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