“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”
The phrase was first utilized by former United States President Theodore Roosevelt with regards to his foreign policy in the early 1900’s. In fact, he even used the proverb in an address to the Minnesota State Fair back in 1901 prior to being appointed President. Although it may be coincidental, it’s no surprise that the phrase can be perfectly applied to the mentality of Long Island Ducks shortstop, and Minnesota native, Dan Lyons. The most consistent presence in the team’s lineup since he arrived in 2011 has been able to adopt this philosophy and translate it into his unquestionable role as the clubhouse leader.
“I think, especially at this level, players don’t react as much to the ‘rah rah’ type of leadership,” said Lyons in by telephone on Tuesday. “They want to see somebody go about their business the right way and get the job done on the field. From there, people will follow suit. That’s the leader I’ve always seen myself as, and I think that’s what a lot of players tend to follow.”
Those who have been around him know that Lyons is not the type of player who gives big speeches in the clubhouse or displays intense emotion on the field. They also know that he is the guy to come through when it matters most and someone who has frequently produced year in and year out. Despite batting just .248 during the 2012 season, he delivered time and time again. From his walk-off single to clinch the First Half Liberty Division title to his game-winning hits in Games Two and Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series, Lyons made his presence known on the field.
The past two seasons have been his best in a Ducks uniform. 2015 saw “Shorty” post career-high totals in nearly every category. He batted .301 in 131 games, launched 11 home runs while driving in 73 runs and stole 18 bases in 22 attempts. Not to mention, his defense, which had always been very strong, impressed so much that he received the league’s inaugural Rawlings Gold Glove Defensive Player of the Year Award. Although his numbers decreased slightly in 2016, in part due to injuries during the year, Lyons still batted .272 in 102 games, hit seven home runs, collected 49 RBI and posted a .972 fielding percentage. Ultimately, his leadership was a big factor in helping the Ducks to a fourth Liberty Division championship in his six seasons with the club.
“I think, especially the last two or three years, I’ve viewed myself as having more of a leadership role with the organization and in the clubhouse,” Lyons noted. “I feel like I have a lot to offer my teammates from being around for so long and getting to know what the pitching is like and what to expect from fans and opposing players. I definitely feel like I’ve taken on more of a leadership role, and I’m going to continue to do that.”
When Lyons came to the Ducks in 2011 after being released by the Washington Nationals, he immediately spoke about his desire to help the team win a championship. He also, understandably, hoped to find his way back to a Major League organization and ultimately achieve his big league dream. While that goal still remains very much a part of him, he has grown fond of having a place outside of the Land of 10,000 Lakes that he can truly call home.
“It’s nice to have that comfortability with an organization like the Ducks,” exclaimed the University of Minnesota alum. “It really gives me something to look forward to in the offseason when I’m getting ready for the next year.”
Some guys decide to hang up the cleats when they see their chance at the Majors dwindling. For them, the glitz and glamour seem too far away to justify the grind of the baseball season. Lyons comes from a different breed though. His fuel comes from the desire to win and rekindle the memories and celebrations that echoed throughout Long Island in 2012 and 2013.
“I’m realistic with the knowledge that it’s getting tougher and tougher getting back into a Major League organization now,” he said, “but that’s not going to change my approach. I’ve always been the kind of guy that’s going to want to go out and prepare to win, not so much put up the numbers and try to get signed. I’m out here trying to win. I find I’m a lot happier when I win, so I just want to be happy.”
One of the keys to happiness for the three-time Atlantic League All-Star this year will be staying healthy. At the outset of the 2016 season, Lyons picked up right where he left off in 2015. He compiled a .319 batting average through the first half of the season and went to the All-Star Game hitting .329 at the time. However, Lyons struggled following the break, going hitless in five consecutive games (17 at-bats). He ended up missing 10 games at the end of August due to injury, and nagging bumps and bruises kept him from finding the same groove he had during the first half.
“I had some injuries that knocked me down a little [in the first half] but was still able to play through,” he recalled. “Once the All-Star break came, some of those injuries got a little too much, and I wasn’t able to perform at the level I was accustomed to the year before.”
At 32 years old, age is beginning to become somewhat of a factor for Lyons. His ability to play the game at a high level is certainly still there, but playing through injuries and recovering rapidly is becoming more challenging, as is the case with any player as they get older. Knowing this, Lyons has made it a point to focus his goals for this season on maintaining his physical health.
“Injuries are going to happen no matter what, it’s just about how your body bounces back from them,” he stated. “We’ve seen guys in this league who have gotten older by baseball standards do very well and stay healthy. I think, especially as you get older, it’s very important to get out there and do something active every day away from the field or when you get to the field to get some type of a workout in.”
With that in mind, Lyons plans to change his approach when facing the injury bug this season.
“Sometimes, it’s tough to want to go in and work out before a game when you’re hurting; you just want to rest,” he said. “I think last year, I was more concerned with resting to get better rather than going out and doing some activities to get my body in better shape. My goal this year is to go out there and do a little bit more.”
2017 will be Lyons’ seventh season on Long Island. He has won championships, been to All-Star Games and received many terrific honors. In addition, he has become the leader of a franchise that has seen so many great players don the uniform in just 17 seasons. Though time wears on and the mileage increases, Lyons is nowhere near ready to think about putting the car in park.
“I have the drive to continue to want to get better,” he noted, “and I also still like playing the game. As long as I have both of those, I’ll be able to stay in the lineup, be competitive and make a difference on the field.”
Couple his sage wisdom with his consistent performance, and it’s easy to see why Lyons is a true leader.
Our countdown of the Top Moments of 2016 is down to the final day. We have relived some of the best memories from this past season, including on-field success, attendance milestones and exciting promotional events. Did you happen to miss the first six moments on our list? No problem! Let’s recap them:
The time has now come to reveal our Top Moment of 2016! So many incredible games were played during the 2016 season, and over 350,000 fans helped make each and every night at Bethpage Ballpark a special occasion. It was very difficult to decide which of these wonderful days and nights was worthy of being dubbed #1 on our list. Ultimately, we decided that it had to be the night that we completed one of the greatest comebacks in Atlantic League history.
“The Comeback is Complete!” – September 25, 2016
When the Ducks began the 2016 season, many players and coaches claimed that the ending of the 2015 campaign left a bitter taste in their mouth. After posting an astounding 80-59 record during the regular season, leading many to believe they would eventually become champions, the Ducks fell in heartbreaking fashion to the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division Championship Series. Despite holding a 2-1 series lead, their divisional foes rallied for a pair of shutout victories to claim the series en route to winning a league title. It was the team’s goal to get back to the playoffs, beat Somerset if they them faced again and bring the championship trophy back to Long Island.
As fate would have it, the Ducks won the first half of the 2016 season while the Patriots claimed the second half. That set up a first round playoff rematch between the two teams that had met in two of the past three postseasons, needing all five games to determine a winner. With the Ducks winning the series in 2013 to earn the league championship and the Patriots getting the victory in 2015 to win the division title, something would have to give in 2016.
The series did not start well for Long Island, as the Patriots took the first two games in their home ballpark. A walk-off home run in Game One and a dominant pitching performance in Game Two put the Ducks on the brink of elimination. Despite needing to win three consecutive games at home to keep their season alive, the Flock never pushed the panic button. Nick Struck and Jarret Leverett both stepped up on the mound, combining to allow just one run in 14 innings of work. Offensively, Lew Ford, Tyler Colvin and Anthony Vega each launched homers to help even the series at two games apiece. Sure enough, the Ducks and Patriots would need a decisive Game Five to determine the Liberty Division champion.
Both teams took the field on Sunday, September 25 full of excitement and anxiousness before a raucous crowd in Central Islip. They each turned to their Game One starter as well with the hopes of advancing to the Atlantic League Championship Series. John Brownell quickly retired the Patriots in order, and the Ducks responded by putting the Patriots in an early hole. A run-scoring wild pitch, RBI doubles by Lew Ford and Ruben Gotay and an RBI single by Tyler Colvin gave the Ducks an early 4-0 lead and sent the fans into a frenzy. One inning later, Vega scored on another wild pitch from Will Oliver to push the advantage to five.
That would be more than enough for Brownell, who retired the first 12 batters he faced and surrendered just one run in five and two-thirds innings of work. Patrick Crider, Zack Treece and Amalio Diaz kept the Patriots off the scoreboard for the next two and one-third innings to put the Flock three outs away from the division title. Todd Coffey came on to pitch the ninth and quickly struck out Bryan LaHair and Kyle Roller. Carlos Guzman kept the game alive with a double, bringing Eric Farris to the plate. Coffey worked the count to 1-1 before Farris swung away:
The Ducks had done it! With their 5-1 win in Game Five, the Ducks became just the second team ever in Atlantic League history to rally back from a 2-0 series deficit and win. The only other? Somerset in the 2001 Atlantic League Championship Series. After a euphoric celebration on the field, the Ducks marched up to the home clubhouse at Bethpage Ballpark to enjoy their second champagne celebration. While the team still knew they had more work to accomplish, the atmosphere was one of pure joy.
There were so many key contributors to the comeback being completed. From Kevin Baez making the right moves at the right time to key performances on the mound by the Ducks’ pitching staff to clutch hits from the offense, everyone had a big role in earning the Liberty Division championship. Several of the key playmakers spoke about how proud they were of each other and how much they wanted to savor what they had accomplished:
Thank you all for recapping the Top Moments of 2016 with us and for helping make this past year such a memorable one. We could not have accomplished all we did, both on and off the field, without the support of such passionate fans. From our family to yours, have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year! We can’t wait to see you all in 2017!
Just two more great memories remain on our Top Moments of 2016 countdown! It has been a fun countdown thus far with all of the outstanding achievements and exciting wins that took place throughout the year. Most recently, we unveiled our #3 moment: the 6-1 win over the Skeeters on July 2 that saw the Ducks clinch the First Half Liberty Division title and John Brownell become the winningest pitcher in franchise history. Before we can drink some egg nog, light candles and flip the calendar to 2017, we must find out our final two moments on the list.
The Ducks have attracted more fans to their games than any other team in the Atlantic League. In fact, they have been one of the most successful franchises in all of professional baseball, filling the ballpark to near-100% capacity since the inaugural 2000 season. As the 2016 season began, the team was approximately 350,000 fans away from reaching the magical 7 million fan milestone, knowing that if it would be reached during the regular season, it would likely come in one of the final few games. Sure enough, fate would have it that the moment would come during home game #70.
A Fanatical Finale – September 11, 2016
With a postseason berth wrapped up and a first round rematch with the Somerset Patriots set, there was no too much that needed to be determined in the final weeks of the 2016 season. With several team records achieved and plenty of wins accumulated, many in the Ducks organization hoped to be able to celebrate another accomplishment with their fans who made it possible. Entering the final three home games of the season, Long Island sat just over 16,077 fans away from reaching the magical 7 million fan mark. That meant the team would need to average over 5,300 fans per game during the final home series to achieve the milestone.
Not only were the Ducks eager to reach the mark, but the fans showed a great desire to see the team reach the mark as well. Past-capacity crowds of 6,802 on September 9 and 7,220 on September 10 put the Ducks just about 2,000 fans shy of the mark entering the home season finale. It was undoubtedly clear that the moment would indeed come in 2016. As the gates opened on a beautiful Sunday for Fan Appreciation Day, folks began streaming through the gates in hopes of being the lucky one to push the Ducks over the brink. As the counter kept clicking, it finally reached the milestone number when Victoria Sardegna passed through the turnstiles. The Riverhead resident, attending the game with her son, T.J., and his dad, Tim, was overjoyed upon learning the news.
The family received a day at the ballpark they would never forget. As the lucky 7 millionth fan, Victoria was presented with a commemorative team jersey with the words “7 Million” displayed on the back and the number “16” to represent 2016, in which the milestone was achieved. All three received the opportunity to enjoy the “Best Seat in the House” for the entire game, and Victoria’s name was displayed on the scoreboard. Finally, she received an autographed bat from the entire team, a $250 gift card from Bethpage Federal Credit Union and a luxury suite for her and 19 of her closest friends for Opening Night of the 2017 season on Long Island.
To top it all off, the Ducks gave her a victory to celebrate the day. Long Island opened up the game with an RBI double by Dan Lyons and a sac fly by Lew Ford in the first inning. They increased the lead to 4-0 in the fourth thanks to a two-run home run by Cody Puckett. Nick Struck also was strong on the mound, striking out eight batters in six and two-thirds innings and not allowing a run through the first six innings. York threatened to ruin the day when Bryan Pounds hit a three-run homer in the seventh, but that was as close as they would come. Lyons’ triple in the eighth pushed the lead back to two, and Amalio Diaz sealed the game in dramatic fashion, striking out three consecutive batters with the tying runs in scoring position. It was a thrilling end to a memorable day at the ballpark in Central Islip.
President and General Manager Michael Pfaff commented after welcoming the lucky fan, “There is truly no better day to reach this milestone and recognize the tremendous support of Long Islanders than on Fan Appreciation Day. We are proud to have welcomed 7 million fans since our inaugural season and eternally grateful for all that have shared this experience with us.”
Tomorrow, we unveil our Top Moment of 2016! You won’t want to miss it, as it was one of the greatest days in franchise history and a memory that fans, players, coaches and front office staffers will never forget. Come back and visit “Quack of the Bat” on Friday afternoon as we look back at our #1 moment from this past year.
Thus far, we have unveiled four of our Top Moments of 2016 here on “Quack of the Bat.” Some incredible memories from this past season have already been relived, and it’s amazing to think that we have yet to crack the three best moments from the year that was. For those who may have missed out, let’s recap moments seven through four on our list:
The countdown is off to a terrific start, but the best has yet to come! It’s clear that July featured some of the top occurrences from this past season. As we reach the third moment on our list, we once again return to that month. Two of the biggest themes this past season were the on-field success of the team and the breaking of many franchise records, both on and off the field. Both of those were evident in a big way on the night of July 2, one that should certainly go down among the top games in franchise history. Let’s relive the evening:
Champagne and Broken Records – July 2, 2016
Year in and year out, the first benchmark on a list of goals for the Ducks is to clinch a playoff berth. Accordingly, the team also makes it a point to stress the importance of winning the season’s first half. It enables a team to take a great deal of pressure off of itself in the second half of the season and allow injured players to fully recuperate before joining the lineup once again. Long Island clinched the first half in 2004, en route to an Atlantic League championship, did so in 2011 and reached the Championship Series and once again accomplished the goal in 2012 before claiming another league title. However, they Ducks had failed to do so in each of the three subsequent seasons entering 2016.
Early on, it appeared that the streak would continue. Long Island went 1-6 on a season-opening seven-game road trip while the Somerset Patriots won each of their first 13 games to begin their title defense. The Ducks fell as far back as six-and-a-half games in the Liberty Division, but they would mount a tremendous comeback. After posting an 18-10 record in May, the Ducks sat in first place once again. However, a streak of six losses in seven games in mid-June dropped the Flock two-and-a-half games in back of Somerset. Despite the odds being stacked against them, Long Island stormed right back again. They went on to win five of the next seven games to vault back into first place heading into a three-game series against the Sugar Land Skeeters to close the half. Following an 8-4 win on July 1, the Ducks needed just one victory to claim the First Half Liberty Division title.
The first half of 2016 also saw right-handed pitcher John Brownell surpass all-time great Randy Leek for several franchise records. After taking over the strikeouts record in 2015, the defending Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year broke Leek’s all-time record for innings pitched on May 25. He would then tie the southpaw in both wins and games started during a complete game effort on June 5. Although Brownell took over the starts record in his next outing six days later, he would go winless in four consecutive starts. Despite having a 3.11 ERA, he was still stuck on four wins for the season and 40 for his Ducks career entering his final start of the first half on July 2.
With the ace on the hill and a first half title in their sights, the Ducks took the field against the Skeeters before a past-capacity crowd of 7,063. Ricky Hague temporarily quieted the fans with an RBI double in the fourth inning, but Long Island quickly came back to life. Dan Lyons took advantage of a two-out error in the bottom of the inning by blasting a two-run home run off Aaron Thompson. Brownell protected the 2-1 lead over the next three innings before his teammates gave him some late insurance. A two-out single by Mike Dowd in the seventh saw Ruben Gotay score from first following an error by Kent Matthes. Three more runs would follow in the eighth thanks to Lyons’ RBI single, another Skeeters error and an RBI single by Dowd.
Holding a 6-1 advantage, Brownell took the mound in the ninth vying for another complete game. He would retire the leadoff man before allowing back-to-back singles. With a pitch count at 125, Kevin Baez summoned closer Todd Coffey, taking no chances with the clinching victory in sight. Matthes popped out to left field leaving only Albert Cordero in the Ducks’ and Brownell’s way.
Long Island had officially completed their comeback, clinching the First Half Liberty Division title and a berth into the 2016 Atlantic League playoffs. In addition, Brownell had become the winningest pitcher in franchise history, doing so with a vintage performance that Ducks fans have become so accustomed to in his five seasons with the organization. After a joyous, well-earned champagne celebration, the Ducks reflected on the feeling of earning a postseason spot and the excitement in another franchise record being surpassed.
With the #2 moment on our list coming Thursday and the Top Moment of 2016 being unveiled Friday, be sure to stay tuned and see which moments made the cut!
We’ve officially cracked the final five of our Top Moments of 2016 countdown. #5 on our list, which was revealed Monday, was the night where 7,602 fans attended the Ducks’ 5-2 win over Sugar Land on July 3, good for the largest single-game crowd in franchise history. With Kevin Baez’s 400th managerial win (#6) and Tyler Colvin’s waddle-off grand slam (#7) coming before that, we have already showcased some incredible moments from this past season.
However, we still have plenty more to go! Fans love coming out to the ballpark for exciting baseball and to support their hometown team. They also have a strong affinity for all of the fun promotions that take place on a nightly basis. No matter what year, month or day of the week it is, fans can be sure to expect a unique giveaway, fun contest or interactive promotion. That was surely the case in our #4 moment from 2016. Let’s check it out:
Winning 10-Grand in Grand Fashion – May 25, 2016
Two years ago, the Ducks introduced a brand new lineup of weekly promotions to their “Good Times, Every Time” promotional schedule. Every night of the week featured a special promotion, some of which were traditional fan favorites (Fireworks and Sunday Family Fundays), while others were brand news (Two-Fer Tuesdays, Fowl Pole Fridays, etc). One of those that quickly became a hot ticket was Winning Inning Wednesday. During each Wednesday home game, a certain occurrence was designated to accompany each of the nine innings. Should the event take place in its specified inning, a lucky fan would win a grand prize of $10,000. Those in attendance needed only to sign up at the Ticket Kiosk prior to the game’s first pitch to be eligible.
While some might have originally thought it was near impossible to achieve such feats, the Ducks quickly dispelled that notion. On June 10, 2015, in only the team’s second Wednesday home game, Long Island rallied for seven runs in the seventh inning of a 10-9 win over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Since the seventh was designated as the seven-run inning, one lucky fan had won the big prize. That ended up being Ginny Steel, a Ducks season ticket holder from Amityville. When the promotion was continued the following season, Ducks fans wondered if lightning might strike again.
This time, it came in Long Island’s third Wednesday home game of the season. The Ducks were facing the Bluefish in a Ferry Cup matchup, and they quickly jumped in front of their rivals. An RBI double by Dan Lyons and a two-run home run by Lew Ford, both in the third inning, gave the Ducks an early 3-0 lead. In the fifth, Long Island threatened once again. Fehlandt Lentini singled, Lyons doubled and Ford was intentionally walked. That set the stage for Colvin, who was coming to the plate with the bases loaded in the designated grand slam inning. He wasted no time:
Just like he would do almost two months later, Colvin smacked the first offering over the right-center field wall. The grand slam gave the Ducks a 7-0 lead, en route to a dominant 15-5 win over their cross-sound rivals. Not only did it help his team to a victory, but it allowed a lucky fan in the crowd that night to go home $10,000 richer. Andrew Kratzer, a 22-year-old avid Ducks fan from Wantagh was randomly selected from the pool of contestants to win the prize. The team presented him with a giant check in a ceremony behind home plate during the latter stages of the game. His fellow fans roared in approval upon hearing the announcement, a memory that will surely be remembered by Andrew, the crowd and the organization for years to come.
Kratzer later told the Long Island Herald, “I thought I was in trouble at first. I didn’t know what I had done,” he said. “Then they told me I won $10,000 and I freaked out. It was an amazing feeling.”
Following the game, several of the players commented on the exciting moment:
Colvin: “I was pretty pumped! You come in here to enjoy a game and randomly, you win $10,000. I don’t know how much better your day can get after that.”
Lyons: “That’s a lot of fun! At the moment, I didn’t know it. I didn’t realize it until the following inning when they made the announcement. I remember when that happened last year, and there is always a lot of excitement around the park when it does. Congratulations to Andrew! That was a very exciting time.”
Check back in tomorrow, as we enter the Top 3 in our countdown!