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 and outfield spots on our 20th Anniversary Team have officially been determined through the first nine weeks of voting. As we reach the halfway point of balloting for this exclusive group, we focus our attention this week on some of the heavy hitters. The Atlantic League has used a designated hitter since its inception in 1998, so it’s only fitting that we include a designated hitter spot on this squad. The trio of nominees for this position features some of the best power hitters in franchise history. All three had Major League experience by the time they joined the Flock, and each one showcased tremendous pop during their time on Long Island. Here are the three candidates for the DH role:
Of the three nominees in this week’s balloting, only Patrick Lennon has an Atlantic League championship ring. The slugger earned his in 2004, which was the third of his four seasons on Long Island. Lennon’s first came in 2002 when he burst onto the scene with 19 home runs, 61 RBIs and a .311 batting average in just 58 games, earning an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays took notice and purchased his contract in July. One year later, it was the Detroit Tigers who came calling after Lennon hit .327 with six homers and 44 RBIs in 40 games with the Flock. The former Mariners first round draft pick put together his finest season in ’04, earning another All-Star Game nod while crushing 14 home runs, driving in 88 runs and compiling a .323 batting average in 116 games. Lennon played in 64 more games during the 2005 season before electing to hang up the cleats. By the time his four seasons with the Flock were complete, the six-year Major League veteran had totaled a .314 batting average, 45 home runs, 226 RBIs, 197 runs, 335 hits, and 73 doubles in 282 games. Not to mention, he garnered two All-Star Game nods, two contract purchases by MLB clubs and a championship.
The first of two, non-related Rodriguez’s on this list came to Long Island in 2005 after playing 11 seasons in the Major Leagues with five different clubs. He made an immediate impact in helping Long Island to the playoffs, posting an Atlantic League-best .322 batting average. The lefty also ranked second in the league with a .413 on-base percentage and a .603 slugging percentage. Rodriguez led the team with 27 home runs, tying what was then a franchise single-season record, and posted team-high totals with 72 RBIs and 56 walks as well. 2006 represented another strong year for H-Rod and another postseason berth for the Flock. The Dominican Republic native played in 90 games, clubbing 12 home runs, driving in 59 runs, totaling 19 doubles, and posting a .287 batting average. Though he did not play in an Atlantic League All-Star Game, he was chosen as an Atlantic League Post-Season All-Star in 2005.
Every time he stepped up in the buildin’, everybody’s hands went UP! Ducks fans will surely remember John Rodriguez using “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled as his walk-up song with the Ducks and raising their hands in unison when he stepped up to the plate. The lefty slugger from New York City spent two strong years with the Flock in 2010 and 2011 and showcased an ability to get on base and hit the ball over the fence. Rodriguez proved to be one of the brightest spots on a 2010 team that had its ups and downs. He posted a .304 batting average and a .392 on-base percentage during the year, accumulating 10 homers, 43 RBIs, 50 runs, 100 hits and 21 doubles in 89 games. One year later, many of those numbers jumped up despite playing in seven less games. The former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder hit .313 with 18 homers, 81 RBIs, and a .398 on-base percentage. He was one of several outstanding hitters on a team that won the first half, second half and Liberty Division. In both of his seasons with the Flock, J-Rod earned an All-Star Game selection, and the slugger also claimed a Second Team Post-Season All-Star nod in 2011.
There are three big-time sluggers to choose from, but just one will earn the spot on our 20th Anniversary Team. Cast your vote throughout the week to help determine if Patrick Lennon, Henry Rodriguez or John Rodriguez will make the squad. Don’t forget: you can vote as often as you’d like over the next week, but only one player can be chosen with each ballot. 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 three nominees for the utility infielder spot.
The Long Island Ducks of 2011 were the class of the Atlantic League. During the entire season, the Ducks never fell more than two games back in the Liberty Division. In the first half, they held first place from June 3 through July 10. In the second half, they were atop the division for all but eight days. Long Island finished the season with a 78-47 record, the best in the league and the franchise’s best since the inaugural season of 2000 (82-58). Ultimately, the Ducks fell just short of their quest for a championship to the York Revolution, but it was certainly a season to remember and be proud of.
For many on that outstanding roster, their careers would continue. Ray Navarrete and Dan Lyons would go on to win back-to-back championships with the Ducks. Lew Ford would get signed by the Baltimore Orioles and achieve his dream of returning to the Major Leagues, rejoin the Ducks and lead them to a championship in 2013. Mike Loree would begin 2012 with the Ducks before going over to pitch in Taiwan and Korea.
However, for others, their career as players would come to a close. It was time for them to begin life after baseball, but they wouldn’t stray too far from the game. Since that memorable 2011 season, several Ducks have gone on to receive coaching positions across minor league baseball and the collegiate ranks. Earlier this week, the Arizona Diamondbacks organization announced that one 2011 Duck was promoted to Manager of the Class-A Advanced Visalia Rawhide of the California League. In addition, they announced that another 2011 Duck would serve as the Hitting Coach for the Class-A Short Season Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League. Any guess who the two are?
The first is J.R. House, the Ducks catcher in 2011. House has been involved with the Diamondbacks organization since his playing days ended. He served as a Hitting Coach for two seasons, working on the staff of the Rookie-Level Missoula Osprey in 2012 and Hillsboro in 2013. Last year, the former Major Leaguer was promoted to Manager of the Hops in 2014, serving on a coaching staff that featured fellow former big leaguers Doug Drabek (Pitching Coach) and Mark Grace (Hitting Coach). House went on to lead Hillsboro to a 48-28 record and the Northwest League championship, the organization’s first-ever title.
The second is Javier Colina, who spent time primarily at shortstop and second base for the Ducks in 2011. The Venezuela native first began his coaching career in 2014, serving as the Hitting Coach for the Diamondbacks’ Rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League. He last played in 2012, appearing in six games for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs before hanging up the cleats. Now, after one season in the Arizona League, he has been promoted to Hillsboro to serve as the Hitting Coach. He’ll be joined on the team’s staff by Drabek and newly-hired Manager Shelley Duncan, who most Ducks fans will remember for his time with the Yankees from 2007-09. Follow Javier on Twitter HERE.
House and Colina are not the only two members of the 2011 Ducks to have been a part of the coaching staff in the Diamondbacks organization since retiring. Jamie Quinn, who served as the Ducks bullpen coach and catcher in 2011, was a Minor League Baseball Video Coordinator/Catching Instructor with the franchise in 2013 and 2014. He has also held coaching positions with Hofstra University and the United States Merchant Marine Academy since that year. Most recently he was hired as the Head Coach for the Shelter Island Bucks of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League on Long Island. Follow Jamie on Twitter HERE.
Continuing on with coaches in the affiliated ranks, Ehren Wassermann has spent the past two seasons with the Minnesota Twins Gulf Coast League affiliate as their Pitching Coach. Prior to joining them, he spent a year as the Pitching Coach with the Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier League. While with Windy City, he guided the pitching staff to a 3.74 ERA and a league-leading 16 complete games. The former Major Leaguer was a steady reliever for the Ducks on their 2011 squad, going 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 11 saves in 51 games.
In addition to these, a couple members of that 2011 team have become coaches in the college ranks. Aside from Quinn, Bob Zimmermann has spent each of the past two seasons as an Assistant Baseball Coach for Maryville College in St. Louis in addition to pitching with the Ducks. Outfielder Kraig Binick also served as an Assistant Baseball Coach in 2014 with St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. The experience and knowledge they both gained playing with the Flock, especially in 2011, helped them achieve each of these positions.
While these players have all become coaches for organized baseball teams, others have chosen to teach some of the younger baseball players in the country. John Rodriguez, who batted .313 with 18 homers and 81 RBI in 2011 with the Ducks, has now become the Director of the Yorkville Baseball Academy in New York City. There, the former big leaguer’s main responsibility is teaching his students about “The Art of Hand Path” so that they improve their swings and become the best hitters they can be. In addition, pitcher Lenny DiNardo has started his own pitching academy (DiNardo Pitching). He currently gives pitching lessons in the Fort Myers/Naples, Fla. area. In 2011, DiNardo spent the first month of the season with the Ducks before getting signed by the Oakland Athletics organization. Two years later, he tossed the first-ever no-hitter in Lancaster Barnstormers history, doing so against Long Island.
And finally, we should mention two other members of the 2011 Ducks who hold coaching/front office positions in the Atlantic League. As most of you know, Ford served as the Ducks Hitting Coach in addition to playing all 140 games during the regular season. It was his first foray into the coaching ranks, and he has said often that he would like to stay in baseball, possibly as a coach, once his career is over. In addition, relief pitcher Jon Hunton has spent the last two seasons with the Somerset Patriots. Along with continuing to pitch for Somerset, he served as the team’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel in 2013 and Director of Player Personnel in 2014. Follow Lew on Twitter HERE. Follow Jon on Twitter HERE.
No one knows for sure exactly where their career path will head once their playing days officially come to a close. The Long Island Ducks have been fortunate to see so many of their alumni become coaches and managers from youth baseball all the way up to the Major Leagues. While there are many more recent Ducks who will likely enter future coaching ranks, the experience and talent of the 2011 roster has already translated into a plethora of coaching positions. If you happen to know of any other members from that team who are coaching or in front office positions, please comment and let us know. In addition, which other former Ducks do you think might end up becoming future baseball coaches or have roles with a team’s front office?
Well fans, we have officially completed voting for both the infield and outfield of the 15th Anniversary Team! Last week, we gave fans the option of voting for three outfielders out of nine nominees, and the turnout was fantastic with voting coming right down to the wire. Want to know who those lucky three players are? Well, the 15th Anniversary Team final roster will not be unveiled until Friday, May 2, so hang tight! What we can say, however, is that it is quite an impressive team that you, the fans, have assembled.
It is now time to move on to the designated hitter spot on the lineup card. While many of these nominees also played in the field throughout their Ducks career, the majority of their action came as the DH. Our list of designated hitter nominees features a combined 35 years of Major League experience, including three MLB All-Star Game selections and 260 big league home runs. In fact, five of the six nominees made it to the Majors at some point in their career, the most of any other position thus far in the voting. Here are the six DH nominees:
Arguably the most well-known name on this list, Everett had two monster years with Long Island. Playing in 219 games over the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Everett led all nominees in batting (.320) and home runs (54) while ranking second in RBI (197). The 14-year Major League veteran finished third in the league in home runs (25) and RBI (97) during his first season with the Ducks. Everett then improved on those numbers in 2008, batting .327 with 100 RBI and 29 home runs, a Ducks single-season record. The Florida native and former 10th overall pick in the 1990 draft retired from professional baseball in 2010 with 1,304 hits, 202 home runs and 792 RBI combined in the Major and Minor Leagues along with two MLB All-Star selections.
Gibson represents the first of two DH nominees that only played in one season with the Ducks, but like the other (Victor Rodriguez), his numbers justify his placement on this list. Gibson joined Long Island in 2003 and had a memorable season. He led the league in RBI (89) and doubles (33) while finishing fourth in plate appearances (530) and 10th in home runs (19). The Florida native appeared in 120 games overall with the Flock in 2003 and earned a well-deserved All-Star Game selection. Gibson also boasts Major League experience, as he spent time with the Colorado Rockies during the 1998 and ’99 seasons.
The longest tenured Duck among these nominees, Lennon played in 282 games with the Flock over his four-year career on Long Island (2002-05). The North Carolina native led all nominees in RBI (226) and hits (335) and is the only player on this list to have won a championship with Long Island (2004). The former Major Leaguer’s best season as a Duck came in that title-winning year, as he batted .323 with 14 home runs over 116 games. That year, the 36-year-old also led the league in doubles (36) while finishing fifth in RBI (88) and runs scored (85). The former eighth overall pick in the 1986 draft was selected to two Atlantic League All-Star Games (2002, ’04) during his time with the Ducks. Lennon, who spent six years in the Majors with four different teams, finished his time on Long Island with a .314 batting average, second highest among nominees.
Rodriguez stands as the second most storied former Major Leaguer on this list. The 11-year Major League veteran split time between five teams in the Majors but is included on this list thanks to his strong two seasons (2005-06) with the Flock. The Dominican Republic native finished off his career in impressive fashion with Long Island, batting .304 with 39 home runs and 131 RBI over 182 games. His best year came in 2005 when he led the Atlantic League in batting (.322) while finishing sixth in home runs (27) and tallying 72 RBI. While the 1996 National League All-Star never played in an Atlantic League All-Star Game, Rodriguez certainly left his mark on the Faithful Flock.
Our second Rodriguez among nominees (none are related) is the most recent nominee to play with the Ducks. The former St. Louis Cardinal enjoyed two strong seasons with Long Island in 2010 and 2011. An All-Star Game selection both years, he was a major part of one of the most dangerous lineups in Ducks history. In 2011, Rodriguez’s 81 RBI joined him alongside three other Ducks among the top six in the Atlantic League (Javier Colina, J.R. House and Ray Navarrete). Possibly more impressive, the New York City native’s 81 RBI came in just 82 games played, easily the fewest among the top 10 that year. Additionally, Rodriguez is etched in the Ducks record books thanks to a historic six-run, eight-RBI performance against Lancaster on June 9 of that season; both of which remain Ducks single-game records. Overall, Rodriguez hit .308 with 28 home runs and 124 RBI in his two seasons on Long Island, spanning 171 games.
While Rodriguez’s marquee seasons in the Atlantic League might have come as a member of the Somerset Patriots in 2004 and Newark Bears in 2007, the native of Puerto Rico enjoyed a strong 2009 season with the Flock. He came to Long Island with high expectations and did not disappoint, hitting .301 with four home runs, 56 RBI and 20 doubles over 97 games. Those numbers were good enough to finish in the Top 5 on the team in batting average and doubles. His efforts helped lead the Ducks to the postseason where they were narrowly defeated by the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the opening round. Overall, Rodriguez spent five years in the Atlantic League, finishing his career in 2010 with York, Newark and Bridgeport.
So fans, there are your 15th Anniversary Team designated hitter nominees. While the decision to choose one of these six candidates will undoubtedly be tough, don’t forget that you can write in a different candidate by selecting “other” in the poll below and typing in your choice. This week’s winner will represent the final batter on the “Flock 15” starting lineup. Next week, we move to the mound and begin looking at some of the most memorable pitchers in franchise history.