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.”
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:
|2015 – Batavia (A-)||2016 – Greensboro (A)||
2017 – Ducks (IND)
|Runs Batted In||
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
You won’t find too many ballplayers stepping on a baseball diamond this time of year in the northeast. Even with temperatures still reaching into the 50’s as we reach late-November, the weather is simply not favorable for those looking to stay in shape during baseball’s offseason. With that in mind, several Long Island Ducks and Atlantic League alumni have received opportunities to make the trek south and play ball outside of the United States this winter.
The Caribbean Winter Leagues have begun in three of the four countries thus far: Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Due to the impact of Hurricane Maria earlier this year, Puerto Rico has yet to see the start of winter baseball. The league, which was slated to begin on November 15, has elected to delay the start of its campaign until January 6 and will hold an abbreviated schedule for this year. In addition, this past week marked the beginning of play “down under” in the Australian Baseball League, where several 2017 Atlantic Leaguers are participating.
Let’s go country by country to highlight those who are taking part in this year’s winter baseball leagues:
Venezuela features eight teams spread out across the country. Since the league opened play back on October 10, each team has played between 30 and 35 games thus far. Leones del Caracas currently maintains a three-and-a-half game lead for first place at 23-12, which can be partially attributed to a terrific pitching staff. 2008 Long Island Duck Jason Simontacchi is the team’s pitching coach, and among those he is watching over are three members of the 2017 Somerset Patriots. They are right-handed pitchers Lucas Irvine and David Kubiak, along with left-hander Efrain Nieves. In addition, outfielder Trayvon Robinson is also on the squad after having spent this past year with the Lancaster Barnstormers. Robinson previously was with the Ducks in spring training prior to the 2015 season before being signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would go on to play with Somerset and Lancaster in 2016.
Two other former Ducks are also coaching in Venezuela. Tiburones de La Guaira features Luis Rodriguez as its bench coach under manager Ozzie Guillen. Rodriguez was part of Long Island’s 2004 championship team and most recently served as manager of the Bridgeport Bluefish. York Revolution alumnus Liu Rodriguez is also on the staff as the third base coach. The roster includes eight players who were in the Atlantic League during the 2017 season. Henderson Alvarez, a starting pitcher for the Ducks before making his way back to the Major Leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, is one of them. The others include Atlantic League Player of the Year Alonzo Harris and Post-Season All-Star Isaias Tejeda (York), 2016 ALPB Pitcher of the Year Jonathan Albaladejo and Ozney Guillen (Bridgeport), 2017 All-Defensive Team selection Jake Hale (Sugar Land), Dustin Antolin (Somerset) and Brad Bergesen (Lancaster). The other squad is Navegantes del Magallanes, which currently has 2008 Duck Richard Hidalgo on staff as an assistant hitting coach. Their roster includes Hassan Pena (Somerset), who leads the league right now with 11 saves, and Jerome Williams (Somerset), who previously went from Lancaster to the big leagues.
Only one other 2017 Duck is playing in the league currently. Right-handed pitcher Wanel Mesa, who made a brief appearance with Long Island in August, is on the roster for Tigres de Aragua. He is teammates with infielder Alberto Callaspo, who began 2017 with Bridgeport and whose rights are now owned by Somerset.
The Venezuelan Winter League’s other four teams combine to include 18 players who spent time in the Atlantic League during the 2017 campaign. Here is a list of those players:
|Aguilas de Zulia||Bravos de Margarita|
|Julio DePaula (York, Sugar Land)||Manny Corpas (York, Sugar Land)|
|Cody Hall (Lancaster)||Logan Darnell (Somerset)|
|Reinier Roibal (Bridgeport)||Jay Gause (York)|
|David Vidal (Somerset)||Scott Maine (Sugar Land)|
|Dayron Varona (York)||Anthony Marzi (New Britain)|
|Felipe Paulino (Sugar Land)|
|Cardenales de Lara|
|Ricardo Gomez (York)||Caribes de Anzoategui|
|Chase Huchingson (York)||Daryl Thompson (Southern Maryland)|
|Ryan Kelly (Somerset)||Edwin Garcia (Southern Maryland)|
|Gustavo Molina (Bridgeport)||Michael Crouse (New Britain)|
The Dominican Republic has a league that is a bit smaller than Venezuela, hosting just six teams in total. However, the decrease in teams does not represent a major off in terms of Atlantic League talent. A total of 17 Atlantic League alumni from the 2017 season are now playing baseball this winter in the Dominican. The league began play back on October 13, and with approximately 25 games played thus far, the race is tight at the top of the league. Estrellas de Oriente sits in first at 16-9, but they are only ahead by a half-game.
Right behind Estrellas is Gigantes del Cibao at 16-10 thus far. Much of their success thus far has been due to a sparkling team ERA of 2.76 and a league-high 189 strikeouts. Sure enough, their roster includes two members of the 2017 Long Island Ducks. Former Major League pitchers Rafael Perez and Alfredo Simon, who were both in Long Island’s starting rotation, are off to strong starts with the team. Perez has been pitching out of the bullpen and has made nine scoreless appearances, spanning six and one-third innings of work. Simon has pitched in three games (two starts) and has a 1-0 record with a 3.00 ERA over nine innings of action. Also on the club is pitcher Patrick Johnson (Somerset).
Leones del Escogido currently has a member of the 2017 Ducks on its roster along with another pitcher that could potentially be on next year’s roster. Lefty pitcher Dustin Richardson, who began the year with Sugar Land before eventually signing with the Flock, is included on the roster but has yet to appear in a game. Another southpaw, Wander Perez, spent time last year with the Bluefish but now has his rights owned by the Ducks following the Bluefish Player Dispersal Draft. He has walked the only batter than he has faced thus far. Among their teammates are former York Revolution pitcher Edward Paredes, who reached the big leagues with the Dodgers this past year, Yankees outfielder Tyler Austin and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The following are the remaining 2017 Atlantic Leaguers who are playing in the Dominican Republic:
|Aguilas Cibaenas||Toros del Este|
|Angel Franco (York)||Bryan Evans (Lancaster)|
|Pat McCoy (Southern Maryland)|
|Estrellas de Oriente||Elvin Ramirez (Bridgeport)|
|Dustin Molleken (Somerset)||Cory Riordan (Bridgeport)|
|Luis Cruz (York)|
|Tigres del Licey||Jonathan Galvez (Bridgeport)|
|Keith Hessler (Somerset)||Sean Halton (Lancaster)|
|Kevin Munson (Lancaster)|
|Angelys Nina (Bridgeport)|
Our last stop in the Caribbean takes us south of the border to Mexico. Just like Venezuela, the league features eight teams across the nation. Only nine members of the Atlantic League’s 2017 rosters are currently down in Mexico, but there are four Ducks alumni from previous years playing and two others that are coaching. A three-way tie exists for first place 35 games into the season, which began back on October 10.
Tomateros de Culiacan are one of the three squads sitting at 20-15 thus far. Among their coaching staff is Robinson Cancel, the former big league catcher who put together an excellent season offensively with the Flock in 2010. The roster also includes two players who were in the Atlantic League this past season. Outfielder D’Arby Myers, who ended the year with the league’s highest batting average at .337, is joined in the outfield by Andy Wilkins. Wilkins began the year with Sugar Land before having his contract purchased by the Minnesota Twins in June.
The other two teams tied with Tomateros are Venados de Mazatlan and Naranjeros de Hermosillo. The roster for Venados currently includes former Ducks pitcher Nick Struck. After spending two seasons with Long Island, the righty pitched in Mexico during the 2017 campaign for Sultanes de Monterrey and went 3-0 with a 2.09 ERA in 41 relief appearances. He has a 1.17 ERA and one save thus far in seven relief appearances with Venados. Naranjeros currently has former Bees pitcher Casey Coleman, who began the season with New Britain before having his contract purchased by the Houston Astros in May.
One game out of first place with a 19-16 record is Charros de Jalisco. Their staff includes 2010 and 2011 Duck Javier Colina as hitting coach. Their roster also includes three Atlantic League alumni from this past season. Joining 2017 ALPB Pitcher of the Year Gaby Hernandez (Southern Maryland) are pitcher Will Oliver (Somerset) and infielder Rico Noel (Lancaster).
Aguilas de Mexicali does not have any players from this past ALPB season but does have two former Ducks on the roster. Right-handed pitcher Ryan Kussmaul, a 2015 Duck who nearly won a championship with the Wichita Wingnuts this past year, has a 1.72 ERA and 10 saves in 16 games thus far. Infielder C.J. Retherford, a 2014 Duck that played in Mexico and for the Sussex County Miners in 2017, has five homers and 18 RBI in 35 games.
Mayos de Navojoa has a roster which includes outfielder Quincy Latimore, who joined the Ducks for spring training back in 2014 before his contract was purchased by the Washington Nationals. Also on the club are infielder Jovan Rosa (New Britain) and pitcher Daniel Moskos (Lancaster). Rounding out the Atlantic League alumni playing in Mexico is infielder Olmo Rosario. He is currently on Caneros de los Mochis, joined by former Patriot and Skeeter Roy Merritt, who pitched in Mexico this past regular season.
We’ll close out our first look at this year’s winter baseball roster by heading around the world to Australia. The league has just begun for the six teams that make up the circuit, and two squads are out to perfect starts. The Sydney Blue Sox lead the way at 4-0, and although they do not feature any ALPB alumni, the defending champion Brisbane Bandits do. Among the squad, which has started out 3-0, is right-handed pitcher Zac Treece. He won a championship with the club last year and has gone to the Atlantic League Championship Series with the Ducks in each of the past two seasons as well. The side-armer has recorded a strikeout and a walk to this point with Brisbane.
Right behind Brisbane in the standings is the Perth Heat, who jumped out a 3-1 start this year. Their roster includes right-handed pitcher Kyle Simon, who led the Atlantic League with six complete games as a member of the New Britain Bees in 2017. He allowed four runs (two earned) in two and two-thirds innings of relief but struck out five during his only outing thus far.
The roster featuring the most ALPB alumni is that of the Canberra Cavalry. Three players on that squad were in the Atlantic League last year. They include pitchers Frank Gailey and Michael Click, who won a championship with York, and pitcher Brian Grening, who collected the win for the Freedom Division at the Atlantic League All-Star Game while representing Southern Maryland. Finally, pitcher Mark Hamburger is currently with the Melbourne Aces in Australia. The right-hander joined Somerset late in the year and earned the win in Game One of the Liberty Division Championship Series.
That will do it for this look around the winter baseball leagues currently taking place. If you know of any player currently playing abroad that we may have missed in this report, please let us know in the comments section or by filling out a contact form. As the seasons all progress, we will be sure to provide further updates here on the blog. Stay tuned!
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving has just about arrived, and the holidays are right around the corner. It seems like just yesterday that the Ducks were playing in their second consecutive Atlantic League Championship Series and fifth in the past seven years. The offseason is officially in full swing for Long Island’s hometown team, as season ticket packages, 10-game mini plans and group ticket outings are all now on sale for the upcoming All-Star Summer.
In short order, the Waddle In Shop will be re-opening for the holiday shopping season. Shortly thereafter, the Ducks Street Team will be heading to local hospitals to hand out donated toys to children in pediatric units. More information on all of that is soon to come on LIDucks.com. For now though, let’s get you caught up on some other news that has surfaced among some Ducks alumni as well as around the rest of the Atlantic League.
2009 DUCK ADDED TO MLB COACHING STAFF
Though his time win the Flock was short, Jim Brower is still a part of the Long Island Ducks alumni family. The right-handed pitcher joined the Flock during the 2009 season and would appear in seven games out of the bullpen. He earned one save and pitched eight innings without yielding a single earned run. Brower allowed five hits and three walks while striking out five and helped the Flock to the Second Half Liberty Division title under manager Gary Carter. Prior to joining the Ducks, he had accrued nine seasons of Major League experience with eight different teams, including the New York Yankees in 2007.
After his playing career ended following the 2010 season in Italy, Brower moved into the coaching ranks. He joined the Kansas City Royals organization as a pitching coach in the minor leagues, where he remained through 2015. In 2016, he joined the Chicago Cubs as their Minor League Pitching Coordinator. Now, he has made his return to the big leagues!
The Seattle Mariners announced their Major League coaching staff this week and have brought on Brower as an assistant coach. He will be joining a staff led by manager Scott Servais and featuring former Mariners slugger Edgar Martinez (hitting coach), Mel Stottlemeyer Jr. (pitching coach) and 1998 World Series MVP Scott Brosius (third base coach). He joins the likes of several former Ducks who are coaching in MLB, including Jamie Pogue (Cardinals bullpen catcher), Kimera Bartee (Pirates first base coach) and 2009 Ducks teammate George Lombard (Dodgers first base coach).
JANNIS KEEPS KNUCKLING PAST COMPETITION
We have highlighted 2015 Long Island Ducks pitcher Mickey Jannis at length here on the blog previously. Two years after his impressive first half with the Flock earned him a contract with the New York Mets organization, the right-hander is continuing to impress the baseball world. He has earned another opportunity to represent the Mets in the Arizona Fall League, and he has made six starts thus far with the Scottsdale Scorpions. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has compiled a 2.33 ERA, yielding just seven earned runs in 27 innings. He has given up just 23 hits and five walks as well while striking out 24 batters and holding opponents to a .223 batting average. These numbers come after making 21 starts during the 2017 season with Double-A Binghamton and going 8-7 with a 3.60 ERA, two complete games and 83 strikeouts to 38 walks over 122 and one-third innings.
The on-field success hasn’t been the only news of note for Jannis either. The Nevada native also got married this past weekend to his fiancée, Emily. In a bit of a coincidence, Andrew Barbosa, his teammate with the Ducks in 2015 and with the Mets organization in 2016, also tied the knot this offseason. He was married back in October to his fiancée, Mallory. Barbosa is still continuing his baseball career, as he spent 2017 with Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, appearing in 36 games (four starts). Take a look at the happy couples:
TWO NEW ATLANTIC LEAGUE MANAGERS HIRED
Though we are still a ways away from players being signed for the 2018 Atlantic League season, a pair of teams have already made managerial changes. First, the Sugar Land Skeeters announced at the end of September that Gary Gaetti, who had managed the team since its inaugural 2012 season, would be stepping down from his role. Last week, the team unveiled that his replacement would be 12-year Major League veteran Pete Incaviglia. The new skipper played at the game’s highest level from 1986 through 1998, spending the majority of his time with the Texas Rangers (’86-’90) and reaching the World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993. He had a brief stint with the Yankees as well in 1997. During his 12 years, he played in 1,284 games and compiled a .246 batting average with 206 homers, 655 RBI, 546 runs and 194 doubles. Since his playing career ended, Incaviglia has gone on to coach and manage for over a decade. The 53-year-old served as the inaugural manager of the Grand Prairie AirHogs in the American Association from 2007-2010 and was the manager of the Laredo Lemurs in the same league from 2012-2016, earning a championship in 2015.
This week, the New Britain Bees also announced a change in their manager’s seat. Stan Cliburn, who had led the team in its first two seasons of existence, will be replaced by none other than Wally Backman. The fiery skipper had a lengthy 14-year Major League career, highlighted by a World Series championship with the Mets in 1986. He is now the third member of that team to become a full-time Atlantic League manager, joining Bud Harrelson (Ducks, 2000) and Gary Carter (Ducks, 2009). Backman’s MLB career saw him play 1,102 games and accrue a .275 batting average, 240 RBI, 482 runs and 117 stolen bases. He has since become a long-time manager in the professional baseball ranks, spending 19 years in that role. The 58-year-old has been a skipper in the Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks and Mets organizations as well as in several independent leagues. He has won three championships as a manager, earning titles with the 1999 Tri-City Posse (Western Baseball League), the 2002 Birmingham Barons (Southern League, AA, White Sox) and the 2007 South Georgia Peanuts (South Coast League).
Welcome to the Atlantic League, Pete and Wally!
Stay tuned to the blog for upcoming news regarding which Ducks and Atlantic League alumni have taken the field to play more baseball this winter. We will have a full report in the coming days.
It’s officially awards season in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball! Now that the 2017 season has come to a close, the league has begun handing out its post-season awards to celebrate individual and team achievements from this past season. Among the Ducks to have been honored thus far are outfielder Marc Krauss, who has been selected to the league’s Post-Season All-Star Team, and infielder Elmer Reyes, who was named to the Red, White and Blue All-Defensive Team. The Atlantic League will unveil its club awards on Wednesday to round out its awards announcements.
We also decided to get into the spirit of handing out accolades by announcing our annual “Quack of the Bat” Ducks Team Awards. Long Island’s hometown team saw its share of outstanding performances this past year en route to a fifth Liberty Division championship in the past seven seasons and a second consecutive Atlantic League Championship Series appearance. Although the team fell just short of its ultimate goal in bringing home the Atlantic League title, there were plenty of individual achievements to be proud of. Here are our choices for the “Quack of the Bat” Team Awards:
Player of the Year – Marc Krauss
He was voted by the fans as the Delmonte-Smelson Team MVP, and we at “Quack of the Bat” could not have agreed with the selection more. Krauss’ first season with the Ducks was an all-around success, especially at the plate. He led all Ducks players and ranked in the top five of the Atlantic League in runs batted in (84), runs scored (75), walks (83), extra-base hits (53), on-base percentage (.400) and slugging percentage (.508). In addition, the former big leaguer led the team in doubles (30), ranked second in home runs (21) and sat third in games played (126). Krauss’ season was fueled by a tremendous second half that helped the Ducks clinch the Second Half Liberty Division title and a spot in the postseason for the 12th time in the past 14 seasons.
Starting Pitcher of the Year – Matt Larkins
Long Island saw its share of tremendous starting pitching this season. Two hurlers had their contracts purchased by Major League organizations (Tim Melville, Henderson Alvarez), and both of them eventually returned to the game’s highest level. However, our choice for Starting Pitcher of the Year was Matt Larkins. In his first full season with the Flock, the right-hander impressed across the board. He led the Ducks and ranked second in the league with 139 strikeouts, trailing only the league’s Pitcher of the Year Gaby Hernandez (150). He was also the league leader in shutouts (3) and the team leader in both innings pitched (156.0) and complete games (4). Both totals ranked in the league’s top five. Finally, the Idaho resident posted the league’s fourth-best ERA at 3.69, trailing only John Brownell for the team lead (3.44). Larkins’ season was highlighted by several historic performances. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning on June 15 at Somerset, tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout against the Barnstormers on July 5 and struck out a career-high 12 batters in a complete game win over Somerset on August 16.
Relief Pitcher of the Year – Amalio Diaz
In his third season with the Ducks, Amalio Diaz once again proved to be a dominant force at the back end of the bullpen. The right-hander led all Ducks relief pitchers (minimum 25 games) with a 2.25 earned run average. He was also second among relievers with 66 strikeouts and 56 innings pitched, trailing only Zac Treece. The Venezuela native ranked third on the team in appearances (57) and allowed just 14 earned runs and 22 walks all season. He took over the closer’s role after injuries to David Aardsma and posted 15 saves during the regular season. Diaz began the season with 11 consecutive scoreless appearances and allowed an earned run in just one of his first 26 games and two of his final 13 (playoffs included).
Gold Glove – Marc Krauss
Although Reyes was chosen to the league’s Red, White and Blue All-Defensive Team, we at “Quack of the Bat” are going to recognize Marc Krauss for his defensive efforts this year. The Ohio native split time and first base and both corner outfield spots during 2017. He made just one error in 63 games at first base, posting a .998 fielding percentage. He also played 49 games in the outfield during the regular season and committed just two errors while adding five assists and accruing a .978 fielding percentage. Krauss was splendid with the leather no matter which position he played, and his versatility was a big help for manager Kevin Baez.
“Rookie” of the Year – Giovanny Alfonzo
This award recognizes which Ducks player excelled the most in his first season as a member of the Flock. The unanimous choice for this year’s honor goes to infielder Giovanny Alfonzo. Playing just his third season of professional baseball, he finished the year as the team leader in batting with a .309 average, ranking him sixth in the Atlantic League. After initially being signed as the team’s utility infielder, he took over the starting third base job following Cody Puckett’s injury and ran with it. The 24-year-old surpassed his career-highs in nearly every offensive category, ending the year with four homers, 45 RBI, 39 runs, 112 hits, 17 doubles and 10 stolen bases in 106 games played. Alfonzo then went on to post five RBI in the playoffs, tying Lew Ford for the team lead, and added seven hits.
Breakout Player of the Year – Jake Fisher
For this honor, we highlight which member of the Ducks opened eyes and surprised the most after joining the team. Though his time with the Ducks was short in 2017, Jake Fisher made a quick impression on the coaching staff and front office. The starting pitcher joined Long Island in September via a trade from the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League. He made two regular season starts and combined to allow just four runs on 11 hits and three walks in 13 innings of work. The southpaw was then handed the ball in Game Three of the Liberty Division Championship Series at Somerset. In front of an Atlantic League postseason record crowd of 8,131, Fisher fired a complete game, yielding only one run on six hits and two walks while striking out nine. The performance gave the Ducks a 2-1 series lead en route to their second straight Liberty Division championship. He then pitched into the eighth inning of Game Two in the Atlantic League Championship Series against York, and although he took the loss, he struck out six without walking a batter and had given up just three runs over his first seven innings.
Unsung Hero Award – Alex Burg and Rob Rogers
While many players seemed to gravitate towards the spotlight, there were several others this year who did yeoman’s work under-the-radar. Their accomplishments were certainly integral to the team, and thus, we have decided to recognize their efforts with the Unsung Hero Award. The honor this year will be shared by catcher Alex Burg and relief pitcher Rob Rogers.
One of Burg’s biggest contributions this season was how he managed the Ducks’ pitching staff. The catcher developed a strong relationship with his starters and relievers and turned in well-called games on a nightly basis. Not to mention, his 98 games behind the plate this season were 73 more than he had ever caught in a single season previously. Burg then excelled offensively in the playoffs, leading the team with a .348 batting average and two home runs.
Rogers came to the Flock as a spring training invitee and proceeded to become a vital piece in the back end of the bullpen. The right-hander appeared in 58 games this season, the second-most among Ducks pitchers and a career-high. He turned in a 6-1 record with a 3.93 ERA, two saves and 40 strikeouts in 66 and one-third innings. The Islip resident filled various roles throughout the season, from closer to set-up man to long man out of the bullpen, and he was willing to do anything needed all year. Rogers was also terrific in the playoffs, tossing three and one-third scoreless innings over five games and getting some crucial outs along the way.
Community Award – Angelo Songco
Although everyone on the Ducks roster makes it a point to be active members in the Long Island community, Angelo Songco certainly stood out to our blog staff in 2017. He was a frequent presence at various team functions during the course of the season, assisting with the team’s annual Youth Baseball Camps and Kids Club Day. When he wasn’t in the starting lineup, Songco could often be found at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Autograph Booth greeting fans and signing autographs. The infielder was also often one of the first players down on the field to sign autographs prior to Sunday home games.
The Ducks and Revs play postseason baseball in York for the first time since 2011
6:30 p.m. at PeoplesBank Park (York, Pa.)
The Atlantic League Championship Series shifts west to Pennsylvania for Game Three between the Long Island Ducks and York Revolution. York has a two games to none lead in the best-of-five series. The Ducks are playing in their sixth ALCS all-time (fifth in the past seven seasons) and have won three Atlantic League championships in franchise history. 2017 marks the third time the Revolution have reached the Championship Series, with their previous two visits resulting in victories over the Bridgeport Bluefish (2010) and Ducks (2011).
Just like in Game One, the Ducks and Revolution played a back-and-forth affair in Game Two that saw York finish on top by a run in a 5-4 final.
The two sides traded single runs in the first inning. Alonzo Harris opened the game with a solo home run to left field off Ducks starter Jake Fisher to give the Revs the early lead. However, in the bottom of the inning, Elmer Reyes singled to left and scored all the way from first when Lew Ford’s grounder to third was thrown down the right field line by Chase Simpson.
Fisher would settle in to retire the next 12 batters he faced, and Alex Burg gave Long Island the lead with two outs in the fourth when he launched and opposite-field solo homer to right off Revolution starter Frank Gailey. York would reclaim the lead though with single runs in the sixth and seventh. Following back-to-back singles to begin the sixth, Harris lifted a sac fly to left-center that plated Ryan Dent. One inning later, a two-out double by Isaias Tejeda was followed by an RBI single to center from Travis Witherspoon that put the Revolution ahead 3-2.
Long Island fought back to tie the game up in the bottom of the seventh. They loaded the bases to begin the inning when Ruben Gotay was hit by a pitch, Burg walked and Delta Cleary Jr. reached on a bunt single. After Gailey struck out Anthony Vega, Grant Sides (3-0) came in and struck out Dan Lyons. Giovanny Alfonzo would come through though with two outs, legging out an infield single to short that plated pinch-runner Jordan Hinshaw.
Fisher (1-1) stayed in to begin the eighth but ran into trouble, allowing a leadoff single to Simpson. Two batters later, Jared Mitchell drove him in from second to give York a 4-3 lead. Following a bunt single, Rob Rogers came on and retired Telvin Nash on a groundout to third, but Mitchell scored an important insurance run.
The Ducks continued to show great resolve, as they rallied in the bottom of the frame. Following a walk by Marc Krauss and a single by pinch-hitter Angelo Songco with one out, closer Chase Huchingson was summoned by manager Mark Mason. Burg reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Krauss after a call initial ruling him out was overturned when umpired deemed Nash dropped the ball at first. After a walk to Cleary Jr., the Ducks had the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first, but Vega grounded into a force out that ended the inning. Long Island managed just a two-out walk in the ninth.
ON THE MOUND:
The Ducks will turn to veteran right-hander John Brownell in hopes of keeping their season alive. He will start for the first time since Game One of the Liberty Division Championship Series against Somerset. In that game, he was tagged for 13 hits and seven runs (four earned) over five and one-third innings, walking one and striking out four. The two-time Atlantic League champion will look to bounce back in what will be his first-ever Game Three postseason start with the Flock. Brownell is 5-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 playoff starts as a Duck. This year, he faced the Revolution four times during the regular season and posted a 2-1 record with a 4.57 ERA. Most recently, he fired a complete game to earn the win in the opener of a doubleheader on September 7. He allowed just one run on four hits and two walks over seven innings while striking out six.
York meanwhile will go with right-hander Victor Mateo in search of a three-game series sweep. The first-year Rev took the ball last for the Revolution in Game Two of the Freedom Division Championship Series against Southern Maryland. He collected the win in the outing, going five and one-third innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks with a strikeout. It was a strong bounce-back after he allowed six runs (five earned) in four and two-thirds innings to Lancaster during his final regular season start. Mateo made five starts against the Ducks this season and went 0-2 with a 6.47 ERA. He faced Long Island twice in a span of five days earlier this month in York. In the first outing, the Dominican Republic native allowed four runs in five and one-third innings while opposing Brownell on September 7. He then yielded just one unearned run on two hits but walked five in five innings on Sept. 11, taking a no-decision in York’s 2-1 win.
Fans can follow all the action for tonight’s game, and every Ducks playoff 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.
For a complete history of the Ducks in the playoffs, CLICK HERE.
Long Island Ducks
#6 Giovanny Alfonzo – 3B
#13 Elmer Reyes – 2B
#20 Lew Ford – LF
#34 Marc Krauss – 1B
#23 Alex Burg – C
#26 Angelo Songco – DH
#5 Delta Cleary Jr. – CF
#11 Anthony Vega – RF
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#7 John Brownell – RHP
#2 Alonzo Harris – LF
#10 Jared Mitchell – RF
#6 Rubi Silva – 2B
#23 Telvin Nash – 1B
#21 Michael Burgess – DH
#16 Isaias Tejeda – C
#1 Travis Witherspoon – CF
#17 Ryan Dent – SS
#27 Chase Simpson – 3B
#9 Victor Mateo – RHP
LIVE GAME UPDATES:
UPDATE (6:41): Game Three of the Atlantic League Championship Series is underway in York, Pa.!
UPDATE (7:13): END 2: We are scoreless at PeoplesBank Park. John Brownell has a pair of strikeouts, working around a hit in each inning thus far.
UPDATE (7:21): TOP 3: Ducks strike first! An RBI single to right field by Giovanny Alfonzo scores Anthony Vega with the game’s first run!
UPDATE (7:50): BOT 4: Brownell works around a leadoff double from Silva and strands two Revs on the basepaths! Ducks maintain a 1-0 lead through four.
UPDATE (8:06): TOP 5: Vega scampers home from third on a wild pitch to extend Long Island’s lead to 2-0!
UPDATE (8:45): BOT 6: York gets on the scoreboard with a two-out RBI single by Isaias Tejeda. However, Rob Rogers comes in and strands three on base.
UPDATE (9:03): BOT 7: Elmer Reyes flashes the leather! He makes a diving stop to his left to rob Jared Mitchell of a two-out hit!
UPDATE (9:27): BOT 8: Telvin Nash’s two-run home run to center has put the Revolution in front 3-2.
UPDATE (9:43): FINAL: The Revolution win the game 3-2 and the series 3-0 to earn the Atlantic League championship. Congratulations to the organization.