Lets face it, baseball is the only sport that can put on an All Star game at any level. It is the perfect break in league play during a long season from spring to fall. No other sport can pull that off year after year. As a matter of fact, from 1959 to 1962, major league baseball thought it was a good idea to have two games each year. Tonight, exactly one week after our nation’s Fourth of July celebration, the Long Island Ducks hosted the Atlantic League’s 21st Annual All-Star Game that took place before a crowd of 6,414 at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip Long Island. It was a record 678th consecutive sellout. Since 1998 over 38 million fans have attended Atlantic League games in eight cities and that is with an average capacity of around 6300 per stadium.
Atlantic League President Rick White said, “We would like to thank the thousands of fans who voted online throughout the month of June.” Thanks indeed as players were selected by nearly 35,000 fan ballots, to combine with the voting of league officials, team executives, club managers and media representatives. Looks like the only ones missing from the voting were the ground crews and concession workers. Talk about celebrating democracy.
The Freedom division was managed by Revolution manager Mark Mason, who managed the All-Star Game for the first time after leading the Revolution to the Atlantic League Championship in 2017. His counterpart was Long Island Ducks’ skipper Kevin Baez, who managed the Liberty Division for the third time.
The spectacle was kicked off by the Digmi Home Run Derby, showcasing six of the league’s top power hitters. Included were local Duck fan favorites David Washington and former major leaguer and long time Duck Lew Ford. Lew is the flock’s leader in just about every stat over a nine year career as both player and coach and he is truly loved by fans throughout the league. The derby was won by the New Britain Bees slugger Diebinson Romero.
The crowd was treated to in-game entertainment from the highly-acclaimed Bucket Ruckus and Tyler’s Amazing Balancing Act. I always look forward to the blow-up sumo wrestlers but I have to admit, Tyler the balancing guy was off the charts fun. I think if they had picked up a Volkswagen he would have balanced it on his chin.
There were a number of Major League scouts at the game. Possibly looking for players who could either be used in the back end of a trade or to fill a roster spot if they make a three for one swap in the next two weeks. In the league’s promotional package they state that: “The Atlantic League has been a gateway to Major League Baseball since 1998 and have had more than 900 players and 50 managers and coaches join MLB organizations directly from the ALPB.”
Oh yea, the game. Lets face it, anytime you bring the best players together for a game in any sport, the level of competition on the field and the excitement in the crowd is amazing. Tonight was no exception as the fans witnessed a close game that had hits, runs, strikeouts, great defensive plays, a tie game into the ninth and a walk-off win for the host squad. That came in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs by MVP Alfredo Rodriguez of the Somerset Patriots. He was 3 for 3 with 2 RBI’s including the walk-off winning hit. The only one close to him in the voting was Tyler the balancer. What else could you ask for? Oh, maybe the biggest fireworks show of the year? Yea, they also had that after the game ended.
Tonight the Independent Atlantic League more than showed all of us how to put on a great show. There was even a flock of geese that did a fly-over in the third inning as if to honor their brethren Ducks. I will never figure out how, director of all things Ducks and point man for publicity and communications, Michael Polak made that happen.
The Liberty division beat the Freedom division but the night belonged to the fans. They were the real winners of this game tonight.
Congratulations to both the League and the host Long Island Ducks organization for a job well done.