In retrospect, it is almost laughable that some people thought minor league baseball would not work on Long Island. The vision that Frank Boulton and Bud Harrelson had in the late 1990s was in all likelihood an understatement compared to what has actually taken place the past 10 years in Central Islip.
Back in 2000 when EAB (now Citibank) Park first opened, it was apparent that these two men were onto something big. Averaging over capacity nearly every game, the Long Island Ducks have become the model organization for the entire Atlantic League. In fact, they are as good a franchise as there is in all the independent leagues and even some of the affiliated ones.
Success on the field and at the box office has been the two main reasons why the Ducks have been able to bring in big and popular names. The latest is Gary Carter, the former Met catcher who hopes to bridge the gap back to the major leagues by managing another team to their league championship.
“I’m very excited to be back in New York and to have the opportunity to manage a first class organization like this one,” said Carter, who led the Orange County Flyers to the 2008 Golden Baseball League title.
The team owner recognized the importance of bringing in someone as popular as Carter, who was known during his playing days as “The Kid”
for his youthful exuberance. “He has had great success in baseball both as a player and a manager and we are confident he will help bring an Atlantic League championship back to Long Island,” said Boulton.
The last time that occurred was in 2004, when the Ducks captivated the entire population of both Nassau and Suffolk Counties with new heroes such as Bill Pulsipher, Justin Davies and Bill Simas, the closer who has returned this season.
After coming close many times to earn a postseason berth, the Ducks won the North Division First Half crown that summer and made it count. Since then, they have made the playoffs often but have gone through a drought and have failed to win a postseason game since winning it all.
They hope to change that this year and sometime in May will reach another milestone when fan number four million comes through the gate. That is a plateau the vast majority of minor league teams could only dream of, especially with a ballpark that seats just over 6,000.
They reached the three million mark in September of 2006 and also hold the independent single-season attendance mark of 443,142 that was set in 2001.
With former big leaguers like Brad Halsey, Dan Miceli, Lew Ford and Preston Wilson, the Ducks have enough experience on the field to compliment their Hall of Fame manager. They will not have to be concerned about their attendance, which will probably grow this year with the outrageous prices of the tickets in the area’s two new ballparks.
The same fans that were there in Year One will be there in Year Ten along with millions that they have picked up along the way.