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 starting rotation is now set for our 20th Anniversary Team after thousands of fans voted over the past five weeks for starters over different eras of Ducks baseball. With five outstanding starters locked in, it’s time to shift gears towards the bullpen. The Ducks have enlisted many strong arms into their relief corps since beginning play in 2000, with many being vital parts to long postseason runs. Over the next three weeks, we’ll add three different relievers to this exclusive team: a right-hander, a left-hander and a closer. We’ll begin with the righties this week, and this trio of candidates includes an Atlantic League veteran, a former Major Leaguer and a set-up man that pitched in two Atlantic League Championship Series. Let’s take a look at the nominees:
Our first reliever in this week’s voting had already established himself as a top bullpen arm in the Atlantic League before joining the Ducks. Ben Grezlovski had turned in back-to-back impressive seasons out of the bullpen for the Atlantic City Surf in 2005 and 2006 before he was signed by the Ducks in 2007. His success continued with the Flock, as he posted a 7-2 record with a 3.39 ERA in 61 innings of relief. His 58 appearances were the second-most in the Atlantic League, trailing only teammate Danny Graves’ 62. The former Angels draft pick was selected to play in the Atlantic League All-Star Game for his efforts. Grezlovski returned to Long Island in 2008 and made 67 more appearances, a total which led the league and still stands to this day as a franchise single-season record. He finished the year 6-2 with a 3.70 ERA and struck out 69 batters over 87.2 innings of work. In both seasons with the Ducks, the Michigan native helped lead the team into the postseason. Grezlovski went on to spend two more seasons in the ALPB with the Somerset Patriots before retiring after 2011.
The only ex-Major Leaguer among this week’s nominees is Jeremy Hill. The righty spent two seasons with the Ducks, leading Long Island to a Championship Series appearance in 2011 and then to the Atlantic League title in 2012. In that time, he compiled a record of 13-9 with a 3.20 ERA and 97 strikeouts over 135 innings of work. The former Kansas City Royals reliever was lights-out during the 2011 campaign, going 8-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 48 games, a total which ranked third among Ducks relievers. One year later, he earned an All-Star Game selection and made 63 relief appearances, which was tops among Ducks pitchers and second in the Atlantic League behind only York’s Adam Thomas (67). The Dallas native combined that with a 3.49 ERA and 49 strikeouts over 67 innings of work. Hill added seven postseason appearances to his resume with the Ducks before retiring following the end of the 2012 season.
Our final nominee for the position was a vital piece of Long Island’s bullpen for three seasons (2015-17). Amalio Diaz, who quickly became a fan favorite with the Ducks, appeared in 169 games as a member of the Flock, all out of the bullpen. He posted an ERA under 3.00 in each season, compiling a 2.39 ERA overall. Though not primarily the closer, he filled in well when needed to jump in the role and recorded 34 saves over those three seasons. The Arizona resident also induced a lot of swings and misses, totaling 204 strikeouts and walking only 49 batters over 166 innings of work. Diaz represented the Ducks at the 2017 Atlantic League All-Star Game in Somerset, though he very well could have been an All-Star all three seasons. Long Island reached the playoffs in each of Amalio’s three seasons with the team, and he combined to appear in nine postseason games. His totals? Nine and one-third innings, five hits, no runs, two walks, 11 strikeouts.
The nominees have been chosen, but now it’s up to you to help pick the winner. Voting is now open for the right-handed reliever spot, so be sure to cast your ballot by clicking the button below. You can vote as many times 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 unveil the three nominees for our left-handed reliever spot on the 20th Anniversary Team.
Baseball season is officially upon us, Ducks fans. Teams across Major League Baseball and affiliated baseball have begun their respective 2014 seasons. Here on Long Island, we are exactly three weeks from the beginning of the season on April 25. In the meantime, completion of the Ducks 15th Anniversary Team grows near.
Last week, fans had an opportunity to vote for the best right-handed starting pitcher in franchise history. The voting was neck-and-neck for most of the week between two of the candidates as expected. The winner, along with the rest of the “Flock 15” team, will be announced on Friday, May 2 when the Ducks open their 2014 home schedule.
As for this week, the voting moves on to the bullpen. This week’s list of nominees will be comprised of relief pitchers who are not closers. While these relievers have recorded limited saves in their respective Ducks careers, their primary job was not in the closer’s role. Included among the nominees are four Atlantic League championships, six ALPB All-Star Game selections and a pair of franchise record holders. Here are the nominees:
While Grezlovski is not the longest tenured Duck on this list, he does possess the most Atlantic League experience. The Michigan native played eight seasons in independent baseball, six of which came in the Atlantic League. Grezlovski pitched two of those years with the Flock in 2007 and 2008. In that time, the University of Florida alum compiled a 13-4 record with a 3.57 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 125 appearances. In 2007, he finished second in the league in games pitched (58) to fellow-Duck reliever Danny Graves (62). In addition, he earned an All-Star selection and finished the year with a 7-2 record and a 3.39 ERA. The following season, Grezlovski led the league and set a Ducks record with 67 appearances. The righty went 6-2 with a 3.70 ERA in an impressive 87 and two-thirds innings of work.
Hill pitched two years with the Ducks (2011-12), and is one of three nominees in this category that won a championship on Long Island. Overall, the Dix Hills resident went 13-9 with the Flock while compiling a 3.20 ERA, 29 walks and 97 strikeouts in 111 appearances. Hill started off his Ducks career in fine fashion, going 8-2 in 2011 with a 2.91 ERA and one save over 48 games. The eight wins were the most in a single season among all nominees. The next season, he earned an All-Star Game selection by posting a 3.49 ERA in 67 innings pitched. Hill also finished second in the league in appearances (63) during the 2012 season and retired from baseball after helping lead the Flock to the Atlantic League championship. Prior to pitching on Long Island, he enjoyed parts of the 2002 and 2003 season with the Kansas City Royals where he pitched to a 3.48 ERA.
Lansford represents the only nominee that is currently on the Ducks roster. Brother of teammate Josh Lansford, Jared now enters his third season with the Flock. While his regular season numbers are impressive, it’s his postseason statistics that signify Lansford as a premier reliever in Ducks history. Over two championship runs in the postseason, the California native is 3-0 and has allowed just one run over 12 and one-third innings of work (0.73 ERA). In addition, Lansford has 13 strikeouts compared to just nine hits and one walk in 11 postseason appearances. During the regular season, Lansford is a combined 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA, nine saves and 88 strikeouts in 94 games (104 and two-thirds innings pitched). That includes a 2.98 ERA over 54 and one-third innings of work in 2012 and an All-Star Game selection in 2013.
Valentine is the longest tenured Duck amongst the nominees with four years of experience at the Duck Pond (2007-10). He leads all nominees in games played (147), saves (19), innings pitched (154.0) and strikeouts (138). In addition, Valentine is tied with Grezlovski and Hill in wins with 13. The Deer Park native went 13-8 overall with a 2.86 ERA during his four seasons with the Ducks. Valentine earned two ALPB All-Star Game selections (2008-09) and tied a franchise record in appearances with 67 in 2009. In 2007, Valentine led all Atlantic League relievers in ERA (1.54) by allowing just six earned runs over 35 innings of work. Additionally, he went 4-2 with 37 strikeouts compared to just nine walks. In 2009, Valentine led the league in appearances (67) while totaling a 4-2 record and a 2.96 ERA. Prior to joining the Flock, he pitched in 42 games for the Chicago White Sox over three seasons (2003-05).
Wassermann’s one season with the Ducks (2011) stood out enough to warrant a place among this week’s nominees. The Alabama native was a part of a strong bullpen in 2011 which also included fellow nominee Jeremy Hill. That season, Wassermann went 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 11 saves in 51 appearances. He also recorded 66 strikeouts compared to 12 walks in 63 innings of work, good for the highest strikeout-per-nine innings ratio among nominees (9.4). For his efforts, Wassermann was named a 2011 Atlantic League All-Star. Before pitching with the Ducks, he made 57 appearances for the Chicago White Sox during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Similar to Wassermann, our final nominee also only played one season with Long Island. Zimmerman finished his professional baseball career with the Ducks in 2004, and along with Hill and Lansford, represents the only other nominee to win a championship on Long Island. The righty went 3-2 with a nominee-best 2.28 ERA in his lone season with the Flock. In addition, Zimmerman struck out 36 compared to just 16 walks in his 50 appearances (47 and one-third innings pitched). Possibly the most impressive part of his success was that he had not pitched at all during the 2003 season.
This week’s choice will be even tougher with six nominees to choose from for one spot. Once you’ve made your choice, please be sure to cast your vote in the ballot below. Remember, you can always write in a candidate if you feel someone else is deserving of the position by selecting “other” in the poll below and including the name. Next week, the voting moves on to the best closers in franchise history, and you can bet on an even tougher decision in that category.