Category Archives: Feature Articles

Weathering the Storm

Gotay-Puerto-Rico
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.”

Gotay-Swing

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-Homer

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.”

Gotay-Follow-Through

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.

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2017 “Quack of the Bat” Ducks Team Awards

Krauss-MVP-Award

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
Marc-Krauss-Rounds-Bases

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
Larkins-Dealing

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
Diaz-Dealing

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
Krauss-at-First

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
Alfonzo-at-Third

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
Fisher-Pitching

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
Burg-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
Songco-Signing-Autographs

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.

Game 105: Ducks at Blue Crabs

Vega-Running-5-17-17

Anthony Vega and the Ducks are hoping to run their winning streak to nine games tonight.

GAME TIME/LOCATION:

6:35 p.m. at Regency Furniture Stadium (Waldorf, Maryland)

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP:

The Long Island Ducks (19-15; 55-49) continue their week-long matchup with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (13-21; 51-52) tonight in the third game of a four-game series. Long Island has won the first five games of the seven-game home-and-home mega-series. The Ducks have an 11-7 edge in the season series thus far, and have a 5-4 advantage in Waldorf. This series will wrap up the season series between the two teams, and the Blue Crabs are the first team that the Ducks will finish their slate of games with in the 2017 season.

YESTERDAY’S RECAP: 

The Long Island Ducks won their eighth straight game on Friday night at Regency Furniture Stadium, defeating the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 8-4 in a rain-shortened eight-inning affair.

The Ducks took an early lead, scoring twice in the top of the first inning against Blue Crabs starter Drew Hayes. Marc Krauss grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Quintin Berry with the first run of the game, and scored on an Angelo Songco double to give Long Island a 2-0 lead.

In the top of the second, the Ducks rallied for four runs on five hits against Hayes (6-6), including a two-run double from Krauss and another RBI double off the bat of Songco to extend a 6-0 advantage. Krauss finished the game 2-for-4 with a double and four RBIs.

Southern Maryland got on the board in the bottom of the second against Rafael Perez with a Tucker Nathans sacrifice fly making it 6-1 Ducks. Long Island tacked on runs in the fourth and sixth innings, while the Blue Crabs added runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh.

In the top of the ninth, Cody Hebner walked pinch hitter Derrick Pyles leading off. Heavy rains then began and the tarp was called for and the game was called after a 32-minute delay.

Perez (8-7) got the win, allowing four runs on nine hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out two. Rob Rogers added a scoreless inning of relief.

The Ducks set a new franchise record by pounding out nine doubles, surpassing the previous mark of eight set on May 31, 2013 at York. Songco and Audie Afenir had two two-baggers each, while five other Ducks had one. Eight out of the nine Long Island batters in the starting lineup had at least one hit.

HIGHLIGHTS:

ON THE MOUND:

Jake Dunning takes the mound for the Ducks in Saturday’s matchup, making his first start of the season. In seven appearances as a reliever, the right-hander has no record and a 1.69 ERA, with eight strikeouts and five walks allowed in 10.2 innings pitched. Dunning spent time in the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the San Francisco Giants, and is a former 33rd round pick out of Indiana University. Dunning celebrates his 29th birthday today, and will be facing the Blue Crabs for the first time this season.

Southern Maryland sends David Russo to the mound to try to put an end to the Ducks’ eight-game winning streak. In 22 appearances (three starts) this season, Russo is 0-1 with a 4.83 ERA. He has struck out 26 and walked an incredible 18 in 31.2 innings pitched this year. The lefty last pitched on August 8 at Bethpage Ballpark against the Ducks, allowing a run on one hit in two innings of relief. Russo faced the Ducks just one other time this year – in a 1.2 inning scoreless relief appearance on Opening Day.

FOLLOW ALONG: 

Fans can follow all the action for tonight’s game, and every Ducks game in 2017, on the Long Island Ducks Broadcast Network. Streaming HD video and audio via BoxCast will be available on the team’s official Facebook page through Facebook Live, on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel and at LIDucks.com in the Video Center. In addition to updates in this post, fans can follow a pitch-by-pitch account of tonight’s game via Pointstreak’s Game Live application by CLICKING HERE.

DUCKS GAME NOTES: 

For tonight’s full Ducks game notes, please CLICK HERE.

STARTING LINEUPS:

Long Island Ducks
#47 Quintin Berry – RF
#5   Delta Cleary Jr. – CF
#20 Lew Ford – DH
#30 Ruben Gotay – 1B
#19 Derrick Pyles – LF
#13 Elmer Reyes – 2B
#23 Alex Burg – C
#6   Giovanny Alfonzo – 3B
#12 Dan Lyons – SS

#45 Jake Dunning – RHP

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs
#4   Jose Lozada – 2B
#9   Edwin Garcia – SS
#10 L.J. Hoes – DH
#6   Patrick Palmeiro – 3B
#12 Devon Rodriguez – 1B
#27 Cory Vaughn – CF
#35 Tucker Nathans – LF
#32 Luis Alen – C
#23 Zach Cone – RF

#13 David Russo – LHP


LIVE GAME UPDATES:

BOT 2: Jake Dunning looks sharp through two innings, setting the Crabs down 1-2-3. No score as we head to the third.

TOP 3: The Ducks score three times and take a 3-0 lead over the Blue Crabs!

BOT 5: Giovanny Alfonzo makes an acrobatic play at third base to retire the side. Ducks lead 3-0!

TOP 6: The Ducks break the game open by sending 11 to the plate and scoring six runs in the inning to take a 9-0 lead!

BOT 7: The Blue Crabs strike for five runs, but the Ducks still lead 9-5.

Tonight’s game has been called in the top of the ninth due to inclement weather.

FINAL/8: Ducks 9, Crabs 5
W: Dunning (1-0)
L: Russo (0-2)

Ducks Start Spring Training with Redemption on Mind

Spring-Training-Shot-2017

The 2017 season is around the corner as spring training is underway at Bethpage Ballpark

With the start of the 2017 Atlantic League season slated for next Thursday, the Long Island Ducks began spring training on Monday. With a roster full of fresh faces and familiar returners, the Ducks have their sights set on a fourth Atlantic League championship this year. Spirits are high and minds are focused after a defeat in the ALPB Championship Series last year left the Ducks just shy of their ultimate goal.

Monday brought the first day of workouts, where the team took the field at Bethpage Ballpark for the first time for batting practice, defensive drills and simulated games. Former big leaguers Nate Freiman and Nolan Reimold dazzled in smacking the ball out of the park, while Fehlandt Lentini sprayed line drives to all fields. Catcher Alex Burg introduced himself to his new teammates by crushing homer after homer over the left field fence.

Starting pitchers John Brownell and Keith Couch looked sharp in their simulated games, and Taiwanese import and former Los Angeles Dodger Chin-Hui Tsao displayed strong command in his bullpen session. Most exchanged pleasantries and introductions, coupled with a sense of optimism for this year that made the day feel as much like an orientation as it did a practice.

More of the same took place Tuesday morning, as Freiman got things going with an impressive power display – going deep twice to dead centerfield in his first round of batting practice. Cody Puckett found his power stroke crushing long balls over all three levels of advertising in left field.

On the mound, Dennis O’Grady induced weak contact in his simulated game, keeping hitters off balance with an assortment of fastballs, curves and off-speed offerings.

Overall, the Ducks spring training roster is comprised of 17 pitchers, three catchers, six infielders and four outfielders. Eight players on the team have MLB experience, and there are nine players returning from last year’s ALPB Championship Series roster.

Pitchers (17)

(Name, Position, Highest Level…* indicates Spring Training Invitee)

David Aardsma, RHP, MLB

John Brownell, RHP, A

Keith Couch, RHP, Triple-A

Patrick Crider, LHP, Ind.

Eury De La Rosa, LHP, MLB

Amalio Diaz, RHP, Triple-A

Jim Fuller, LHP, Triple-A

Matt Larkins, RHP, Ind.

Tyler Levine*, RHP, Ind.

Dennis O’Grady, RHP, Triple-A

Rafael Perez, LHP, MLB

Rob Rogers*, RHP, Triple-A

Jack Snodgrass, LHP, Triple-A

Zac Treece, RHP, Ind.

Chin-Hui Tsao, RHP, MLB

Tyler Wilson, RHP, A

Catchers (3)

(Name, Highest Level…* indicates Spring Training Invitee)

Dominic Blanco, A

Alex Burg, Triple-A

Nate Irving*, A

Infielders (6)

(Name, Highest Level)

Giovanny Alfonzo, A

Nate Freiman, MLB

Marc Krauss, MLB

Dan Lyons, A

Cody Puckett, Triple-A

Elmer Reyes, Triple-A

Outfielders (4)

(Name, Highest Level)

Delta Cleary, Jr., Triple-A

Fehlandt Lentini, Triple-A

Nolan Reimold, MLB

Angelo Songco, Double-A

Spring training for the Ducks continues right through Opening Day, and will include four exhibition games. Three of the four contests will be held at Bethpage Ballpark, with the game against Bridgeport free to everyone. The other two are free for season ticket holders, with a $5 donation to the QuackerJack Foundation applying to the general public.

Thursday, April 13 – 10:30 am – Ducks at Bridgeport Bluefish

Saturday, April 15 – 1:00 pm – Bridgeport Bluefish at Ducks

Monday, April 17 – 12:00 pm – Long Island Black Sox at Ducks

Tuesday, April 18 – 12:00 pm – Long Island Black Sox at Ducks

The Ducks begin their season on Thursday, April 20 with a seven-game road trip at the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and the Somerset Patriots. They return home for on Friday, April 28 to host the New Britain Bees at 6:35 pm. Gates open at 5:35 pm, and make sure you are part of the first 1,500 fans through the gates to receive your Rich Hill Bobblehead, courtesy of P.C. Richard & Son.

Lentini Steals Spot Among All-Time Greats

Fehlandt Lentini

When Long Island Ducks outfielder Fehlandt Lentini was growing up playing Little League baseball, he was always thinking about getting to the next base. Often he would purposely get into pickles so he could advance a base. He was fast, aggressive, and admittedly, a little reckless at times.

Now entering his 17th professional season – and fourth with the Flock – Lentini is still fast and aggressive, but has gotten wiser in the ways of baserunning. With 450 stolen bases in 13 years in open classification circuits, the California native is the all-time independent baseball stolen base leader. At 39 years old, he shows little signs of slowing down, going 51-for-56 in stolen base attempts in 2016.

On their face, Lentini’s stolen base numbers are impressive, but when you dive further in, just how much impact he has had on his teams in just this one phase of the game becomes awe-inspiring. Beyond the glitz of the 46-for-46 perfect season in 2014, lays an impressive 539-for-643 (83.8%) career stolen base record at all levels. To put that into perspective, only one Major League Baseball player has ever attempted 500 stolen bases in his career with a better success rate – Hall of Famer Tim Raines (84.6%).

Lentini Slides Into Second

Lentini’s 51 steals as a 38-year-old becomes an even greater accomplishment when one notes that only two MLB players stole as many bases last year – Jonathan Villar, 25, of the Milwaukee Brewers stole 62; and Billy Hamilton, 25, of the Cincinnati Reds swiped 58. No player age 38 or older has swiped 50 or more bases in a season since a 39-year-old Rickey Henderson stole 66 bases with the A’s in 1998.

However, to fully grasp the impact of Lentini’s stolen bases, one needs to be introduced to two sabermetric concepts – break-even rate and stolen base runs. Simply, the break-even rate is the success rate of stealing that you need to have to have a net-positive impact on your team. The rate is around 75%, a number which Lentini easily surpasses on the whole.

Stolen base runs (or SBR) is a slightly more complicated concept. It is derived from efforts from baseball researchers Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin, whose seminal 2004 work, The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, was groundbreaking and revolutionary in baseball statistical research.

Tango, et. al. studied years of actual baseball data and were able to assign an expected run value to every single occurrence on a baseball field. Their exhaustive calculations determined that a successful stolen base was worth approximately 0.2 runs, while getting caught stealing cost your team around -0.6 runs.

Lentini Running Bases

With this knowledge, we can calculate that throughout his career Fehlandt Lentini has been worth 45.4 SBR during his 16-year career. Using another sabermetric finding, that 10 runs equates to roughly one win, we see that Lentini has been worth 4.54 wins throughout his career just with his base stealing ability. In his 13-years in independent baseball, Lentini has racked up 42.6 SBR, including an incredible 15.8 with the Ducks.

For some more historical MLB perspective, Tim Raines was worth 74 SBR in his 23-year career, Rickey Henderson’s 25-year career resulted in 80.2 SBR, and Lou Brock, incredibly, was worth just 3.4 SBR in his 19 years.

Years SB CS SBR SBR/Year
Henderson 25 1406 335 80.2 3.21
Raines 23 808 146 74 3.22
Lentini 16 539 104 45.4 2.84
Brock 19 938 307 3.4 0.18

When compared to these titans of basestealing, Lentini’s expertise can truly be appreciated. Of course comparing across leagues and eras makes this a highly imperfect comparison, but it is useful for broad context. In an era where stolen bases are becoming a thing of the past, Lentini is able to make a huge impact on his team with just this one small phase of the game.

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