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20th Anniversary Team Voting – Shortstop

Baez-Alfonzo-Lyons

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.

Two infielders down; two to go! We’ve covered the right side of the infield in our voting thus far, with the first base and second base positions being voted upon over the past two weeks, respectively. Let’s head over to the left side now and start off our fourth week of voting with the shortstop spot. The nominees for the position feature some of the most notable players to ever wear the Long Island Ducks uniform. All three account for 11 of Long Island’s 13 postseason appearances in franchise history during their time playing with the Ducks, with 2006 and 2009 being the only two seasons in which none of the three took the field with the Flock. Two of the three shortstop nominees also account for all three Ducks championships. It’s a talented trio to say the least, but it will be up to you to help decide which one gets the spot. Here are the nominees for the 20th Anniversary Team shortstop:


Kevin Baez
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While Kevin Baez has become synonymous with the Ducks managerial role over the past eight years, he endeared himself to fans much earlier when he played for the orange and black. The former New York Mets infielder joined the Ducks in 2002 and proved to be a versatile option in the field. He would play second base, shortstop and third base during parts of four seasons in a Ducks uniform, though most of that time was spent at short. After playing 115 games during his first season with the Flock, Baez truly broke out in 2003. He compiled a .293 batting average and a .370 on-base percentage in 92 games that season and played well enough that the Cincinnati Reds purchased his contract during the year. Some of his signature moments with the Ducks came in 2004. He earned Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP honors that season (the final of three consecutive ALPB All-Star selections), connected for the sac fly during the famous August 9th game in Bridgeport that helped clinch the Ducks their first postseason berth ever, and was part of Long Island’s magical run to their first Atlantic League championship. After beginning the 2005 season as a player, he converted to a coaching role during the year. However, his legacy as a shortstop for the Ducks was cemented forever.


Edgardo Alfonzo
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Another former New York Mets infielder is also among the nominees for the shortstop position. After enjoying a 12-year Major League career, eight of which was spent in Flushing, Edgardo Alfonzo joined the Ducks for a pair of seasons in 2007 and 2008. He played 105 games with the Ducks during the first of those two years and hit .266 with five homers, 56 RBIs, 53 runs and 23 doubles. The performance with the Flock as well as in the Venezuelan Winter League helped “Fonzie” garner an opportunity with Tigres de Quintana Roo in the Mexican League to start 2008. Following a solid season south of the border, Alfonzo returned to Long Island and continued to sizzle. In 59 games with the Ducks to end ’08, he batted .329 with eight home runs, 27 RBIs, 76 hits, 13 doubles and a .395 on-base percentage. Alfonzo, who played all four infield positions with the Flock but spent most of his time at short, was also a superb defender, combining to make just 16 errors over his two seasons with Long Island. Not to mention, the Ducks earned postseason berths in both of those years as well.


Dan Lyons
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Although our third and final nominee does not have any Major League experience, he has played more games than any other player in franchise history. Dan Lyons has played 888 regular season games as a member of the Ducks, surpassing Ray Navarrete’s 863-game record this past season, a mark that had stood since he retired in 2013. The feat is even more admirable when you consider that Lyons first joined the Ducks in 2011 as a utility infielder on a team that would win more games than any other in the Atlantic League that year. However, “Shorty” greatly impressed during his 86 games that year, hitting .283 and posting a .971 fielding percentage. The Ducks made him their starting shortstop in 2012, and he proceeded to earn an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection. By season’s end, his spot in Ducks history was written in stone when he laid down a walk-off bunt single in the ninth inning of Game Five in the Atlantic League Championship Series to give the Ducks their first title since 2004. His performance in the series was worthy of earning Championship Series MVP honors. Since that point, Lyons has gone on to collect another Championship ring (2013), be named the first-ever winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove Defensive Player of the Year Award in the Atlantic League (2015) and garner two more All-Star Game nods (2015, 2016). Through eight seasons, he has totaled 40 homers, 353 RBIs, 423 runs and 755 hits. Not to mention, he has proven time and time again to be one of the top defenders in the league.


The choices have been revealed, and the time is now to vote! Simply click the button below to head to the balloting page and select your choice for the 20th Anniversary Team’s shortstop. Vote as often as you’d like over the next week, but only one candidate can be chosen when you do. The winner, along with the remainder of the 20th Anniversary Team, will be unveiled at the beginning of the 2019 season!

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Be sure to check back again next week, as we’ll reveal our three nominees for the third base position.

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Wally Backman’s First Comments as Ducks Manager

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The Long Island Ducks certainly made headlines this week throughout the Atlantic League, professional baseball and sports communities. Their first bit of news came on Tuesday when the Rockland Boulders announced the hiring of Kevin Baez as their manager for the 2019 season. The hire brings an end to an eight-year run as skipper of the Ducks for Baez, one that was highlighted by six Atlantic League Championship Series appearances, back-to-back league championships in 2012 and 2013 and the most wins by any manager in franchise history (600 total, including 571 in the regular season).

That announcement was followed up on Wednesday with the introduction of the sixth manager in Ducks history: Wally Backman. The 59-year-old will guide the Flock after spending one season managing in the Atlantic League with the New Britain Bees. Backman’s Bees were 33-30 in the first half of the season a year ago, finishing just two games behind Somerset in the Liberty Division. His club ended the season at 61-65 overall after he saw six players have their contracts purchased during the season, including five by Major League organizations, four of whom reported to Triple-A clubs.

Overall, Backman brings 20 seasons of managerial experience to the Ducks, including 11 with MLB organizations. He has amassed over 1,100 regular season victories and a .511 winning percentage as a manager, and he has won three league championships as well. Prior to his coaching career, the Oregon native enjoyed a 14-year career in the Major Leagues. Nine of those were spent with the New York Mets, where he helped the team win the 1986 World Series and drew the admiration of many local baseball fans in this area.

Members of the media had the chance to speak with Backman on Wednesday following the announcement of his hire. Here is a transcript from the conference call:


What made you want to join the Long Island Ducks?

“I think what made me want to join the franchise is the people that I have to work with. I think they’re good baseball people. They care about the same things I care about, and that’s winning and trying to put a good product on the field every day.”

How excited are you about coming here, and how quickly did all of this happen?

“It happened pretty quickly. I’m excited about it! I’m back in my old stomping grounds, and I always showed my interest in being in the New York area. With this opportunity becoming available, I thought it was a great opportunity to go back to where I really wanted to be, and that was in New York.”

What did you learn about the Atlantic League last year from being in New Britain?

“Well, I think one of the positives was just how good the baseball was. It was very good caliber baseball. I think I had 14 or 15 guys that had played in the big leagues. I liked the level of play and the way the league was run. I had done independent baseball before I ever went and did affiliated ball, and to come into the Atlantic League last year and see the way it was run and the people that were involved in the Atlantic League, I was excited about it.”

Why did you want to be back in New York?

“The knowledge of baseball from the people of New York. The playing days that I had in New York and the respect that I had for the people because the knowledge of the game was so much different in New York than it was in any of the other cities that I played in or even managed in. They keep you on your toes. They expect good things to happen, and they’re knowledgeable people about the game. That part of it excited me and just coming back to be around the New York media. I’ve always had a good rapport with those people. I know a lot of them are a lot older, like I am…but I’ve always enjoyed the media and had a good relationship with the media. I look forward to the upcoming season.”

Is getting to the big leagues still a goal for you, and how many obstacles have you faced to get there?

“I’ve faced some obstacles, there’s no question, but it’s definitely my goal still. I’ll say this, and I’ll say it to anybody else, that my focus this year is 100% on the Ducks. Yeah, I would like to get back to the big leagues at some point in time, but again, I just signed a contract with the Long Island Ducks, and they’re going to get 100% of Wally Backman.”

How much of a challenge do you think it will be to get to the big leagues?

“You know what, I’m not even really thinking about that at this point. I’m excited about where I’m going. Everything’s a challenge, but I’ve never been a quitter and I’m not going to quit at anything I do.  I would like to reiterate though that my focus is the Long Island Ducks and trying to win a championship there now.”

How much of a factor was it coming to a team that has the foundation and culture of success?

“Well, it’s huge. Knowing that you’re coming to an organization that really wants to win, is about winning and will do just about everything to try to help you accomplish that, I hope that I’m one of the ingredients that puts us over the top and helps us win a championship.”

What’s the biggest difference between managing at Triple-A and in the Atlantic League?

“Probably the biggest difference would be development. You’re trying to develop players in affiliated baseball. You’re still trying to develop, somewhat, in the Atlantic League, but it’s really more based on winning and trying to get guys back to where they can get an opportunity to go back to affiliated baseball or even to the big leagues.”

How nice will it be to reconnect with Bud Harrelson?

“Well, it would be huge. We did reconnect last year when I would come to town when I was with New Britain. Buddy and I have a long history together. I wish Buddy the best, and I hope he’s out there every day with us.”

How does it make you feel that your reception from New York fans always seems to be universally positive now more than three decades removed from that special 1986 championship team?

“Well it’s too long ago, that’s for sure. I’m getting too old now. Like I said, I enjoyed my time in New York. I always did, and I always wanted to come back to New York. To get this opportunity, I’m very grateful for it and hopefully good things come out of it.”

In the analytics-driven world that baseball has become, how much can analytics play a part in managing at this level?

“I’ve been using analytics since they’ve been available. I use the things that I believe help me, things like ground ball percentages, fly ball percentages and the way guys pitch in certain situations. All the information that I’m able to get, I try to go through all of that and use it to the best of my ability to help the team win.”

Do your instincts play a part in making managerial decisions as well? Do you balance the two?

“I think you’ve got to use both. You’ve got to use your eyes and use the things that are on paper too. These are human beings that are playing against you, and the analytics make a big part of that. It helps you tremendously on your defense, and it also helps your players. If you can give them certain parts of that to where they can analyze it themselves, it also helps make them a better player.”

How would you describe yourself in terms of managerial style?

“I’m an aggressive manager but under control. I use the information that’s given to me. I like to be aggressive on the bases. I like to see our guys go first to third. Those are things that I really demand of the players, just not to go through the motions. But I’m a player’s manager as well. I played for some of the best managers in the game, starting with Joe Torre as my first manager in New York to Jim Leyland, Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella. I could go on with other guys that I played for in the big leagues, but you try to take a piece from each one of them. The way that Jim Leyland communicated with his players, I thought, was one of the best that I had ever seen. Davey was a smart manager, and we had a great team in ’86. You try to take pieces from a little bit of all those guys and try to use it as an asset for yourself and go from there. I’m still Wally Backman, but I’ve taken a piece of a lot of those guys and tried to use it to the best of my ability in the way that I manage a game.”

Is it in some ways more fun at the minor league level now because it seems to be more of an old-style, fundamental type of baseball?

“I think it’s a big part in winning. Fundamentally, you have to be able to bunt and move runners over. Everybody loves the home runs, but you can win baseball games a lot of other ways than just the home runs. The strikeouts are a concern with me. A lot of people say, ‘an out is an out,’ but a strikeout, to me, can never be a productive out.”

How much time have you spent on Long Island previously, especially here in Suffolk County?

“Well, I lived in Dix Hills. I built a house in Dix Hills in the 80’s when I was playing in New York, so I’m pretty familiar with the Island.”

What have you learned in 20 years as a manager? How are you different from when you were managing with the White Sox organization to now?

“You know, I’m not a whole lot different. I respect the game, and I expect the players to respect the game. The thing that I probably have changed in those 20 years is the analytics. I’ve tried to use the analytics as far back as I can remember, whatever it might have been. Everything’s available to you today, and I think if you go through certain parts of the analytics, it can really help you win games.”

Is the rotation of players the most difficult part of independent baseball, with guys often going back to affiliated ball?

“Well, I think that’s a part of the Atlantic League. I think that’s why the Atlantic League is, without a doubt, the number one independent league there is in baseball. I don’t know exactly how well we’re affiliated with Major League Baseball. I know we follow all the guidelines and all the rules, but I think it’s important to show those players that we care about the players and are trying to get them back to affiliated ball. Whether it’s the minor leagues or overseas or back to the Major Leagues, we’re there for them. They can show what they can do on the field, and we get scouted very heavily.  There are opportunities for those players, and we’re just a piece of it. We’re giving those players an opportunity to show what they can do on the field and possibly give them another opportunity to get back to the big leagues or just get to the big leagues.”

What did your year managing in Brooklyn teach you about managing in New York that you can bring to Long Island?

“I don’t know that it really taught me anything. I know I played the game a long time, but I think the first and utmost important thing that you do with a player is you earn the player’s respect. Once you can earn the player’s respect and the trust of the player, then it’s like a good marriage. Things go better, and you can get more out of a player. For me, I think respecting the players is one of the most important things for a manager because once you earn a player’s respect, you’re going to get everything they’ve got.”

Former Ducks Backstop Back in the Big Leagues

J.R. House Reds Coach

J.R. House came to the Ducks in 2011 with five seasons of Major League experience. At 31 years of age, his ultimate goal was pretty simple: Get back to an MLB organization and have one final shot at returning to “The Show”. While he was unable to fulfill that task during his playing career, the mission has officially been achieved…as a coach.

The Cincinnati Reds announced on Monday that House has been hired as the team’s Third Base/Catching Coach for the 2019 season. He joins the likes of many other former Ducks who are now on MLB coaching staffs such as Kimera Bartee (Pittsburgh Pirates), George Lombard (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Jamie Pogue (St. Louis Cardinals). He also joins a staff highlighted by new manager David Bell, a 12-year Major League veteran as a player and former manager/coach for four seasons in the Reds organization (2009-12). Bell spent four seasons coaching in the St. Louis Cardinals organization (2014-17) as well before joining the San Francisco Giants following the 2017 season to become their Vice President of Player Development. When he was hired by the Reds on October 21st of this year, one of his first calls was to House.

“It all happened really fast,” House recalled via telephone this week, “David got the job as the new manager of the Reds, and then he called me to do an interview. We went through the process, and I think it worked out really well.”

The call was a bit of a surprise, as the two did not have much of a relationship beforehand. According to House, the two had shaken hands a couple of times previously but had not indulged in much dialogue aside from that. Though they’ve played against one another at the big league level, they had not been teammates or worked on the same coaching staff. However, House, who has served as a manager or coach in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization since retiring after the 2011 season, pointed out the tight-knit community that is the professional baseball world.

“I think baseball’s a small world,” he noted. “We kind of know how each other works, what we observe and each other’s reputation. With as much technology and communication as there is in the game today, it’s really hard to fool people anymore.”

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The former catcher joins the Reds after spending the 2018 season as the Field and Catching Coordinator for the Diamondbacks. According to House, the role allowed him to beef up his experience overseeing the prospects throughout the organization, gaining an analytical view of catching and filtrating that through the system, and making sure clubs were providing a good atmosphere for their prospects to flourish in. The experience was everything he could have hoped for after focusing predominantly on managing teams from rookie-level to Double-A prior to that.

“I’m just so thankful for the environment that I was able to work in,” House asserted. “Every day it was just so enjoyable to be able to go work within a tremendous culture and a place that allows you to bring your own individual strongpoints and personality to the job while at the same time keeping the camaraderie of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Since moving on from his playing days, House has devoted his life to helping those who have followed in his footsteps. As a coach, his objective has not been to win championships or receive more accolades. He’s accomplished both of those, claiming the 2014 Northwest League Championship as manager of the Hillsboro Hops and being named California League Manager of the Year in 2015 with the Visalia Rawhide. However, House hangs his hat on watching the players he has coached improve their game and advance higher up in the organization.

“When you’re a coach,” he stated, “your number one goal should be impacting players and helping them reach their peak performance, whatever that is. If you’re in it just to get to the big leagues or to try and make as much money as you can, you’re going to fizzle out. Those that have passion and love to coach and help human beings reach their max potential are the ones that usually flourish in this game and stay around for a long time.”

He continued to say, “I like to be able to impact players as much as I can and be around them because I just really enjoy those relationships. At the same time, you want to compete at the highest level there is. It’s enjoyable to try and be part of that and be part of a group that can come together and do some magical things. It makes work a lot of fun.”

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House developed his affinity for coaching and improving players from a moment during his brief Ducks career in 2011. One month into the season, he was batting just .258 and had an on-base percentage only slightly higher at .298. Frustrated at the dish and away from his family, which was living in Florida at the time (they have since moved to Scottsdale, Arizona), he was in need of some guidance.

“Our hitting coach was Jay Loviglio,” he recalled, “who was a good friend of mine and was actually my first manager in professional baseball when I was with the Pirates. He had a sit down, sort of “come-to-Jesus” moment with me as far as my swing and approach to the game. It really helped turn around that season; we called it the ‘metamorphosis.’”

The talk certainly seemed to work, as House would go on to hit .304 in June and .337 in July. He never looked back, en route to one of the best offensive seasons by a catcher in Ducks history. The season ended with House batting .305 while totaling 19 home runs, 81 RBIs, 73 runs and 128 hits. A lot of that, according to the Charleston, W.Va. native, can be attributed to his work with Loviglio.

“Those are the types of moments that we as coaches strive to have with players,” House said. “When you see the impact that you can make just by advice or a type of approach to a mechanical flaw, you just see how wonderful your job is. You really live for those moments and try to see the development process go in an upwards direction.”

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After focusing on work with prospects and younger players over the past seven years, House will now be on a Major League coaching staff for the first time. Though the Reds roster does feature many youngsters, it also boasts Major League veterans such as Joey Votto, Billy Hamilton and Homer Bailey. Knowing the veteran leadership that exists in Cincinnati, House will be relying partly on some of the techniques he observed from Ducks manager Kevin Baez during his time on Long Island.

“The biggest thing I think was his communication with the players and the trust that he had with us,” he recalled. “We had a lot of guys on the roster that had played in the big leagues that knew what they were doing and the expectations of the season. To see Kevin not try to micro-manage and actually be a little hands-off, allows us to play, have freedom, and enjoy it was really impressive on his part. Sometimes, we as coaches can get a little controlling and overbearing at times because you care so much and want players to learn right.”

While it remains to be seen just how much the Reds, who finished last in the National League’s Central Division in 2018 with a 67-95 record, can turn things around, the new coaching staff appears to be step one of the process. Fast success on the field will certainly be a challenging goal to achieve, but there are plenty of other obstacles that House is looking forward to overcoming first.

“Just learning everyone,” he commented regarding what his tallest task might be. “From the strengths and weaknesses of everyone’s skillset to just learning the names of the staff and players, the challenge is just going to be the learning curve and trying to get through that and rolling as fast as possible.”

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In a world where the emphasis is often placed on team success, House’s approach to coaching has always been focused on individual success. His desire to improve a player’s game and seeing that play out on the field continues to be the fuel that keeps him going. While one day’s goal is to improve one man’s game today, the next day’s task is doing the same for another player. With enough time and dedication from House and the rest of the Reds, the result could end up being a parade down Vine Street in Cincinnati.

DUCKS BEGIN SPRING TRAINING WORKOUTS

The Long Island Ducks officially began their spring training workouts on Monday in advance of the 2018 All-Star Summer, presented by Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center. Despite inclement weather preventing the team from doing much in the way of outdoor activities, position players did take the first swings in the team’s batting cage while pitchers did some throwing exercises and light toss.

We caught up after the workouts with Ducks manager Kevin Baez, returning shortstop Dan Lyons and infielder/MLB veteran Jordany Valdespin:

A total of 30 players are on the Ducks spring training roster, with 24 having been signed. The roster includes 11 former Major Leaguers, 19 players who have reached the Triple-A or MLB level and seven who are originally from Long Island or reside locally.

CLICK HERE for the full roster

The team has invited the following six players to spring training:

Cody Puckett (INF) – Puckett played 33 games with the Ducks in 2017, totaling three home runs and 12 RBI, before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He has spent four seasons with Long Island, compiling a .278 batting average, 31 homers, 215 RBI, 203 runs, 462 hits and 61 doubles in 426 games. The 31-year-old was selected to play in the 2015 Atlantic League All-Star Game at Bridgeport and garnered Post-Season All-Star honors that year as well. The California native earned also earned Second Team Post-Season All-Star honors during his first year with the Flock in 2014. Puckett was originally drafted by the Puckett was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the eighth round of the 2008 amateur draft.

Tyler Levine (RHP) – Levine spent time in 2017 as a starter and a reliever with the Ducks. He appeared in 23 games (eight starts) and posted a 3-3 record along with 36 strikeouts in 60 innings of work. In his first start with Long Island, the East Meadow NY native stymied the York Revolution with seven innings of two-run ball, striking out five and earning the win. Prior to joining the Ducks, the 25-year-old played with both Joliet and Evansville in the Frontier League, as well as Old Orchard Beach in the Empire League and Brownsville in the United League.

Max Almonte (RHP) – Almonte has three seasons of professional experience, all in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He pitched in 32 games for Single-A Peoria in 2017, accruing a 3.40 ERA, two saves and 44 strikeouts over 45 innings. The Far Rockaway native was superb over his first two years of pro ball with Single-A State College, combining to go 3-2 with a 2.82 ERA and 33 strikeouts over 51 innings of work, spanned across 29 games. The 26-year-old Villanova University alum was originally drafted by the Cardinals in the 16th round of the 2015 amateur draft.

Jason Creasy (RHP) – Creasy earned a spring training invite after participating in the Ducks open player tryout on April 14. He spent the first six seasons of his career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, reaching as high as Triple-A in 2016. The North Carolina native collected Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star honors with Double-A Altoona in 2015 and was 12-8 with a 4.41 ERA, one complete game, one save and 147 innings pitched over 27 games (25 starts). The 25-year-old pitched with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association in 2017, making 11 starts and striking out 49 batters in 57 innings. Creasy was originally drafted by the Pirates in the eighth round of the 2011 amateur draft.

Robert Garcia (OF) – Garcia earned a spring training invite after participating in the Ducks open player tryout on April 14. He has five seasons of professional experience, all in the Chicago Cubs organization. The Elwood Park, New Jersey resident played a career-high 108 games for Single-A Myrtle Beach in 2017, collecting two homers, 31 RBI, 42 runs, six doubles, three triples and 16 stolen bases. The 24-year-old was named an MiLB.com Organization All-Star in 2015 after hitting .341 and posting a .409 on-base percentage with the Cubs’ rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League. He was also chosen as a Northwest League Mid-Season All-Star in 2016 with Single-A Eugene. Garcia was originally signed by the Cubs as an international free agent in 2013.

Wagner Gomez (C) – Gomez earned a spring training invite after participating in the Ducks open player tryout on April 14. He has five seasons of professional baseball experience, all with the Cincinnati Reds organization. The Richmond Hill, NY resident began his career as a catcher and infielder, totaling nine home runs, 54 RBI, 47 runs, 18 doubles and three triples over 130 games. The 26-year-old then converted to a pitcher in 2013 and appeared in 36 games over two seasons, striking out 43 batters in 38 and two-thirds innings. Gomez was originally signed by the Reds as an international free agent in 2010.

The complete spring training schedule is as follows:
Friday, April 20 – 1:00 p.m. – Ducks at New Britain
Saturday, April 21 – 1:00 p.m. – New Britain at Ducks
Monday, April 23 – 1:00 p.m. – Black Sox at Ducks
Tuesday, April 24 – 1:00 p.m. – Black Sox at Ducks

Stay tuned for updates throughout the course of the week regarding team workouts and other news. As a reminder, the 2018 season gets underway on Friday, April 27th when the Ducks visit the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs at 6:35 p.m. The Home Opener will follow on Friday, May 4th as the Blue Crabs make the return trip to Long Island for a 6:35 p.m. start.

Dan Lyons Continues Legendary Ducks Career

Lyons-Swinging

The 18-year history of the Long Island Ducks has seen a wide swath of players don the team’s orange and black colors. From long-time Major Leaguers to players looking for a second chance at reaching the game’s highest level to those fresh out of college, each season’s roster has been a sort of “melting pot” of the professional baseball world. Despite the hundreds of players that have made their way to Central Islip, there have only been a select few to truly cement their place as one of the franchise’s legendary players. Dan Lyons is most certainly one of them.

After joining the club in a utility role prior to the 2011 season, he has been firmly etched into the shortstop position for the past six years. Lyons has batted in seemingly every spot of Kevin Baez’s lineup card, but while his place among the starting nine hitters may change, his presence among the group has been constant. That consistency will continue to remain in place during the 2018 season, after the 33-year-old re-signed with the team on Thursday, making him the first Duck to put pen to paper this year.

His accolades are plentiful. He is twice an Atlantic League champion (2012, ’13), three times an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection (2012, ’15, ’16) and twice a Post-Season All-Star (2012, ’15). The Minnesota native was named the Championship Series Most Valuable Player in 2012 after his infamous waddle-off bunt single, and he was the league’s first-ever winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove Defensive Player of the Year award. Lyons enters the 2018 season with a franchise record in sight as well, sitting just 68 games shy of equaling Ray Navarrete for the most games played in team history.

We sat down with the greatest shortstop in Long Island Ducks history this week to look back on what he’s accomplished thus far and what he is hoping to achieve this year:

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