role after injuries to David Aardsma and posted 15 saves during the regular season. Diaz began the season with 11 consecutive scoreless appearances and allowed an earned run in just one of his first 26 games and two of his final 13 (playoffs included).
Gold Glove – Marc Krauss
Although Reyes was chosen to the league’s Red, White and Blue All-Defensive Team, we at “Quack of the Bat” are going to recognize Marc Krauss for his defensive efforts this year. The Ohio native split time and first base and both corner outfield spots during 2017. He made just one error in 63 games at first base, posting a .998 fielding percentage. He also played 49 games in the outfield during the regular season and committed just two errors while adding five assists and accruing a .978 fielding percentage. Krauss was splendid with the leather no matter which position he played, and his versatility was a big help for manager Kevin Baez.
“Rookie” of the Year – Giovanny Alfonzo
This award recognizes which Ducks player excelled the most in his first season as a member of the Flock. The unanimous choice for this year’s honor goes to infielder Giovanny Alfonzo. Playing just his third season of professional baseball, he finished the year as the team leader in batting with a .309 average, ranking him sixth in the Atlantic League. After initially being signed as the team’s utility infielder, he took over the starting third base job following Cody Puckett’s injury and ran with it. The 24-year-old surpassed his career-highs in nearly every offensive category, ending the year with four homers, 45 RBI, 39 runs, 112 hits, 17 doubles and 10 stolen bases in 106 games played. Alfonzo then went on to post five RBI in the playoffs, tying Lew Ford for the team lead, and added seven hits.
Breakout Player of the Year – Jake Fisher
For this honor, we highlight which member of the Ducks opened eyes and surprised the most after joining the team. Though his time with the Ducks was short in 2017, Jake Fisher made a quick impression on the coaching staff and front office. The starting pitcher joined Long Island in September via a trade from the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League. He made two regular season starts and combined to allow just four runs on 11 hits and three walks in 13 innings of work. The southpaw was then handed the ball in Game Three of the Liberty Division Championship Series at Somerset. In front of an Atlantic League postseason record crowd of 8,131, Fisher fired a complete game, yielding only one run on six hits and two walks while striking out nine. The performance gave the Ducks a 2-1 series lead en route to their second straight Liberty Division championship. He then pitched into the eighth inning of Game Two in the Atlantic League Championship Series against York, and although he took the loss, he struck out six without walking a batter and had given up just three runs over his first seven innings.
Unsung Hero Award – Alex Burg and Rob Rogers
While many players seemed to gravitate towards the spotlight, there were several others this year who did yeoman’s work under-the-radar. Their accomplishments were certainly integral to the team, and thus, we have decided to recognize their efforts with the Unsung Hero Award. The honor this year will be shared by catcher Alex Burg and relief pitcher Rob Rogers.
One of Burg’s biggest contributions this season was how he managed the Ducks’ pitching staff. The catcher developed a strong relationship with his starters and relievers and turned in well-called games on a nightly basis. Not to mention, his 98 games behind the plate this season were 73 more than he had ever caught in a single season previously. Burg then excelled offensively in the playoffs, leading the team with a .348 batting average and two home runs.
Rogers came to the Flock as a spring training invitee and proceeded to become a vital piece in the back end of the bullpen. The right-hander appeared in 58 games this season, the second-most among Ducks pitchers and a career-high. He turned in a 6-1 record with a 3.93 ERA, two saves and 40 strikeouts in 66 and one-third innings. The Islip resident filled various roles throughout the season, from closer to set-up man to long man out of the bullpen, and he was willing to do anything needed all year. Rogers was also terrific in the playoffs, tossing three and one-third scoreless innings over five games and getting some crucial outs along the way.
Community Award – Angelo Songco
Although everyone on the Ducks roster makes it a point to be active members in the Long Island community, Angelo Songco certainly stood out to our blog staff in 2017. He was a frequent presence at various team functions during the course of the season, assisting with the team’s annual Youth Baseball Camps and Kids Club Day. When he wasn’t in the starting lineup, Songco could often be found at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Autograph Booth greeting fans and signing autographs. The infielder was also often one of the first players down on the field to sign autographs prior to Sunday home games.