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.
The infield has been set on the 20th Anniversary Team thanks to a brilliant first five weeks of voting. Thousands of fans have been casting their ballots weekly, and from catcher to third base, five outstanding players have emerged based upon fan voting. Our focus now shifts to the outfield, where some more Long Island Ducks greats await their fate with regards to being among this select group. The final team will feature four outfield spots, and fans will be able to select one of three nominees each week over the next four rounds of voting to help determine the outfielders. With that in mind, let’s find out our first three outfield nominees:
Long Island’s first-ever Atlantic League championship, which came in 2004, was due in large part to Kimera Bartee. One need only look back to arguably the most famous game in franchise history, on August 9, 2004 at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn. Bartee’s two-run blast in the fifth inning tied their game with the Bluefish at four, and the Ducks would go on to win the game by a run, clinching the first postseason berth in franchise history. Without that homer, who knows if the Ducks become champions that year? Bartee spent two memorable seasons on Long Island, with the first coming a year prior in 2003. The six-year MLB veteran played 116 games that year, totaling a .328 average and finishing second on the team in RBIs (87), runs (86) and hits (147). One year later, those numbers skyrocketed. He led that magical 2004 squad in several offensive categories, including home runs (27), RBIs (88), runs (103) and hits (142). Bartee was a defensive whiz as well, committing just one error in his two seasons with the Flock, a total of 217 games spent in the outfield. Bartee earned an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection that year as well before going on to earn a ring in his final season of pro baseball. Currently, he serves as the Pittsburgh Pirates first base coach.
Ducks fans have always seemed to gravitate towards Long Island natives who have come to play for the team. In three seasons with the club, Smithtown native Dominick Ambrosini was certainly beloved among the Faithful Flock. A sixth round draft pick out of Connetquot High School in 1999, the versatile outfielder came back to play for his hometown team in 2005 and immediately made an impact. He hit .288 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs over 108 games played with the Ducks, helping the franchise to a second consecutive playoff berth. One year later, Ambrosini again led the Ducks to the playoffs, totaling 79 hits in 64 games played along with a .317 batting average, eight homers and 48 RBIs. He made just six errors over those two seasons as well. Ambrosini struggled at the outset of the 2007 season before eventually finishing his career with the Lancaster Barnstormers that year. However his time with the Ducks was certainly memorable for the fans who watched him play and for the scrappy outfielder who got to live out the dream of playing in front of family and friends on a nightly basis.
Another fan favorite rounds out our three nominees for the week. After narrowly missing out on a Championship Series appearance in 2009, the Ducks fortified their outfield heading into 2010 with Matt Esquivel, who had impressed offensively over his two previous seasons while with the York Revolution. His prowess with the bat continued in 2010, as he led the Flock with 17 home runs, 132 hits, 85 runs and 28 doubles in a team-high 127 games played. After hitting .281 during his first season with the Ducks, the number ballooned up to .328 in 2011 on a team loaded with offensive talent. Esquivel accrued a .420 on-base percentage, 15 homers, 69 RBIs, 65 runs and 109 hits while leading the Ducks to a Liberty Division Championship. That same season, he was selected to play in the Atlantic League All-Star Game and won the pre-game Home Run Derby in front of his former fan base in York. Injuries limited Esquivel to just 64 games in 2012, but he scored one of the most important runs in team history. After drawing a one-out walk in the ninth inning of Game Five during the Atlantic League Championship Series, Esquivel later scampered home from third base with the winning run on Dan Lyons’ famous bunt down the third base line. Not a bad way to end your professional career!
The first three of ultimately 12 outfield nominees have been revealed. Now, it’s time for you, the fans, to help determine whether Bartee, Ambrosini or Esquivel will get a spot on the 20th Anniversary Team. Visit our voting page by clicking the link below and selecting one of the three candidates; You can vote as often as you’d like over the next week. The winner, along with the remainder of the 20th Anniversary Team, will be unveiled at the beginning of the 2019 season!
Be sure to check back again next week, as we’ll reveal our next three nominees for an outfield position.