This Saturday the Long Island Ducks of the Independent Atlantic League held their annual “Fan Fest” and media day at Bethpage Park in Central Islip. Followed by their second spring training game of the season vs the New Britain Bees. The Bees are managed by former Mets second baseman and 86 World Series champ Wally Backman. It was suggested that Wally should wear a bee keepers outfit as the Manager and “keeper of the Bees.” Would love to see Wally’s reaction to that suggestion.
Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center will sponsor the 2018 season and with 670 sellouts in their 19 year history and 5 trips to the championship series in the last 7 years (with championships in 2012 and 2013), the popular Long Island franchise is looking forward to another successful season. They will host the Atlantic League All-Star game on July 11th this year as well as a night of home run derby sponsored by lifestyle clothing brand Digmi the exclusive sponsor of the 2018 Atlantic League All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby.
When asked about the make-up of his team that has 13 new players, manager Kevin Baez said after one week the players are getting along like they have been together for years. They have a total of 11 players who have played in the major leagues, 9 of the new additions are part of the 11 and he feels this is a club that will be a powerhouse in the league this season.
When Baez was asked what the role of new former big league set-up guy Vinnie Pestano would be, he responded by saying he would be used as a set up guy but will be stretched to close as needed. This touched off a response by Ducks owner and founder of the Ducks Frank Boulton, who mentioned that because the league will traditionally loose players to Major league Baseball, who have a working agreement with this independent league where players contracts can be purchased from any of the teams, players have to be flexible and able to play multiple positions as well as being a starter and reliever. Boulton also talked about the addition of a new team in High Point, North Carolina, who will open in 2019.
John Brownell the all time leader in wins (56), strikeouts (667), innings pitched (875.2) and games started (133) in six seasons with Long Island will both pitch and assume the duties as pitching coach this year. He said he will be a hands off coach and not mess with his staff that much. He said: “These guys know what they are doing and I will let them come to me.” We were told that “Quaker Jack” will go out to talk to Brownell when he is in trouble.
This season the league will wear a JK patch on their sleeve in memory of Joe Kline the former executive director of the league, who was also instrumental in the league getting off the ground. Bolton talked about how he learned so much from this true baseball man on how to run a ball club.
The day ended with a 6-2 win over the Bees. Highlighted by Ducks centerfielder Tyler Holt who singled and tripled and showed off his exceptional speed around the bases. The former Cincinnati Reds speedster looks to be a guy who could spark some rallies this summer.
Look for another fun time and watch the feathers fly this summer on Long Island at this safe, affordable and entertaining ballpark.