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).
Our countdown of the Top Moments of 2016 is officially underway! Yesterday, we highlighted one of our five walk-off wins during the season as the #7 moment on our list. Tyler Colvin’s first-pitch grand slam in the ninth inning on July 21, giving the Ducks an 8-4 win over the Bridgeport Bluefish, was one of the many jubilant memories of the year. Moments like that are what made 2016 so special for Ducks fans across Long Island and for the players, coaches and front office.
Aside from great wins and tremendous hits, this past season also featured a large helping of milestones achieved both on and off the field. From players surpassing franchise records to record crowds passing through the turnstiles, the historic nature of the Ducks’ 17th season on Long Island will always be remembered. For the #6 moment on our list, we highlight one of our 72 victories during the regular season, though this one meant a little bit more.
Baez Stands Alone – July 8, 2016
Kevin Baez had seemingly done it all in a Ducks uniform. He joined the team in 2002 and earned an All-Star Game selection and the game’s Most Valuable Player honor in 2004. He also won an Atlantic League championship later that season. The Brooklyn native went on to serve as a coach for the team after retiring in 2005 and served in that role through the 2010 campaign. 2011 presented him with a new challenge though, as Baez was named the team’s manager.
Five years later, he has added so many more accolades to his Atlantic League career. Back-to-back Atlantic League championships in 2012 and 2013, three consecutive Liberty Division titles from 2011 to 2013 and a pair of All-Star Game managerial selections are just a few of them. 2016 saw Baez add another Liberty Division championship to his resume, but he also became the winningest skipper in franchise history.
Don McCormack amassed 399 wins as manager of the Ducks between 2001 and 2006, including the famous victory over Bridgeport in 2004 that clinched Long Island’s first-ever playoff berth. Though not counted in that number, he also led the Flock to three consecutive wins in the 2004 Atlantic League Championship Series. However, Baez had quickly equaled the man he had both played for and coached under thanks to several tremendously successful regular seasons (78 wins in 2011, 73 victories in 2014 and 80 wins in 2015).
Baez would tie McCormack’s wins total in the opener of a three-game road series against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. He used seven pitchers to piece together a 5-3 victory and also got four hits and three RBI from Delta Cleary Jr. The next night, Baez’s ace made things a little bit easier for him. John Brownell fired seven innings of one-run ball in a vintage performance against Southern Maryland. The lineup was superb again, combining for five runs in the fifth and sixth innings to turn a 1-0 lead into a six-run advantage. The Blue Crabs would get to within four, but that was all they could muster. Nick Struck induced a groundout from Jon Dziomba to seal the win, making Baez the winningest manager in franchise history and also giving him his milestone 400th win.
It was also appropriate that Baez tied the milestone and then surpassed it against a team he had accrued so many important victories against. Though not included in those 400, the manager led the Ducks to series victories over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in each of his three consecutive Liberty Division titles. Two of those series, 2011 and 2013, were clinched at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, Md. Following win #400, his team proudly posed for a photo on the field with the lineup card, happily sharing the moment with a manager that has received nothing but praise from those who have had the pleasure of playing for him.
Baez later recalled the milestone win to Newsday: “It was an awesome feeling. The guys were pumped when they heard I was at 398 or 399 wins and getting close. It was a good time. Afterward, the guys sprayed me with champagne, water and stuff like that.”
He went on to say, “I love this organization. I love being a part of it. I do know that, in my business, it’s day-to-day. But I will be here as long as they’ll have me.”
Be sure to check back in with “Quack of the Bat” on Monday, as we continue our countdown of the Top Moments of 2016!
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!