19 seasons of Long Island Ducks baseball have come and gone. Players from all around the world and of all varieties of baseball experience have worn the Ducks uniform since the first pitch on April 28, 2000. In that time, they have played in front of nearly 8 million fans in Central Islip, and millions more around the rest of the country. Those players and coaches have also earned three Atlantic League Championships, seven Division Championships, 13 half-season Division Championships and over 1,300 victories. As the Ducks 20th Anniversary Season, presented by Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, approaches, it is time to determine which members of the Flock have stood above the rest.
Our final week of voting is upon us! We have gone through the entire lineup of position players and pitchers over the past several months, and fans have done a terrific job of voting to help decide which players will be represented on the 20th Anniversary Team. While this exclusive group looks fantastic thus far, it still needs one important thing: a manager. During the team’s first 19 seasons of play, a total of five different men held the position of field manager for the Ducks. Each one of them had previous Major League experience and quickly became fan favorites on Long Island. While all five found success with the Ducks, only three were selected as nominees. Here are the candidates:
The first manager in Ducks history was also one of the people who helped bring professional baseball to Long Island. Co-owner Bud Harrelson served as the skipper during the team’s inaugural season of 2000. Already a fan favorite in the area after playing shortstop on the New York Mets 1969 World Series championship team and coaching for the team’s World Series triumph in 1986, Buddy became even more beloved in this new role. During the Ducks first season of play, Harrelson led Long Island to a fabulous 82-58 record during the regular season. That mark was tied for the most wins and best winning percentage in the Atlantic League in 2000, dead even with the Nashua Pride, and the 82 victories are still the most in a single-season in franchise history. Six of Harrelson’s players also earned ALPB All-Star Game selections. Unfortunately for Bud and the Ducks, Long Island finished second in the North Division during both the first and second halves of the season, shockingly leaving them outside of the playoff picture. Despite that fact, the 2000 team remains one of the most special in club history, thanks in large part to Buddy’s “loosie goosie” style.
After Harrelson moved into the role of first base coach in 2001, the second manager in team history was Don McCormack. Our second nominee for the manager position brought two seasons of MLB experience playing with the Philadelphia Phillies to Long Island, and he proceeded to serve as Ducks manager for six seasons from 2001-06. The highlight of his tenure came in 2004 when he exorcised the Ducks postseason demons, leading the Flock to the first half North Division title and their first playoff appearance. After finishing the regular season at 65-61, the Ducks overcame a loss in their postseason opener and reeled off five straight wins, all by one run, to earn the first Atlantic League championship in team history. McCormack accrued a regular season record of 399-371 during his time with the Ducks and a 6-5 postseason mark, guiding the team to three consecutive playoff berths from 2004-06. His 344 victories stood as the club’s managerial record until the third nominee on our list overtook him.
Kevin Baez is the only manager in team history to have played with the club before eventually serving as its manager. He spent four seasons as a player for the Flock from 2002-05 and was a key contributor to Long Island’s 2004 Atlantic League championship team, winning All-Star Game MVP honors that season. After serving on the Ducks coaching staff for six seasons, he was named the team’s manager in 2011. The Brooklyn native proceeded to lead the Ducks to two Atlantic League championships, six Liberty Division titles and seven half-season Liberty Division titles in his eight seasons at the helm. Baez guided the Flock to their back-to-back league titles in 2012 and 2013, becoming the first person in league history to win a championship as both a player and manager. The former New York Mets infielder managed in three Atlantic League All-Star Games as well (2012, 2013, 2018), leading the Liberty Division to a 4-3 walk-off win in the 2018 event at Long Island’s Bethpage Ballpark. His 502 wins are most in franchise history by a manager, and he compiled a 502-459 regular season record along with a 24-22 postseason mark.
The final chance to vote for the 20th Anniversary Team has arrived. Who will round out this exclusive group of talented Ducks? It’s up to you to help choose. Cast your vote for Harrelson, McCormack or Baez over the next week by clicking the button below. The winner, along with the remainder of the 20th Anniversary Team, will be unveiled at the beginning of the 2019 season!
Thank you to all who helped select the members of the Long Island Ducks 20th Anniversary Team. The winners will all be unveiled in the 20th Anniversary Commemorative Yearbook, which is slated to be available starting on Opening Night at Bethpage Ballpark (Friday, May 3rd).
The Atlantic League has become a place where many former Major League players have come to play to continue their baseball careers. If a big league organization has not signed them to either a Major League or Minor League contract, independent leagues become a viable option for them to continue playing competitive, professional baseball. Some former big leaguers may come in with the mentality that they are “better than” an independent league and believe they will be signed shortly after beginning play there. Others view it as an opportunity to showcase the talent that they have while primarily focusing on helping the team win.
The latter is the viewpoint of Blake Davis, a former Major League infielder who was recently signed by the Ducks for 2015. He comes to Long Island without any previous independent league experience but has played nine seasons of professional baseball. Although he ideally would still be a part of an affiliated team, the Atlantic League has given him the chance to keep playing the game he loves.
“I’m just real excited about the opportunity,” Davis said in an interview on Wednesday. “I was a little disappointed not getting picked up by an affiliated team, but I’m real thankful for the opportunity the Ducks are giving me to get a chance to play every day and we’ll see where it takes me.”
Davis was born in the warm climate of Southern California and continues to live there in a town called Fountain Valley. He played his collegiate ball near home at California State University – Fullerton, but upon getting drafted in 2006, he would shift his career to the east coast. The Baltimore Orioles chose him in the fourth round, and ever since that point, the furthest west he has played was Indianapolis, where he spent the 2014 campaign with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate.
The high point of Davis’ career came in 2011, when he earned a call up to the Major Leagues with the Orioles. After spending five and a half seasons in the minor league ranks, he had finally achieved the dream that so many young ballplayers have. When that time came, he was almost speechless.
“I got called into the office after batting practice, and our manager just said ‘Congratulations, you’re going up,’” Davies reminisced. “It was one of those things where you knew it might happen, but when it does, it’s like it’s not real because it’s something you’ve dreamed about your whole life. When it happened, I just sat down and didn’t know how to feel. I looked back on my whole life, and it was such a great feeling. Then after getting up to the Major Leagues and being around the guys, you settle back in a little. It’s one of those things though where once you get that taste, you want it so bad again.”
Now in the Majors, Davis wanted to get two monkeys off of his back as quickly as possible to shake the nerves: his first hit and his first home run. He didn’t have to wait long for the first one. After a rocky debut that included an 0-for-4 at the plate and an error in the field, Orioles Manager Buck Showalter put him back in the lineup in the next game, and he delivered. Davis went 2-for-5 in a win over the Cincinnati Reds, and his first big league hit was a two-run triple off of Edinson Volquez. The second big milestone would have to wait nearly two months, but his first longball would be a memorable one. The reason? It came off of his former teammate and future Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
“You face a lot of great guys along the way, and to get my first homer off of Max Scherzer, who I played with in college on Team USA, was kind of cool,” Davis said. “Getting that first hit out of the way though, especially after my first game, helped me settle in a little bit, and my nerves settled down.”
Following a 2014 season that saw Davis appear in just 85 games, he was released by the Pirates in November. The infielder was hopeful that another Major League organization would give him an opportunity, but the phone remained quiet heading into spring training. That’s when Davis reached out to another close friend of his and former teammate: Lew Ford.
“We texted a bit last year when I was with Pittsburgh and he was with the Ducks, and then I texted him this year and told him that I hadn’t signed with anybody,” he recalled. “Having that friendship with Lew I think kind of helped me get this opportunity.”
Davis and Ford were teammates in 2012 with the Norfolk Tides, Triple-A affiliate of the Orioles, after Baltimore signed Ford from the Ducks. Ducks fans will remember Ford tearing it up and Double-A and Triple-A en route to returning to the Major Leagues for the first time since 2007. In fact, he ended up playing against the Yankees in the American League Division Series, a moment that still resonates in the minds of players who celebrated the 2012 Atlantic League championship by watching Ford on television in the Duck Club at Bethpage Ballpark. After seeing Ford’s story play out in a successful way, Davis became increasingly open to the idea of playing for Long Island.
“I’ve seen so many guys that I’ve played with in affiliated ball that just got picked up from the Atlantic League,” he noted. “I felt like it would be a gateway back into signing with a Major League team. Lew’s story was definitely a confidence booster. I understand that you have to play well to get picked up, but seeing it and being around some of the guys that have come from this league is definitely something that interested me.”
So now, with veteran Ducks shortstop Dan Lyons and 2014 Ducks second baseman Cody Puckett returning to the squad, a Major League veteran will join the mix. While Davis has spent the majority of his career as a shortstop, he primarily played second base with Indianapolis and has experience at third as well. Puckett also has experience at third to go along with his primary spot at second. The versatility of the Ducks infielders will certainly be a positive for Ducks manager Kevin Baez. The fact that Baez and bench coach Bud Harrelson are former infielders was another big reason for Davis’ decision to join the Flock.
“I’m excited to work with the coaching staff since I play middle infield,” he said. “I know that Kevin and Bud both played shortstop with the Mets, so I’m eager to learn from them and see what happens.”
Ultimately, Davis has a strong desire to return to a big league organization and eventually, the Major Leagues. However, the 31-year-old understands the opportunity that has been presented to him and is ready to begin a new chapter of his career. While getting back to affiliated ball is important for Davis, improving as a ballplayer is paramount in his mind for 2015.
“I just want to get back to being able to play every day and produce at the plate,” he noted. “I think I would like to steal more bases, show I can get on base a little more and keep doing my thing on defense. I really just want to do the best I can and worry about helping the team win. I feel like I still can play and produce at the Major League level, and hopefully, I’ll get that opportunity again someday.”
As we enter the homestretch of the offseason, the roster continues to take shape for the Flock. A total of 15 players have now been signed. Davis becomes the fourth former Major Leaguer to join the team for 2015, and Ducks fans should be excited to watch him play on Long Island. With strong play and the right opportunity, his story just might turn out to be a replica of Ford’s.
Following the 2014 season, the Long Island Ducks surveyed their fans about a variety of topics relating to how they enjoy Ducks baseball and what influences their decision on purchasing tickets. Out of six options determining what most affects their decision to come to a Ducks game, fans overwhelmingly selected promotions/giveaways among the most influential. With that being the case, Ducks fans will have plenty of reasons to make Bethpage Ballpark their home away from home in 2015.
On Monday, the Ducks released their preliminary promotional schedule for the season, something fans had been waiting for throughout the offseason. A breakdown of the schedule shows that of the 70 home games, there are a total of:
-23 Giveaway Nights
-12 Theme Nights
-17 Pyrotecnico Fireworks Extravaganzas
-5 Special events/start times
There is so much already scheduled for the upcoming year on specific dates, and there will likely be some more added as the season goes along. However, even on dates where there may not be a scheduled giveaway or theme, fans will still have a great reason to come to the ballpark aside from the exciting baseball on the field. In 2015, the Ducks will be introducing a brand new Weekly Promotional Schedule that features something taking place each day from Monday through Sunday. More to come on that a bit later in this post.
With so much in store for the upcoming season, and with Opening Day of Ticket Sales just a couple days away (Saturday, March 21), let’s take a look at some of the promotions you won’t want to miss:
Every Night! Weekly Promotions Highlight the Schedule
As you look at the Ducks schedule prior to picking which games you will want to attend in 2015, there will no longer be any curiosity as to whether a certain date has a promotion going on. This year, every night is a promotional night at the Duck Pond! The Ducks have put together a special schedule this year that offers a specific promotion on each day of the week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will offer fans the opportunity to win big money prizes if a certain situation occurs. Tuesday and Thursdays give those attending games the chance to receive discounts on either tickets, food or beverages at the ballpark. Saturday nights be highlighted by a Pyrotecnico Fireworks Extravaganza, in fact there will be 17 fireworks shows in total throughout the season. Finally, Sundays will feature the always popular Family Fun Days at the ballpark, complete with pre-game autographs and a postgame Kids Run the Bases. There will literally be good times, every time, at Bethpage Ballpark in 2015. CLICK HERE for more details about this year’s Weekly Promotions.
May 1 – Atlantic League MVP Showcased in Bronze
Fans have become accustomed to Opening Night giveaways at Bethpage Ballpark. Charter sponsor P.C. Richard and Son has long offered the first 1,500 fans at the ballpark a bobblehead featuring a Ducks player, manager, coach, or their lovable mascot, “Whistle Guy.” The bobbleheads were replaced in 2013 and 2014 by an even more sought after item, Replica Championship Rings. However, this year, P.C. Richard and Son is offering the first 1,500 through the gates on May 1 an item that has never before been given away at the Duck Pond: Bronze Figurines. The honored Duck? None other than 2014 Atlantic League Player of the Year Lew Ford. The fan favorite, who put together a record-breaking season in his fifth year with the Ducks, will don the shelves of the “Faithful Flock” following Opening Night as a unique piece of memorabilia. In addition, he’ll receive his MVP Award in a special ceremony prior to first pitch. There may not be a ring and banner raising ceremony this year, as was the case in the past two home openers, but it will still surely be a night to remember. CLICK HERE for more information about Opening Night.
Six Dates in May – Collector’s Series Honors Ducks Greats
The Ducks honored several of their most notable players in 2014 when the franchise unveiled its 15th Anniversary Team, as voted upon by the fans. Recognizing the best in team history will continue in 2015, not only with the retiring of two jersey numbers, but with a special Collector’s Series featuring jersey number pins of five key contributors who have helped make the Ducks what they are today. Fans will receive a Ducks Collector’s Pin Pennant first on May 8, followed by a collectible pin on five separate nights in May. Among those being recognized are:
Bud Harrelson (#3) – Manager/Coach/Co-Owner (2000-present). Pin giveaway on May 13
Justin Davies (#4) – Outfielder (2000-‘05). Pin giveaway on May 14
Doug Jennings (#7) – First Baseman (2000-’05). Pin giveaway on May 23 (Day game)
Gary Carter (#8) – Manager (2009). Pin giveaway on May 24
Ray Navarrete (#16) – Infielder/Outfielder (2006-’13). Pin giveaway on May 31
Friday, June 19 – Justin Davies Jersey Number Retirement Night
Throughout the first 15 seasons of Ducks history, the organization saw a great deal of talented players put on the black and orange. However, despite the many notable names, no one had received the honor of having their uniform number retired by the team. In year 16, that will all change. Justin Davies will be the first player in franchise history to receive the highest honor any athlete can receive by a team, as his #4 will be retired at Bethpage Ballpark. Davies spent six memorable seasons with the Ducks from 2000-‘05, helping the franchise become a staple in the Long Island community. Most will remember the Babylon native for helping Long Island to their first-ever playoff berth in 2004, after four seasons of heartbreak, and subsequently their first-ever Atlantic League championship, of which he was named MVP. Davies became one of the most beloved players by the fans during his time on Long Island, and his name still evokes great memories to this day.
Upon the announcement of his special day to come, Davies commented, “I can’t tell you how honored I am and how humbling this is for me. I will be up there with my family and can’t wait to see everyone at the game. Thank you to the Ducks owners, General Manager Mike Pfaff and the entire staff for making this happen.”
As an added bonus, the first 1,500 fans in attendance on June 19 will also receive a Ducks T-Shirt, courtesy of Petro.
Sunday, August 16 – #16 Joins #4 Among Ducks Immortals
Once Davies retired following the 2005 season, Ducks fans were wondering who might be the next great player to call the Ducks home. During 2006, a 28-year-old infielder from New Jersey named Ray Navarrete joined the Flock and began an eight-year run filled with outstanding seasons and even greater memories. From ’06-’13, Navarrete became one of the top players in the Atlantic League, breaking all the franchise records that Davies had and setting a few league records along the way. Despite the success, Ducks fans will always remember him for the two trophies he helped Long Island win in the final years of his career. The dramatic hits and euphoric celebrations of 2012 and 2013 will forever define Navarrete’s time with the franchise he will always remember as “home.”
After hearing the news that he would join Davies as the first two in team history to have their number retired, Navarrete echoed similar sentiments to the man that preceded him. “I am extremely honored and humbled to be one of [the first Ducks to have his number retired],” he said. “Justin and I have always been linked together by the fans and organization, and it means a great deal to me to be able to share this honor and have my number #16 right next to his #4. To have my number 16 retired in the 16th season of the #Ducks and on the 16th day of #August is beyond awesome! A sincere thank you to the Long Island Ducks, their entire front office and staff, every single Ducks fan who has every rooted for us, the Atlantic League for the platform to compete against incredible talent, and all of my teammates who I had the opportunity of playing with during my 8 years at the pond! Looking forward to celebrating this special occasion with family and friends! This is forever…and forever is cool!”
In addition, the first 1,500 fans through the gates on August 16 will be able to take Navarrete home with them…in bobblehead form, courtesy of his clothing company, Digmi.
As a reminder, individual tickets will go on sale for these games and each of this season’s promotional dates on Saturday, March 21 at Bethpage Ballpark. The ticket windows will officially open at 10:00 a.m., and there will be a host of entertainment going on throughout the morning. CLICK HERE to find out all that is going on during the Ducks Opening Day of Ticket Sales. Baseball will be here before you know it!
Since Kevin Baez took over as manager of the Ducks in 2011, there has been a consistency among the team’s coaching staff. Baez has served as the skipper for each of the past four seasons, Bud Harrelson has handled the bench coach duties and Steve Foucault was in charge of the pitching staff. The only changes came after 2012 when hitting coach Jay Loviglio left the staff and prior to 2014 when Lew Ford became the hitting coach. In that four-year span, the Ducks won three Liberty Division championships and two Atlantic League titles, missing the postseason just once.
However, the news of Foucault electing to retire after this past season vacated a position that had been handled with a steadiness over the previous four seasons. Many wondered who would fill his cleats throughout the offseason. On Wednesday, that question was answered when the Ducks announced their coaching staff for 2015. While Baez, Harrelson and Ford would all return in their same roles, veteran pitcher and pitching coach Marty Janzen would be taking over the role of pitching coach.
“It’s an honor to be part of a first class organization,” said Janzen via telephone. “The way everyone has handled themselves on the field, both the coaching staff and players, everybody is first class. I think that stems from the top as far as finding people who are ‘character’ guys.”
Believe it or not, a career in professional baseball and hopes of reaching the Major Leagues seemed like a pipe dream to Janzen following high school. The right-hander had enjoyed playing baseball at Gainesville High School (Fla.), but when his time there was done, it did not seem that baseball would be at the forefront of his future plans.
“I pretty much was giving up on baseball after high school,” he recalled. “Someone convinced me to play legion ball, so I tried it out for a couple of months. Things started getting better for me, and fortunately we were at a legion tournament and I got seen by a scout. They did a tryout for me, I signed and I tried to be the first guy to the field and the last guy to leave from that point on. I tried to outwork everyone, and for me, it worked out.”
After getting that opportunity from the New York Yankees in 1991, Janzen spent parts of four seasons in the organization, reaching as high as Double-A. His ERA was below 4.00 in each of his first three seasons, and he posted outstanding numbers at Single-A Tampa in 1995. However, with the big league club putting together a strong start to their season, they decided to pull the trigger on a trade that would bolster their starting rotation. The Yankees traded Janzen, along with Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon to the Toronto Blue Jays for a pitcher by the name of David Cone. New York’s newest acquisition would go on to help the Yankees to the playoffs in each of the next six seasons and earned four World Series rings.
“At the time, it was kind of bittersweet for me,” Janzen said. “Being with the Yankees and being somewhat close to the big leagues, I always wanted to play in the big leagues for them. It was an honor to get traded for a guy like that and it did help my career, but in the same breath, it was bittersweet because the Yankees were the team I always watched. I wore a Yankees hat by the time I was 12 years old to school the majority of the time, and ironically it had worked out for me.”
While Cone’s career flourished, Janzen too was benefitted by the trade. After going 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA in seven starts with Double-A Knoxville after the trade, he found himself at the Major League level with the Blue Jays in 1996. Although he struggled in the big leagues his first year, he was moved to the bullpen in 1997 and pitched well, going 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 relief appearances. Although ’97 was his last appearance in “The Show,” Janzen was chosen in the expansion draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks after the season and then returned back to his original home, the Yankees, prior to 1998. In the trade that sent him back to New York, he was joined by Todd Erdos, who would go on to serve as the Ducks closer seven years later.
Janzen’s career would eventually take him to the Atlantic League in 2000 when he joined the Nashua Pride. He would pitch for the Pride that season, in 2001 and in 2004 before winding up with the Camden Riversharks at the end of ’04. He pitched well, compiling a 2.35 ERA in nine games (one start), but his championship dreams with Camden came to a halt when they ran into a foe from the North Division. That team? The Long Island Ducks.
“I honestly felt the Ducks had the better team than we did at that point,” Janzen stated. “We got to the playoffs because we were a hot team, but they were a better team, hands down.”
The righty would spend one more season on the mound before deciding to hang up his cleats following 2005. He eventually found himself in the Atlantic League once again, this time as a pitching coach. Janzen served in that role with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in 2010, working under manager Butch Hobson, who also served as his skipper with the Pride. He would move with Hobson to the Lancaster Barnstormers in 2011, and both would serve on the coaching staff for the next three seasons. In the middle of those three, Janzen found himself in the Championship Series against the Ducks once again. Just like in 2004, Long Island would emerge victorious despite an outstanding regular season by Lancaster. When Dan Lyons’ bunt proved to be the series-ending hit, Janzen was left in a state of shock.
“The end of the 2012 season was pretty tough,” he reminisced. “Between the team unity and everything that took place, we had a good team all year long. Doing what Lyons did to lay the bunt down, you tip your hat. It was an ingenious play. You were just in shock and disbelief because it happened so quickly. You had two good teams going against each other, and one’s got to lose. I tip my hat to them. They had a great team. There’s no bitterness, though. You just had to move forward.”
After spending this past season working in Taiwan and handling their major and minor league system, Janzen heard about a couple of potential opportunities back in the Atlantic League. Foucault’s retirement and Chris Widger’s promotion to manager in Camden opened up two positions as a pitching coach. He immediately expressed interest in the vacancies, and he now finds himself guiding the pitching staff of the same team that has twice defeated his team for the title.
“I reached out to [Ducks founder and CEO] Frank [Boulton], sent my resume and told him a little bit about myself,” Janzen recalled. “I’ve seen him from across the way over the years but never really had a chance to speak to him. [President and General Manager] Michael [Pfaff] then reached out to me, I went through the interview process and then they announced to me that I had gotten the job.”
As mentioned earlier, Foucault provided a steady calm as the pitching coach for the Ducks. Originally from Minnesota and now residing in Florida, he brought a laid back approach to the game and offered his experience and knowledge as guiding points, rather than trying to craft each pitcher. In his own words, Janzen brings a very similar mindset to his role as pitching coach.
“He was actually my pitching coach when I was in Camden,” Janzen noted. “He’s a great guy and extremely knowledgeable. I’m not there to instill my way and say that’s the way it has to be. You let these guys do what they do, and if they need anything from you, in terms of what they may do wrong mechanically or if there’s anything they see, you take the opportunity to mention it to them. “
While in the new role, he will be working on a staff with a man he’s very familiar with. Janzen and Baez have played against each other in the Championship Series and were part of opposing coaching staffs in the Championship Series. Now, they’ll join forces for the first time, and both have a tremendous amount of respect for the other.
“There is definitely a mutual respect,” said Janzen. “He’s a great player’s manager and knows the game. He’s obviously got an idea of what he’s doing bringing two championships to Long Island out of four years. You don’t win those championships if you don’t have team unity and guys in the clubhouse who are ‘character’ guys. It says a lot about your skipper.”
With the Ducks looking to rebound following a season that left them outside of the playoff picture, everyone’s focus appears to be on a championship. From players to coaches to front office staff, the organization as a whole is eager to taste the sweetness of victory champagne over the bitterness of defeat when the 2015 season ends. For Janzen, there is no question that winning a championship is at the forefront of his desires for this year. This time though, he won’t need to go up against those pesky Ducks. He’ll help lead them.
Happy baseball, Ducks fans! With the Second Annual Fan Fest officially in the books, baseball season is finally upon us. Following up this weekend’s home-and-home series with the Bridgeport Bluefish, the Ducks still have two more exhibition games to play before the regular season gets started on Friday, April 25 in Somerset. Before that game, however, we still have final business to attend to.
Two spots remain on the 15th Anniversary Team. Last week, fans voted for the best closer in franchise history. It was a tight vote between five deserving nominees, but ultimately, one of the closers prevailed. His identity, along with the rest of the “Flock 15” team, will be unveiled in the 2014 Ducks Commemorative Yearbook, which will be available for the first time on Opening Night at Bethpage Ballpark, Friday, May 2 against the York Revolution.
As for this week, we look at the best managers in Long Island Ducks history. Every manager in franchise history is included in this week’s list of nominees. From Bud Harrelson in the inaugural season to current skipper Kevin Baez, every season in Ducks history is represented. Here are the nominees:
Baez has not only won an Atlantic League championship and been a part of the All-Star Game as a player for the Ducks. He has in fact done both multiple times as a manager for the Flock. The 2004 Atlantic League champion shortstop began his managing career with the Ducks in 2011, following in the footsteps of former big leaguers Gary Carter and Dave LaPoint. Since that point, Baez has led the Flock to over 200 regular season wins, four half-season Liberty Division titles, three consecutive Liberty Division championships and back-to-back Atlantic League titles. The 2002 All-Star has also served as the manager of the Liberty Division All-Star team in 2012 at Camden and 2013 at Southern Maryland. While he has yet to win Atlantic League Manager of the Year honors, the Brooklyn native has gained the utmost respect from his players and will look to become the first manager in league history to “three-peat” as a champion in 2014.
Known around baseball as simply, “The Kid,” Gary Carter managed the Flock for one season (2009). That year, Long Island went 74-66 and won the Second Half Liberty Division title, clinching the team’s sixth consecutive postseason berth. In the postseason, Carter’s Ducks fell to the favored Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in a memorable, five-game Liberty Division Championship Series. His .524 winning percentage overall is the second best in team history behind Bud Harrelson. As a team that year, Long Island finished second in the league in batting (.286), third in slugging (.416) and fourth in home runs (105). The MLB Hall of Famer, who won a World Series as a member of the 1986 Mets, sadly passed away in February of 2012 after a brave battle with Brain Cancer. The Ducks subsequently dedicated the 2012 season to him, wearing #8 patches on the sleeves of player jerseys, and went on to win an Atlantic League championship in his honor.
Adored by New York baseball fans, Harrelson has been involved with the Ducks since their inception in 2000. The first manager in team history, “Buddy” is also a part-owner and the Senior VP of Baseball Operations with the Ducks. Though he only spent one season as skipper of the Flock, Harrelson enjoyed tremendous regular season success, amassing an 82-58 record. That .586 winning percentage is the highest managerial winning percentage in team history. Despite the success, the Ducks were unable to earn a postseason berth in their inaugural season, and Harrelson moved to a coaching role the next season, a position he continues to hold to this day. The two-time World Series champion with the Mets has gone on to help lead the Ducks to three Atlantic League titles in his coaching role with the Flock.
LaPoint managed the Ducks for three seasons (2007-08, 2010) sandwiched around Gary Carter’s lone season as manager of the Ducks. In his three years, LaPoint led Long Island to a 213-191 regular season record along with two playoff appearances. His 213 wins rank him second all-time among Ducks managers behind Don McCormack (399). In his first year at the helm, the former big leaguer led the Flock to a 72-54 record, along with a postseason berth. After falling to the Newark Bears in the Northern Division Championship Series, LaPoint returned the following season and led the Ducks to another winning record (71-69). However, that season would also end with a first round playoff loss, this time to the Camden Riversharks. After serving as the pitching coach under Carter in 2009, LaPoint returned as skipper and posted his third winning season with Long Island in 2010 (70-68). This time though, his team failed to make the postseason.
McCormack, our final nominee, is the longest tenured manager in Ducks history. He spent six seasons at the helm on Long Island and amassed a franchise record 399 wins. While McCormack led the Ducks to four winning seasons and three playoff berths, his most notable season came in the magical 2004 campaign. That year, the Flock finished the regular season with a 65-61 record and earned the first playoff berth in franchise history, but that was only the beginning. After defeating the Nashua Pride in three games to advance to the Atlantic League Championship Series, McCormack’s Ducks swept the Camden Riversharks in three games, earning Long Island its first-ever Atlantic League title. He then went on to make the playoffs the next two years, including a 75-53 regular season record in 2006, before his reign as Ducks manager came to an end.
There they are fans, your 15th Anniversary Team managerial nominees. The preceding names all are some of the most recognizable in franchise history, and each is certainly deserving of a spot. We recognize that this will not be an easy decision. Vote carefully fans because your choice will be for the man that leads the “Flock 15” team. You can cast your ballot in the poll below. Just one more week of voting remains after this!