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 outfielder voting has descended upon us! We have had three exciting weeks thus far, with fans casting hundreds of ballots each week to help determine the first three outfielders on the 20th Anniversary Team. However, any good squad needs to have depth in the outfield. Couple that with the litany of terrific outfielders that have worn the Ducks uniform, and that is why we have decided to include a fourth outfield spot among this exclusive group. Our final three nominees for the position all have won at least one Atlantic League championship with the Ducks, and two of the three were instrumental in securing Long Island’s back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. Let’s take a look at the three candidates:
“Jason Johnson makes the catch! He makes the catch!” Chris King’s play-by-play call of Jason Johnson securing the final out of the Ducks 2004 Atlantic League Championship clincher is one that echoes through the annals of Ducks history. While that catch was certainly a momentous occasion in Johnson’s career, it certainly wasn’t the only highlight in his three-year stint with the Ducks. The California native debuted for the team during the 2003 season, and though he only appeared in 24 games, he made an immediate impact with a .305 batting average, 11 RBIs and 11 runs. One year later, he broke out in a big way en route to that long-awaited first playoff appearance and championship. In 100 regular season games, Johnson posted career-highs in home runs (11), RBIs (58), runs (78), triples (6) and stolen bases (36), the last of which led the Flock. The former Phillies draft pick would lead the Ducks to the postseason one more time in his final year of professional baseball, playing in 94 games during the 2005 campaign. He batted .281 with 41 RBIs, 44 runs, 20 doubles and 12 steals during that final season before hanging up the cleats. Johnson was a superb defender as well, making just seven errors in his three seasons manning right field.
Another Long Island native makes the list of nominees! Kraig Binick, a Chaminade High School and NYIT alum, joined the Flock in 2011 among a talented group of outfielders that included Matt Esquivel, Lew Ford, Kennard Jones and John Rodriguez. He hit in the ninth spot on Opening Day, but by season’s end, he was at or near the top of the lineup daily. Binick was comfortable from the get-go and went on to win the Atlantic League batting title with a .343 average. He also led the league in on-base percentage (.429), stolen base percentage (.894) and stolen bases (42). During a year in which the club won both the first and second half as well as a Liberty Division Championship, Binick represented the Ducks at the All-Star Game in York and was an Atlantic League Post-Season All-Star. The former Orioles draft pick played in 123 games the following season with Long Island, earned another All-Star Game selection, and lifted the Flock to an Atlantic League Championship behind a .405 batting average in the postseason. One year later, after beginning the season in Mexico, Binick returned to lead the Ducks to the second half title and another Atlantic League Championship. Defensively, he committed just nine errors over three seasons in which he played all three outfield positions. His clutch performances also increased his popularity among Ducks fans, as he compiled a .352 batting average in 26 postseason games.
The 2012 season saw the Ducks put together a dominating first half before injuries and player contract purchases took a toll on the roster. Amidst a challenging second half, the Ducks needed a bat and some versatility in the field for their playoff run. Meanwhile, Joash Brodin was dominating in the Frontier League, hitting .370. However, the team he played with folded, and Brodin needed a new home. It was a perfect match! The switch-hitter joined the team in late-July with the ability to play the corners in both the outfield and infield. He hit .282 over the season’s final 49 games and then torched the opposition to the tune of a .359 batting average in the playoffs, en route to a championship. Brodin returned to Long Island the following season and put together an All-Star campaign, batting .307 with 11 homers, 49 RBIs, 79 runs, 21 doubles and 14 stolen bases in 106 games. The performance was worthy of having his contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, and although he was unable to partake in the Ducks championship run, he had certainly made his impact upon the club. 2014 was Brodin’s final year with the club, and although his batting average dipped from where it was the previous two seasons, he still chipped in with nine homers, 60 RBIs, 21 doubles and 28 stolen bases over his 133 games.
The three nominees have been revealed, and a tight race is expected to wrap up our outfielder balloting. Cast your vote for Johnson, Binick or Brodin now by clicking the button below to visit our voting page. You can vote as many times as you’d like over the next week, but you can only choose one candidate on your 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 designated hitter 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?
With the beginning of the season less than two months away, voting for the 15th Anniversary Team continues to heat up. With last week’s voting covering the best third basemen in Ducks history, we now officially have our “Flock 15” infield set! Similar to second base, the winner of this position won quite convincingly. Who is that, you ask? You’ll have to wait until Opening Night at Bethpage Ballpark on May 2 to find out.
Now that the infield is finalized, it is time to head to the outfield as we look to complete the position players on the 15th Anniversary Team. We have compiled a list of nine players, all of who have made considerable contributions to the Ducks organization over their respective careers. There will be no distinctions between right fielders, left fielders and center fielders. Instead, fans will be allowed to vote for any three outfielders among the nominees. The top three vote-getters will be added to the already-talented “Flock 15” team.
Many of the outstanding outfielders up for voting are synonymous with marquee moments in Ducks history. Among these nine players are a combined nine Atlantic League championship rings and nine ALPB All-Star game appearances. The list includes one player currently on the 2014 Ducks roster, one who was on the inaugural Ducks team in 2000, and three with Major League experience. All of the candidates are certainly deserving of a spot on the final roster. Here are the choices (in alphabetical order):
One of three players on this list with Major League experience (1996-2001), Bartee made his mark at the Duck Pond during the 2003-04 seasons. The 2004 Atlantic League All-Star’s overall batting average with the Ducks stands at an impressive .324, good for second-best among the outfield nominees. Additionally, the Nebraska native is tied for second amongst the outfield choices in home runs (35) and third in RBI (175). Bartee ranked in the top five in the league in RBI both years he was with the Ducks, and launched 27 home runs in 2004, good for second most in the league. A member of the 2004 Atlantic League championship team, the Creighton alum also stole 48 bases over his two years on Long Island.
While other nominees on this list may have multiple championship rings or multiple ALPB All-Star game selections, Binick is the only one with both. The Hicksville resident was selected to play in the 2011 and 2012 All-Star games while earning championships with Long Island in 2012 and 2013. Over the NYIT alum’s three-year Ducks career, Binick sported a .292 average along with nine home runs, 99 RBI and 78 stolen bases. What truly stand out in Binick’s Ducks career are his 2011 season and overall postseason numbers. In 2011, Binick led the league in batting (.343), steals (42) and on-base percentage (.429). Over three postseasons as a Duck, Binick hit at an impressive .352 clip. Talk about clutch hitting!
Unlike all of the other nominees, Brodin had never played in affiliated baseball before coming to Long Island. It was not until he parlayed his impressive 2013 season with the Ducks into a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, making him the fifth Duck to be signed by an MLB team that season. Acquired by Long Island in July of 2012, Brodin made his presence known, batting .369 with seven RBI in the 2012 postseason, earning a hit in all five games during the Atlantic League Championship Series. The Washington native returned for the 2013 season and hit .307 over 106 games with 11 home runs, 48 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. That earned the College of Charlestown alum an All-Star game selection. Brodin hit .300 over 155 games in his two years with the Ducks.
Davies is the longest tenured Duck on this list by a considerable margin and one of the most beloved by Long Islanders. While born in Thailand, he was adopted as a baby by a Long Island couple and raised on the Island. He grew up in West Babylon and moved to Central Islip when he was a Duck, making him a true “local” player. Davies was also ubiquitous in the community, attending every parade, hospital appearance and school visit there was. On the field, he signed with Long Island for their inaugural 2000 season. Central Islip would be the final stop in Davies’ career, as he spent the next six years with the Ducks. In that time, he amassed one championship (2004), two All-Star selections (2003, ’05), a .273 batting average, the single-season team record for walks (85 in 2002) and a franchise record 149 stolen bases. When he retired, Davies was also the franchise leader in nearly every offensive category. The Queens College alum is known best for delivering two game-winning hits in the 2004 Atlantic League Championship Series, earning himself Series MVP honors and the first ever title for Long Island.
The third-longest tenured nominee (283 games), Esquivel spent three years at the Duck Pond (2010-12). The Texas native is the owner of a.294 batting average with the Ducks and leads all nominees in home runs (36) while ranking second in RBI (176). While the former Atlanta Braves farmhand truly stood out during his first two years on Long Island, including a .328 average in 2011, Esquivel’s marquee Ducks moment came in Game Five of the 2012 Championship Series. With the scored tied at four in the bottom of the ninth, the 2011 All-Star scampered home from third with the series-clinching run on Dan Lyons’ walk-off bunt. It was a moment that has Esquivel etched in Ducks history, forever.
LEWWW!! The iconic former Major Leaguer is the lone nominee that is still a part of the active roster. Ford has already been signed by the Ducks for the 2014 season, his fifth with the organization. Only this time, he returns as a player/coach. The Texas native first came to Long Island in 2009 and immediately experienced success, finishing second in the league in batting (.330). Ford returned to the Island in 2011, and subsequently spent parts of the next two seasons with the Ducks. The long-time Minnesota Twins outfielder began the 2012 season with Long Island before earning a contract with the Baltimore Orioles after a month. By July, he was donning a Major League uniform for the first time in 2007, becoming the 13th player in team history to return to the big leagues after playing with the Ducks. Long Island went on to win the 2012 Atlantic League title, and Ford would be part of another championship with the Flock last year after returning to the team in August. During the 2013 playoffs, he batted .412 and recorded hits in all seven games which he played. Over his four-year Ducks career, Ford owns the franchise record in batting average (.330) along with 24 home runs and 121 RBI.
While Haverbusch is one of only two nominees on this list who did not win a championship with the Ducks, his numbers are still more than enough to earn his place among the choices. Over three seasons with the Flock (2006-08), the Rockville Centre native posted 35 home runs and a nominee-leading 182 RBI. The 35 long-balls ties Haverbusch with Bartee for second-most among “Flock 15” outfield nominees. Additionally, the 2007 All-Star selection recorded a .271 average in his 273 games with Long Island. The long-time Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand’s best season with the Ducks came in 2008, where he hit .289 with 14 home runs and 66 RBI.
Johnson represents our third nominee that was a part of the first Ducks championship team in 2004. A 12th round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1996 draft, Johnson spent three years with the Ducks (2003-05) to finish his professional career. After playing in only 24 games in his first season, Johnson became a major contributor in the Ducks ’04 title run, playing in 100 regular season games. The owner of a career .282 average with the Flock, Johnson finished fourth in the league in steals that season (36). Overall, he stole 56 bases in his Ducks career while adding 16 home runs and 110 RBI. However, the most memorable moment of Johnson’s career on Long Island came at the end of that ’04 season when he caught the final out of the Championship Series, securing Long Island’s first championship trophy.
Our final nominee spent the least amount of time on Long Island but still made a lasting impression on the Faithful Flock. Stocker spent the 2006 season with Ducks, and while he did not win an Atlantic League championship, he put together an outstanding season. The Arizona native set a Ducks record with 56 stolen bases that year, good for second in the league. Additionally, the Arizona State alum hit .303 over 110 games with three home runs, 39 RBI, 19 double and eight triples. Those numbers earned Stocker a 2006 All-Star Game selection and a contract in 2007 with the Milwaukee Brewers organization. By September, he earned a call-up to the big leagues and played in nine games, adding to the list of Ducks who made it back to “The Show” after coming to Long Island.
There it is, fans: your “Flock 15” outfield nominees. Choosing three players out of this impressive list might be your toughest decision yet. Please be sure to vote in the poll below for the three outfielders that you feel are most deserving of a spot. In addition, if you feel we left out someone who should be on the team, you can write in a candidate by selecting ‘Other.’ The 15th Anniversary Team is already loaded with infield talent; now it’s time for you, the fans, to add some talented outfielders to the squad. As for next week, we move on to the designated hitter.
As we end another week here at “Quack of the Bat,” we would like to point out a little bit of good news today for a member of the Ducks’ back-to-back championship teams. Outfielder Kraig Binick, who has spent three seasons in a Long Island Ducks uniform, has received a job as an Assistant Coach with the St. Joseph’s College baseball team in Patchogue. Binick will serve under head coach Rick Garrett, who will begin his first season leading the Golden Eagles. The Hicksville native most recently was playing winter baseball in Mexico with Mayos de Navojoa but elected to return to Long Island and retire from baseball after 14 games.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play as long as I have and accomplished more than I thought,” Binick told “Quack of the Bat” on Friday. “I fulfilled my expectations of winning a title on Long Island as well as developing into a Major League-caliber player. I’m at an age where I’d like to start a family with my fiancée and use the qualities I’ve developed to succeed in the real world.”
Binick joins a St. Joseph’s team looking to rebound after a tough 2013 season. The Golden Eagles posted a 16-22 record last year and lost to the Maritime Privateers in the first round of the Skyline Conference Baseball Tournament. Their season begins on Friday, February 28 at 2:00 p.m. when they host the Bombers of Ithaca College, who set a school record with 41 wins and finished third in NCAA Division III Baseball last year. St. Joseph’s regular season schedule runs through Saturday, April 26, so be sure to go check out a game and say hello to Kraig while there.
“I feel that coaching for an institution like St. Joseph’s that’s well balanced academically, athletically and spiritually really makes it a perfect fit for me,” he said. “It will allow me to maximize my coaching abilities and help these gentlemen succeed on the field and in the real world, and that’s what I look forward to.”
The speedy outfielder has been a part of several great moments as a Duck. He joined the team in 2011 for his fifth season of professional baseball after reaching the Double-A level with the Baltimore Orioles. Following that point, he helped lead the Ducks to three consecutive Liberty Division championships, two Atlantic League titles, and he made a pair of appearances in the Atlantic League All-Star Game. For this week’s edition of the Weekend Debate, let’s take a look back on some of Kraig’s greatest Ducks achievements and discuss which might be his greatest.
Atlantic League Batting Champion
When Binick came to the Ducks in 2011, the team’s starting outfield had already been set with Matt Esquivel, Lew Ford and Kennard Jones. Despite not having a starting job, he had no problem beginning spring training as a fourth outfielder. That quickly changed when Esquivel suffered a shoulder injury in an early game at Bridgeport. Suddenly, Binick was thrust into a featured role.
“I felt prepared that I could contribute at any time,” he said previously in an article for the Ducks yearbook. “I was hungry for whenever they gave me that opportunity. Esquivel was one of my best friends on the team, so it was sad to see him hurt. It was great though to play in front of my friends and family and everyone who supported me.”
The NYIT alum went on to hit .343 and claim the Atlantic League’s batting title, earning the first ever batting crown of his career. He also led the league that season in stolen bases with 42 and an on-base percentage of .429. He went 1-for-3 on Opening Night, and his average never dipped below that point for the entire 126-game season. That’s an impressive feat for any player, let alone one in his first season with a team and a league.
Postseason Beast with a Bat
Alex Rodriguez has been one of the greatest performers offensively during the regular season throughout his career. With the exception of the 2009 playoffs though, he has been vilified for his consistent struggles during the postseason. Players who perform well during the season are often loved, but legacies are made when they come through in the biggest of clutch situations. With the Ducks, Binick was about as good as you could ask for come playoff time.
In the 2011 playoffs, he made an immediate impact. Pop quiz: Among Ducks regulars during that postseason, who had the highest batting average? The answer, of course, would be Binick. He played all eight games during the playoffs and posted a whopping .360 average, going 9-for-25 at the plate. Not to mention, he scored four runs and drove in four more, including the lone run in Long Island’s Game One win in the Atlantic League Championship Series against York. He also showed his game-changing speed on the basepaths, swiping four bases in those eight games.
“As a kid, I always dreamed of playing in front of a big crowd with the lights on in front of my family delivering the game winning hit,” he said. “Whenever I stepped up to the plate wearing that Long Island Ducks jersey in the playoffs, with my friends and family right behind me, it gave me so much adrenaline that I couldn’t feel the bat in my hands. I think that’s what attributed to my playoff success. To win the championship twice was something I feel honored in saying I did for my home which made it a lot easier to hang my cleats up.”
The insane numbers continued in 2012 and 2013 in helping lead the Ducks to their back-to-back championships. While his regular season numbers fell slightly, his playoff success never wavered. The 2012 postseason saw Binick bat a whopping .405 (15-for-37) in 10 games, earning at least one hit in every Championship Series game and multiple hits in four of the five games. He had a double, a triple, four RBI, five runs and two stolen bases on top of that as well and likely would have won Championship Series MVP honors if not for Dan Lyons’ two game-winning hits. Last season, he hit .269 (7-for-26) in eight games, drawing four walks while adding one RBI and three runs scored. Combine all three playoffs together, and Binick was a .352 hitter in the postseason as a Duck. You can’t ask for more of a clutch performance.
Pair of All-Star Appearances
Every player dreams of being a champion no matter what league they are playing in. Binick was fortunate enough to be a part of two Ducks teams that won championship rings and came within two wins of earning three in his three seasons on Long Island. Despite the championship success, one of the 28-year-old’s biggest achievements was being selected to play in the Atlantic League All-Star Game not once, but twice. By doing so, he joins a list of just 11 other Ducks to have earned multiple All-Star selections while with Long Island. Here’s the list:
Francisco Morales (2000, 02)
Doug Jennings (2000, 04)
Kevin Baez (2002-04)
Patrick Lennon (2002, 04)
Justin Davies (2003, 2005)
Carlos Hernandez (2005-06)
Ray Navarrete (2007-10, 12)
Jamie Pogue (2003, 08)
Randy Leek (2008, 10)
Joe Valentine (2008-09)
John Rodriguez (2010-11)
Binick was selected to participate in the 2011 game at then-Sovereign Bank Stadium in York, Pennsylvania and then again in 2012 at Campbell’s Field in Camden, New Jersey. While he went 0-for-3 in his first midsummer classic, he did start and play the entire game in center field, joining seven other Ducks who were selected to play in the game. The following season, he went 1-for-2 at the plate during the All-Star Game. Serving as a reserve for former Duck Kennard Jones in center, Binick collected a RBI double in the bottom of the ninth inning off Barnstormers closer Tim Hamulack to highlight his appearance that season. While the Liberty Division lost both games in which he played, the memory of playing among the league’s best will always be a bright spot for him.
“It was an honor to be around that type of talent,” said Binick. “I know the hard work had paid off, and they set it up so nice that it was like a mini vacation for me and my fiancée.”
So, which of these three achievements do you feel is the most noteworthy of Binick’s career with the Ducks? Perhaps you think there might be another that we have left out. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and by voting in the Fowl Poll at the bottom of the blog. We would like to wish Kraig the best of luck with St. Joseph’s College and look forward to hearing all about his experience with the Golden Eagles. Many great players have been a part of Long Island’s back-to-back championships, and Binick will undoubtedly be remembered forever by Ducks fans for his achievements and passion for playing on his hometown team.
Every Wednesday here on “Quack of the Bat,” we will be providing an update on the former Ducks players that are currently spending their offseason playing winter league baseball. Most of the leagues are primarily focused in the Caribbean, with teams playing in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
Each year, members of the Ducks and the other seven teams of the Atlantic League join players from affiliated organizations and other professional baseball leagues to play winter ball for a variety of reasons. Primarily, they are looking to showcase their skills for an opportunity at receiving an invite to Major League spring training or a contract with a Major League organization. Others are focused on staying in baseball shape and working on the ‘tools of the trade’ year-round to prepare for the 2014 season in the United States.
Here’s a look at some of the former Ducks playing winter ball this year:
The Puerto Rican Winter League, known as The Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, features a plethora of former Ducks on the rosters of their five teams. Their season begins November 1. Here is a breakdown of the teams and players:
Criollos de Caguas
Ducks: John Brownell, Ramon Castro, Shaun Garceau, Eddy Ramos, Derek Blacksher, Nelson Figueroa
Also joining them are Atlantic Leaguers from this past season Aaron Bates (SugarLand), Andy Gonzalez (York) and Luis Montanez (Somerset)
Gigantes de Carolina
Ducks: Robinson Cancel
Cangrejeros de Santurce
Ducks: Eric Niesen, James Houser, Ivan Maldonado, Benny Cepeda
Other Atlantic Leaguers: David Harden (Somerset), Miguel Martinez (Bridgeport/Camden) and Jon Velasquez (Camden)
Leones del Ponce
Ducks: Ian Snell
Other Atlantic Leaguers: Jose Julio-Ruiz (Southern Maryland) and Logan Williamson (Southern Maryland)
Indios de Mayaguez
Ducks: Carlos Baerga (manager)
Other Atlantic Leaguers: Josh Walter (Camden) and Angel Sanchez (Somerset)
The Venezuelan Winter League got underway on October 10 and has already seen some former Ducks making an impact on the play and shooting their teams toward the top of the standings.
Lew Ford, a member of Navegantes de Magallanes, has picked up where he left off in the 2013 Atlantic League playoffs offensively. He’s batting .286 in 16 games so far this winter, compiling two doubles, two triples, two homers, nine RBI and 11 runs. He’s joined on the team by 2012 Ducks teammates Randy Keisler and Gustavo Chacin. Keisler, who pitched well in a pair of Game Ones during the 2012 championship run, has struggled so far, allowing four runs in one inning of work (two games, one start). Chacin, a former Major Leaguer, is 1-0 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts with Magallanes.
One of the 14 Ducks to have made it back to the Major Leagues after playing on Long Island, Justin Hampson, is currently pitching for Tigres de Aragua. The New York Mets farmhand has made six relief appearances so far, yielding just one run in four and one-third innings while striking out five. Hampson pitched for the Flock during the 2010 season, making four appearances.
A big reliever who went from being a favorite on Long Island to a foe with the Patriots this past year was closer Jon Hunton. While the Ducks had the last laugh in this year’s Championship Series, Hunton is currently playing for Caribes de Anzoategui. The righty is 1-0 with two saves in eight games but has given up six runs (five earned) in just five and one-third innings.
Aside from those four Ducks, there are several other former members of Atlantic League teams that are playing in Venezuela:
Aguilas de Zulia: Roy Merritt (Somerset), Dwayne Pollok (Lancaster), Cyle Hankerd (Southern Maryland), Virgil Vasquez (Southern Maryland)
Cardenales de Lara: Brodie Downs (Lancaster), Joe Thurston (York), Carlos Vasquez (Camden)
Caribes de Anzoategui: Jim Hoey (Somerset), Cory Aldridge (Somerset), Gustavo Molina (Lancaster)
Leones del Caracas: Aharon Eggleston (Somerset), Raul Padron (Camden), Daniel Mayora (Bridgeport), Wladimir Sutil (Southern Maryland)
Navegantes del Magallanes: Juan Rincon (York/Bridgeport), Jesus Merchan (Lancaster)
Tiburones de La Guaira: Renny Osuna (Southern Maryland)
Tigres de Aragua: Erik Arnesen (Somerset), Ramon Castro (York), Jonel Pacheco (Road Warriors)
The Mexican Winter League is underway as well, but surprisingly, it features just one former Duck. Hicksville native and two-time Atlantic League champion Kraig Binick is once again playing for Mayos de Navojoa, the same team he played for last offseason. The outfielder, who joined the Ducks midseason in 2013 and once again had key at-bats during the playoff run, has gotten off to a slow start in Mexico. Through 14 games, Binick is batting .172 with one double, six runs and two stolen bases. The speedster hit .259 in 64 games at the beginning of the Mexican League season last spring before returning to the Ducks in July.
Aside from Binick, there are several other former members of Atlantic League teams that are playing in Mexico:
Aguilas de Mexicali: Jason Lowey (Somerset)
Algodoneros de Guasave: Yoslan Herrera (Lancaster)
Caneros de los Mochis: Jake Fox (Somerset), Brian Burgamy (York/Camden), Ben Kozlowski (Sugar Land/Somerset)
Mayos de Navajoa: Wes Bankston (Bridgeport)
Naranjeros de Hermosillo: Yunesky Sanchez (Somerset), Jason Urquidez (Lancaster), Jerry Owens (Lancaster)
Venados de Mazatlan: Michael Wuertz (York), Ryan Mulhern (Southern Maryland/Lancaster)
Yaquis de Obregon: Cesar Carrillo (Sugar Land/Lancaster)
Finally, we head to the Dominican Republic where four former Ducks are currently playing winter ball. The most recent of which is a member of Toros del Este where Willis Otanez is currently on the roster. Otanez is a prominent figure in the Mexican League during the spring but has decided to spend the winter in the Dominican. The slugger struggled after coming to Long Island this past season and has played just four games so far with Toros, going 2-for-9 with a run batted in.
Next up is a member of the 2012 Ducks championship team and that is former Major Leaguer Timo Perez. He is playing with Tigres del Licey and is 1-for-1 thus far with a run batted in. As the season continues, he will likely continue to get more opportunities.
Finally, two former Ducks are playing with Aguilas Cibaenas. Ricardo Gomez, who pitched for the Flock in 2010 and has appeared with York and Lancaster as well, is continuing to throw the ball well. He is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in four games of relief. He has given up seven runs total, but just one of those has been earned. Erick Almonte, another one of the 14 Ducks to have made it back to the big leagues after playing on Long Island, is also with Aguilas Cibaenas. He has only appeared in two games though so far and is 0-for-2 at the plate.
Aside from those four, there are several other former members of Atlantic League teams that are playing in the Dominican Republic:
Aguilas Cibaenas: Chris Cody (York), Andy Marte (York), Alexis Gomez (Bridgeport), Gary Majewski (Sugar Land), Edward Paredes (York), Kelvin Villa (Bridgeport/Sugar Land/Road Warriors/Newark), Lorenzo Barcelo (York)
Estrellas de Oriente: Bobby Kielty (York), Felix Pie (Camden)
Tigres del Licey: Greg Aquino (SugarLand), Francisco Hernandez (Lancaster), Salvador Paniagua (York), D’Angelo Jimenez (Camden), Wilson Valdez (Camden)
Toros del Este: Winston Abreu (Bridgeport), Ruddy Yan (Camden/York)
Keep it here all offseason for our weekly Wednesday Winter Hot Stove to get you updated on all of the former Ducks/Atlantic Leaguers playing in Winter Leagues this offseason. You can also follow news and stats from the Caribbean Winter Leagues by CLICKING HERE. If you happen to know other former Ducks or Atlantic Leaguers that are playing winter ball but have been left off this list, please leave us a comment or send us a contact form and let us know who. Before you know it, we may see many of these names back at Atlantic League ballparks for the 2014 regular season.