Category Archives: Feature Articles

Jurrjens Eager to be a Role Model on Long Island

Jurrjens-McCann-Handshake

It’s officially April folks! That means there is less than a month left before the Ducks take the field to embark on their 19th season of play in the Atlantic League. The roster has been taking shape since the calendar flipped to 2018, and there are a lot of key pieces to the puzzle already complete. However, there is surely more work to be done before the first pitch is thrown on April 27th down in Southern Maryland.

One of those important figures added to the roster is none other than former Major Leaguer Jair Jurrjens. The pitcher first entered the big league radar in 2007 when he was called up by the Detroit Tigers. After making seven starts with the club, he switched leagues in the offseason when he was traded along with Gorkys Hernandez to the Atlanta Braves for 1997 World Series hero Edgar Renteria.

After a solid first full season at the game’s highest level in 2008, a year in which he finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting, he fully stepped into the spotlight with a memorable 2009 campaign. Jurrjens led the NL in games started (34) and posted the league’s third-best earned run average (2.60). His 215 innings pitched ranked ninth in the league as well. The Curaçao native struggled in 2010 but bounced back with an All-Star season in 2011. Jurrjens went 13-6 that year with a sparkling 2.96 ERA and a pair of complete games.

Though he would spend time in MLB over the following three years, injuries and struggles prevented him from maintaining that All-Star status. The 32-year-old would go on to pitch in the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies organizations before spending the 2017 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization at Triple-A. Now, after posting strong numbers in the Dominican Winter League with Tigres del Licey this offseason, Jurrjens finds himself with another new home: Central Islip, N.Y.

The Ducks signed the eight-year Major League veteran at the beginning of March, and he is now gearing up for his first season in the Atlantic League. Like many before him, this season presents an opportunity for the righty to prove that he deserves a spot with a Major League organization and that he could once again pitch in the big leagues. Jurrjens seems determined and ready for the challenge ahead.

Jurrjens-Throwing

We caught up with the starter to get his take on joining the Flock and reflect back on his memorable time in the Major Leagues:

How do you view this new chapter of your baseball career with the Ducks and the Atlantic League?

“I’m going to look at it like a new challenge and take it as I would in any game or any league. I’m going to try to do my part to help the team win and be the best teammate and role model I can be.”

As an eight-year Major League veteran, are you looking to use this opportunity to mentor some younger teammates while also learning from them?

“I’m always open to share my knowledge. Just because a kid hasn’t played in the big leagues, that doesn’t mean he can’t teach me something. I’m always open to teach and learn from a teammate, and if they ever have a question for me, I’m willing to answer and be the best role model possible.”

Will you lean on the guidance of Atlantic League veterans regarding how to pitch to certain players?

“Yes, but it will come down to making my own adjustments when I’m on the mound and trying to see what will work for me. I’m always open to hear suggestions and go over scouting reports, but at the end of the day, I need to make my own adjustments during the game.”

Being that you pitched in the same organization as former Duck Rich Hill in 2017, did his experience with the Ducks have any influence on your decision to come play on Long Island?

“Yeah, definitely! When you’re in my situation, you want to play for the team that has more recognition. You want to put yourself in the best situation possible to get seen. Knowing the history of the team and the players coming out of there, it made it easy for me to choose the Ducks.”

Jurrjens-Braves-White

What does it mean to you to be the first pitcher from Curaçao to reach the Major Leagues?

“It was a fantasy, a dream come true. When I got the call, I thought I was going to get traded because there were rumors at the time. When the minor league director asked me if I was ready to pitch on Tuesday for the big team, I was like, ‘Stop playing with me!’ I was walking through a Circuit City store, which was still open at the time, and when I got the news I just sat down in the middle of the store. I had some problems calling my dad and telling him that I was going up. It was a memory that I’m never going to forget. I still think about it sometimes.”

How special was it facing fellow-countryman Andruw Jones for the first time in 2008?

“It was an honor because Andruw and my older brother played on the same team back home, and I used to be the bat boy for them. It was surreal to see him do everything he did in the big leagues before I got there, then to share a field with him and be the first pitcher to face a position player from Curaçao. He’s a legend back home, and to be able to strike him out, I think I’ll cherish that forever. We joke about it still today. We have a great respect for each other.”

You flourished in your second full season in the Majors (2009). What enabled you to be so successful?

“Everybody talks about the ‘sophomore slump,’ and I just prepared myself mentally to not go through that and not be another name. I like to prove to everybody that I’m better than a lot of people think I am. I trusted myself and tried not to do too much. I just tried to attack the hitters and let them hit the ball. When I needed a strikeout, I would step up my game to get that.”

Jurrjens-All-Star-Game

Is there one memory that stands out most from playing in the 2011 MLB All-Star Game?

“Just sharing it with my family. That is one of the things I’m never going to forget. It was one of my dad’s dreams, and I was able to accomplish that. I’m always going to cherish that. It’s an honor to have the words ‘All-Star’ next to your name, but when you go to the game, it’s all about sharing the time with your family and appreciating the support they give you off the field.”

Does it give you added motivation this year to play in the Atlantic League All-Star Game because it’s being held in your home ballpark?

“The main thing is going out there and giving 100% to my team. I don’t have control over the All-Star situation. As a starting pitcher, your job is to keep the team in the game and give them a chance to win. To be an All-Star, it’s about winning and ERA and personal level numbers like that. If I keep the team in the game and give them a chance to win, there’s a good chance that I can be an All-Star too.”

How much of an honor was it to represent the Netherlands twice in the World Baseball Classic (2006, 2017)?

“A lot of people might not believe me, but I think playing for your country is more challenging and nerve-wracking than playing in the big leagues. In a way, you’re representing your family, your friends and your whole country. It’s really an honor to be able to put that flag and that name on my chest.”

Jurrjens-Netherlands

Injuries derailed your 2011 season toward the end. Do you think that contributed to your subsequent struggles in the Majors?

“I was actually pitching on one leg that whole year. After the surgery I had the year before, I started to lose strength in my leg and my knee started swelling up. I wasn’t able to push off the mound and had no velocity. I think I had some personal health issues too that didn’t help me recover from a game or a workout. By changing my diet and seeing a doctor, that helped me get back to where I wanted to be.”

Do you have any personal or team expectations going into the 2018 season?

“On a team level, everyone wants to win. I’m not going to come there just to play baseball. I’m trying to come there to win. On a personal level, you are always trying to impress somebody to get an opportunity to go back to the Major Leagues or go overseas. That’s the goal, but it begins by being a good teammate, playing for your team and trying to win. If the team is winning, scouts are going to come to see you.”

What are you looking forward to most about coming to Long Island?

“Just to have fun! I want to be the best pitcher I can be, have fun with the game, be a good teammate and give 100% percent every time I go out there. I want to be a role model for the community and my teammates.”

Jurrjens-Rockies

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Mets Come Calling for 2017 Ducks Batting Champ

Alfonzo-NYMets.jpeg

Good things often come to those who wait.

That saying could not be truer for Giovanny Alfonzo. After putting together the best season of his professional career with the Ducks in 2017, the infielder had to wait all offseason for a Major League organization to call. Fortunately, the New York Mets did just that late last week, offering him the opportunity to join the team for spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

“I got a phone call from [Mets Director of Minor League Operations] Ronny Reyes, and he invited me to come to a workout/free agent tryout type of deal,” Alfonzo remarked via telephone this week. “After it was all done, nothing too much was said. Just, ‘Thanks for coming, you looked great, keep up the good work and we’ll be in contact with you if something comes up.’”

The 25-year-old was gearing up for a return to Long Island. He had already signed a contract to play a second season with the Ducks, and he was looking forward to making the trek north in approximately one month. Instead, Alfonzo needed to reverse course and head further south from his home in Tampa to earn a place in the Mets’ system.

“A few days [after the tryout], I got my Ducks uniform on and was ready to do a video to announce that I signed back with the Ducks,” Alfonzo recalled. “Right when I put on my shirt, that’s when my agent called me, and that was pretty cool.”

Alfonzo-Swing

Of all 56 players that put on the Ducks uniform in 2017, few, if any, were more deserving of this opportunity than Alfonzo. He led the team in batting average, hitting .309 over the course of 106 games during the regular season. That average was good for sixth-best in the Atlantic League. He also set career-highs in nearly every other offensive category, many by a wide margin. Yes, last year was just his third in pro ball. However, the dramatic increase in production despite playing against higher-caliber talent was certainly impressive.

“Playing in the Atlantic League, I got the experience of being a Major Leaguer in the sense that I was playing Major League Baseball,” Alfonzo opined. “Most of the pitchers from the other teams were Double-A, Triple-A or Major Leaguers. I learned a lot from the pitchers that threw against me. I’ve played at a high level, and I can say I’ve hit against big leaguers and gotten big hits against big leaguers. That’s something that I’ll use as confidence and take with me to each at-bat that I have.”

Here’s a closer look at Alfonzo’s career progression:

Statistic

2015 – Batavia (A-) 2016 – Greensboro (A)

2017 – Ducks (IND)

Batting Average

.245

.222

.309

Home Runs

0

2

4

Runs Batted In

20

14

45

Runs Scored

17

12

39

Hits

50

46

112

Doubles

6

6

17

Stolen Bases

8

3

10

Games Played

60

65

106

Along with the challenge of facing tough competition and experienced players, Alfonzo also needed to find a way to earn playing time. He came to Long Island in a utility infield role behind the likes of veterans such as Dan Lyons, Cody Puckett and Elmer Reyes. However, some key injuries among his teammates forced Alfonzo into the spotlight early.

“The week that [Nolan] Reimold went down, that was the week that I got my feet wet,” he said. “I was able to play seven days in a row. That’s when I gave myself credit for being able to play in the Atlantic League, because it is high-level baseball.”

During the week he filled in for Reimold, Alfonzo hit safely in every game and compiled a .381 batting average (8-for-21). He then proceeded to collect walk-off RBIs in back-to-back games against the rival Somerset Patriots on May 19 and 20. By the end of the month, Alfonzo became the starting third baseman after Puckett went down with a season-ending knee injury. Thanks to his previous opportunity earlier in the month, the University of Tampa alum was ready to transition seamlessly.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Alfonzo affirmed. “I didn’t stress because I already knew I could play at that level. The only thing was, instead of going all out during practice to try and get my reps to stay in shape, I had to tone it down a little bit. I just took quality [swings in] batting practice and quality ground balls to be ready for each day rather than a thousand of each. That was the only real transition I had to make.”

Alfonzo-Fielding

There were several key factors that Alfonzo was able to point to regarding what made him successful last year. One was certainly the veterans that surrounded him, both in the Ducks clubhouse and that of his opponents. He was able to work with teammates every day on improving his craft and taking his game to the next level. In addition, the experience of those he faced in the opposite dugout forced Alfonzo to prove that he belonged on the same field with such competition.

“Having Delta [Cleary Jr.], Reyes, [Ruben] Gotay, [Marc] Krauss, Quintin [Berry], [Alex] Burg and all those guys with experience that were there for the majority of the season, each one of them taught me something different,” Alfonzo reminisced.

“It was just little things that we worked on throughout the entire season. A lot of it was mental and just not letting the game get to you. Just playing the game. I think that’s the reason why I had such great success.”

Alfonzo-Berry

Along with those playing the game in the Atlantic League, Alfonzo was also able to enjoy some tutelage from another MLB veteran. That person just so happened to be his uncle, too. Former Ducks infielder Edgardo Alfonzo, who played 12 seasons in the big leagues, including eight with the New York Mets, worked with his nephew every day. Edgardo was in his first year managing the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Single-A affiliate of the Mets, and was able to watch Gio play and work with him when not on the job.

“I lived with [my uncle] last year, and he got to experience the season that I had with the Ducks every day,” Gio recalled. “Before I went to the stadium, we would watch my at-bats from the night before, or he’d talk to me about what I did the night before and how I feel.”

Now that 2017 is in his rearview mirror, Alfonzo is focused on what 2018 can bring. His ultimate destination at the culmination of spring training is unknown, as he will need to prove he belongs in the organization. However, he is not worried about what league or what city he might be playing in. He simply is looking for carpe diem; to seize the day.

“Basically it’s just ‘earn a spot,’” Alfonzo noted. “It’s a clean slate for spring training just like how it was when I was with the Marlins. Any player that goes through spring training with an affiliate knows everybody has to earn their spot for that season. They’re giving me an opportunity to prove what I have.”

Alfonzo-Patriotic

Everyone, including his teammates, coaches and fans on Long Island, will be rooting for the popular infielder in his new opportunity with the Mets. They all want to see him playing under the lights at Citi Field one day. If the road leads him there, mission accomplished. Should it bring him back to Long Island, Alfonzo would welcome a return with open arms.

“That was a conversation I had with [Ducks President/GM Michael] Pfaff when I found out the Mets were bringing me to spring training,” he detailed. “I wanted to make sure that I was still a Duck regardless of what happened. He said, ‘D4L man, Duck for Life.’ If things happen, I’ll be coming back up there and playing for the remainder of the season whenever that time comes. I’ll always be a Long Island Duck, and I had the best time of my life last year. I’m going to miss those fans the most.”

Those same fans will certainly miss him. However, you can bet they will be following along, even if it’s from a thousand miles away.

Barbosa Comes Full Circle in Return to Flock

BarbosaCover

Andrew Barbosa is back in a familiar place.

Three years after first donning the black and orange, the left-handed pitcher will begin his second tour of duty with the Long Island Ducks. He was signed by the team earlier this month, becoming the first pitcher added to the 2018 roster.

“I’m ready!” Barbosa exclaimed via telephone this week. “Last time I played, it was great. The fans are amazing. The organization as a whole is very professional. It’s great baseball out there.”

It’s been quite the journey for the 30-year-old over the past four seasons. He first came to the Ducks in 2015 after getting released by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the same team that drafted him in the 36th round back in 2012 out of the University of South Florida. The move came as a shock to Barbosa at the time, as he was named a Post-Season All-Star in 2013, a Mid-Season All-Star in 2014 and had compiled a 21-17 record with a 3.78 ERA over 64 games (62 starts).

“To be honest, I never knew what independent baseball was when I got released,” he recalled. “It was two weeks into the season, and I knew there was no chance of a minor league team picking me up because rosters were full. I didn’t know what to expect.”

Barbosa1

Despite the uncertainty that can come with a new situation upon being released, Barbosa used his opportunity with the Ducks to prove his worth to Major League clubs. He made nine starts for Long Island, totaling a 4-1 record, a sparkling 2.82 ERA and 59 strikeouts to just 19 walks over 51 innings of work. His devastating changeup kept hitters around the league off-balance, and his 6-foot-8 frame made him an imposing presence on the mound.

“When I got [to Long Island], I realized the competition was great,” Barbosa noted. “It was up there with Double-A and Triple-A. It felt like I picked up where I left off.”

He continued to say, “The coaching staff was great; from the pitching coach to the manager everyone was professional…Being here makes you realize that you have to work hard to get back to where you were, and the team helped me so much.”

Thanks to his performance, the Atlanta Braves came calling. They purchased the southpaw’s contract in July and assigned him to the team’s Double-A affiliate in Mississippi. With the gratification of achieving his goal with the Flock and a fresh start in an MLB organization, Barbosa’s success continued. He made 16 appearances (five starts) to finish the year and posted a 5-2 record, a 2.68 ERA and 51 strikeouts over 43 and two-thirds innings. He was even named the Southern League’s Pitcher of the Week at the end of July after tossing 11 scoreless innings over two starts.

“Initially when you get to a new team you say ‘Okay, they’re giving me a new opportunity,’” Barbosa reminisced. “It felt so good to get picked up by the Braves. When I got there I just kept rolling.”

Barbosa3

Although he was successful with the Braves, the organization decided to move on from the Puerto Rico native in the offseason. He was granted free agency in early November, but just over a month later, Atlanta’s NL East rival gave him an opportunity. The New York Mets signed him to a minor league deal, making them Barbosa’s third National League organization. 2016 presented a bit of a challenge, as a lat injury sidelined him for nearly two months between May and July and then for another couple of weeks in early-August.

When healthy, though, Barbosa was magnificent. He split time at four different levels in 2016, including Triple-A for the first time in his career, and in 16 games (15 starts) accrued a 3-0 record, a miniscule 1.51 ERA and 71 strikeouts to 19 walks in 71 and two-thirds innings. He was chosen as the Florida State League’s Pitcher of the Week as well on September 4. During that week, he fired seven no-hit innings while striking out 11 on August 29 at Charlotte. After a promotion back to Double-A, he tossed eight innings of one-hit, scoreless baseball on Sept. 4 at Erie to end the season. His numbers were tremendous, especially to close out the year, yet the Mets felt his injuries proved questionable enough to avoid keeping him. He was granted free agency once again on November 7.

“Going into free agency, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Barbosa remembered. “They said they’re going to move on and I was disappointed, but when I got a call from my agent saying there were three or four teams that wanted to pick me up, that reassured me maybe I’m still where I want to be.”

He added, “I still often think about why the Mets didn’t want me back. On one hand it was cool to have a new opportunity, but I always wonder why they didn’t want to pick me up again.”

Barbosa4

Much like the previous year, it did not take long for an MLB club to consider Barbosa worthy of a contract. This time, it was the Milwaukee Brewers who signed the lefty in a month’s time following his release. The team invited him to spring training and elected to have him pitch out of the bullpen with Triple-A Colorado Springs once the season began. Despite a pair of minor stints on the seven-day disabled list, Barbosa remained healthy enough to appear in 36 games (four starts). In his primary role as a reliever, he compiled a 7-2 record with a 3.68 ERA.

While he was with the Sky Sox, he also had the opportunity to reconnect with his previous Ducks roots. After pitching with Ducks teammate Mickey Jannis in the Mets organization during the 2016 season, he became teammates with 2017 Ducks outfielder Quintin Berry after the Brewers purchased his contract from Long Island in August. Though Berry’s time in Colorado Springs lasted just 10 games before he was promoted to the big league club, Barbosa was able to chat with the MLB veteran about his time on Long Island and recall the great memories both players made there.

“He came over one day, and I said ‘Hey man, how are the Ducks?’” Barbosa recalled. “He said, ‘It’s good to be here, but it was so much fun over there.’ Quintin’s the man. He got called up at the end of the season, and it was awesome to see that. It showed that if you want [to get back to the Major Leagues], you have to grind it out. There are players who get released, get bummed out and stop playing baseball even though they are so talented.”

Barbosa2

Following his release by the Brewers last November, the Florida resident made three starts with Indios de Mayaguez during their abbreviated winter season. Now, three organizations and three seasons of winter league baseball in Puerto Rico later, Barbosa is back on Long Island. Having previously gone through an experience with the Ducks that exceeded his expectations, his focus this season is no longer guided by the promise of getting back to an affiliated club. Instead, Barbosa is fueled by the desire to win and let everything else work itself out.

“I’m just going to take it one pitch at a time,” he stated. “I can only control what happens there, and I’m focused on the Ducks. I want to win games and do well, but I have to take it one pitch and one out at a time and everything else will fall into place.”

And not only will the southpaw have competitive baseball to look forward to. After getting married earlier this offseason, he and his wife, Mallory, are expecting their first child together later this year.

Backstop Consistency Pays Off for Burg

BurgCatching

Alex Burg had two goals upon joining the Ducks for the first time in 2017: to win an Atlantic League championship and to earn a contract from a Major League organization. While he came up just short of accomplishing the former, he can now celebrate achieving the latter.

The catcher, who had signed on for a second season with Long Island back on February 1, was inked to a minor league contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend. He will head to Glendale, Ariz. to join the team at its spring training facility, looking to prove his worth to the organization.

“I’m really excited for this opportunity,” Burg said via telephone. “I’m hoping it all works out and that I get the chance to show I can play every day.”

BurgSwing

Getting to this point required a decision that Burg made back during the spring of 2017. Prior to beginning his first experience in the Atlantic League, he knew exactly what he hoped to gain from the opportunity. The Washington native was looking for some consistency after spending seven seasons as a utility player in three different Major League organizations.

“I told [Ducks President/GM] Mike [Pfaff] that I wanted to catch every day,” Burg recalled. “I felt like it was my best position but was something I hadn’t really done much of.”

During his time in the San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers’ systems, the first place to look for Burg was not behind the plate. He spent most of his innings in right field (803.2) but was also frequently found at third base (649.0). He spent some time at first base, second base and in left field as well. Versatility is a tremendous asset for any ballplayer and a trait that field managers adore. However, Burg’s belief was that his best position was at catcher and that the key to returning to an MLB organization would be to spend a full season there.

“I felt like that was the best way to get back into affiliated baseball,” he opined. “If I could show that I could catch and still carry an offensive stick, I would obviously be more valued. Throughout my time in minor league baseball, everyone knows that I could go play any position with no issues. However, proving that I could catch would make me more appealing.”

Burg had never caught more than 25 games in a single regular season entering his inaugural year with the Flock in 2017. By year’s end, he would catch 98 games during the season and seven more in the playoffs. While the result was not, at least immediately, a contract with an MLB club, the outcome was what Burg called “the most fun [he’s] ever had playing baseball in [his] entire life.”

Burg-Baez

2017 represented a little bit of everything for the 30-year-old. While taking to a specific position for the duration of the season, the experience required a great deal of work to prove his worth behind the plate. As the season progressed, Burg received a great deal of help from his teammates and coaches and put in extensive work to refine his craft. The results on the field, in his opinion, were certainly a positive development.

“I was really happy with my defense,” Burg exclaimed. “That was something that was a definite question mark of mine. It was my first year of catching every day and was something I had to prove to myself that I could do. I felt like I made a lot of strides catching-wise. I still have a ways to go in that aspect, but I was really happy with the way I was able to play defense.”

A major reason why the Washington State University alum was able to develop defensively was the work he did with teammate Jordan Pacheco. The former big leaguer, who, like Burg, was signed by an MLB organization this offseason (Twins), was also fine-tuning his craft behind the plate. After suffering a shoulder injury the previous year, Pacheco needed to build back up the strength in his arm while also reacclimating to the role. This dynamic offered the forum for an exchange of tutelage between the two backstops.

“It was never a competition between us, which was really cool,” Burg reminisced. “Baseball can be kind of a dog-eat-dog world, but it never felt like that.  He told me that I threw really well and would ask me what I would do to get those results. Hitting-wise, I would tell him that I loved the way he swung and would ask what he did there. It became almost like an offseason friendship where every day we would show up, go over what we wanted to work on and then get out there to get better.”

BurgBatting

Though he was happy with the improvements made in his defensive game, his offensive performance was a bit of a bumpy road. Burg got out to a strong start to his season, driving in seven runs over the season’s first eight games and bringing a .278 batting average into the month of June. After securing a spot in the Atlantic League All-Star Game, the wear and tear from catching so frequently began to take its toll. Burg struggled in the second half despite the Ducks earning a postseason berth, and he ended the year with a .225 batting average, well below the .260 average over his previous seven seasons.

“I was extremely disappointed in how I broke down at the end of the season, in terms of my offense,” Burg noted. “I had a huge first half and made the All-Star Game. Being that it was the first time catching full-time, my body wasn’t used to the rigors of that second half. I was really disappointed in the way that I finished.”

Fortunately for the former Giants draft pick, a playoff spot gave him the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and show that he could still be dangerous offensively. In Long Island’s seven postseason games, no other Duck had a batting average within 50 points of him. Burg hit .348 (8-for-23), with the next closest teammate being Marc Krauss at .296. In addition, Burg clubbed two of the team’s three postseason homers, scored five runs and drew four walks.

Because of his tremendous turnaround, the Ducks were able to claim their second consecutive Liberty Division Championship over the rival Somerset Patriots. Looking back now on what allowed Burg to flip the proverbial switch, he was able to attribute the success to a conversation with a close friend and fellow ballplayer whom he works out with in the offseason.

“[Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman] Jake Lamb is a really good friend of mine,” he noted. “He had a second half struggle as well. We were talking, and I asked him, ‘what are you trying to do?’ He said that he just tried to back up on the ball a little more and simplify everything. Being in the playoffs and knowing that you’re 0-for-0 and get to start over helps a ton. Your numbers in the playoffs don’t matter. It’s just about trying to win as many games as possible and trying to bring home a championship. That mindset helped me and reenergized me offensively for sure.”

BurgAardsma

While his goal of bringing home a championship came up short against the York Revolution, his first experience in the Atlantic League was an overwhelming success. He was able to enjoy a high level of play, focus on winning and develop a consistent presence at one position. All of that has now culminated in a second chance at achieving his Major League dream, a chance that might not have happened otherwise.

“I feel like it exceeded all my expectations,” Burg asserted about his year with the Flock. “I really had no clue what I was walking into, and I had no idea that the baseball would be that good. The star power that you see in the league and the guys that can still play, it was truly awesome. I had more fun playing baseball last year than I probably had in my entire life. That was the main reason I was ready to come back [before the Dodgers offered a contract].”

Now that he has a full year of catching under his belt, Burg knows what to expect from the position. The mental and physical grind is tougher than just about any other position on the field. It has a significant effect over the course of time. Knowing this, and his desire to avoid a downturn as the season progresses, Burg has focused his offseason workouts on keeping his endurance high.

“I’ve just done a little bit more leg work and endurance-type activities,” he claimed. “You’re trying to feel stronger for a longer period of time. I’ve just developed a routine of doing similar things to what I had been but focusing more on my legs or increasing the number of reps. I also created a better maintenance program for the season. I think that will be a big help too. My lifts weren’t as good during the season as I would have liked them to be. I’m just trying to figure out a way to keep my body in better shape.”

It remains unclear where Burg will begin his 2018 season. He split time at Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 prior to joining the Flock, leaving either of those as his likely destination. However, the sky is the limit for him with the Dodgers. With a new workout regimen to keep up his strength, a full year of catching experience in his arsenal and a second chance at living out his dream, Burg could one day be wearing Dodger blue in a big league ballpark.

Dan Lyons Continues Legendary Ducks Career

Lyons-Swinging

The 18-year history of the Long Island Ducks has seen a wide swath of players don the team’s orange and black colors. From long-time Major Leaguers to players looking for a second chance at reaching the game’s highest level to those fresh out of college, each season’s roster has been a sort of “melting pot” of the professional baseball world. Despite the hundreds of players that have made their way to Central Islip, there have only been a select few to truly cement their place as one of the franchise’s legendary players. Dan Lyons is most certainly one of them.

After joining the club in a utility role prior to the 2011 season, he has been firmly etched into the shortstop position for the past six years. Lyons has batted in seemingly every spot of Kevin Baez’s lineup card, but while his place among the starting nine hitters may change, his presence among the group has been constant. That consistency will continue to remain in place during the 2018 season, after the 33-year-old re-signed with the team on Thursday, making him the first Duck to put pen to paper this year.

His accolades are plentiful. He is twice an Atlantic League champion (2012, ’13), three times an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection (2012, ’15, ’16) and twice a Post-Season All-Star (2012, ’15). The Minnesota native was named the Championship Series Most Valuable Player in 2012 after his infamous waddle-off bunt single, and he was the league’s first-ever winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove Defensive Player of the Year award. Lyons enters the 2018 season with a franchise record in sight as well, sitting just 68 games shy of equaling Ray Navarrete for the most games played in team history.

We sat down with the greatest shortstop in Long Island Ducks history this week to look back on what he’s accomplished thus far and what he is hoping to achieve this year:

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