All-Star Summer closes with a collection of incredible moments and accomplishments
The Long Island Ducks ended their 2018 season on Sunday, September 30, in a winner-take-all Game Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series. Exciting to the very end, the Ducks “All-Star Summer” delivered all that was promised and more, and as the team begins planning and sets its sights on 2019’s 20th Anniversary Season, 2018 will surely be a tough act to follow.
The Ducks played host to 71 regular season openings as well as five postseason games at Bethpage Ballpark. Over 370,000 fans attended games in Central Islip this season, and over 340,000 fans have enjoyed Ducks baseball in each of the franchise’s 19 seasons on Long Island. The team’s all-time Atlantic League record attendance total now stands at 7,735,814, while the club has now hosted a record 683 past-capacity crowds as well. The Ducks have welcomed an all-time average of 5,688 fans per game at Bethpage Ballpark, a total of 94.8% of the ballpark’s 6,002-seat capacity.
Bethpage Ballpark played host to the Atlantic League All-Star Game for the third time in franchise history (2002, 2010). The annual event was held on Wednesday, July 11th, and saw a sold-out crowd of 6,414 enjoy a memorable evening. In one of the most entertaining All-Star Games in league history, the Liberty Division earned its first victory since 2010, the last time the All-Star game was held on Long Island, as Somerset’s Alfredo Rodriguez delivered a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Freedom Division, 4-3. Seven members of the Ducks were chosen to play in the game: pitchers Jake Fisher, Bennett Parry and Wander Perez; catcher Ramon Cabrera, infielders Jordany Valdespin and David Washington, and outfielder Lew Ford. Ducks manager Kevin Baez managed the Liberty Division squad.
On August 3rd, the Ducks retired the third jersey number in franchise history. Fittingly, it was the #3 of baseball legend and Ducks coach Bud Harrelson, which was affixed permanently to the scoreboard in left-center field. Harrelson, who was instrumental in helping bring professional baseball to Long Island and has served on the team’s coaching staff since inception, was honored with a special pre-game ceremony prior to the Ducks 9-3 win over the Road Warriors. The festivities included remarks from his daughter Kassie, Ducks field manager Kevin Baez and Ducks founder/CEO Frank Boulton. Thank you messages from several others close to Harrelson were also played on the video board. Ducks players and coaches also paid tribute while helping raise awareness for Alzheimer’s, which Harrelson was recently diagnosed with, by donning special purple jerseys during the game. Each player wore Harrelson’s #3 on the back of their uniform, and the jerseys were auctioned off from the time the gates opened through the top of the seventh inning, with net proceeds from the auction benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association.
WINNERS ON THE FIELD
On the field, the Ducks earned their fifth consecutive winning season and 15th in 19 seasons of play with a 69-57 regular season record. Long Island capped off their regular season by clinching the Second Half Liberty Division title on the season’s penultimate day, finishing the half with a 39-24 record. It marked the team’s eighth Second Half title and 13th postseason appearance in franchise history, all coming in the past 15 seasons.
For the third consecutive season, the Ducks dispatched the Somerset Patriots in the first round of the postseason to claim the Liberty Division Championship. Long Island took a commanding 2-0 lead in the Liberty Division Championship Series, outscoring Somerset 20-3 at Bethpage Ballpark. Then, after the Patriots evened the series with back-to-back wins, the Ducks earned a 10-inning 3-2 victory in Game Five at TD Bank Ballpark to take the best-of-five series. It marked the franchise’s seventh Division Championship all-time and sixth Liberty Division title in the past eight seasons. Long Island then fought back from an 0-2 deficit in the Atlantic League Championship Series against the Sugar Land Skeeters to force a decisive Game Five. The Ducks rallied for a dramatic 3-2 win in Game Three and picked up a 6-3 victory in Game Four of the series to force a winner-take-all game on September 30.
MOVING ON UP
Four Ducks players had their contracts purchased by Major League or foreign professional organizations. They included catcher Wilkin Castillo (Yankees, AAA), pitcher Daniel Schlereth (Mariners, AA), pitcher Bennett Parry (Chinatrust Brothers, Taiwan) and Emilio Bonifacio (Brewers, AAA). Three other Ducks alumni joined MLB organizations in 2018 as well, including infielder Giovanny Alfonzo (Mets, A), catcher Alex Burg (Dodgers, AAA) and catcher Jordan Pacheco (Twins, AAA).
Jordany Valdespin was voted by fans as the Delmonte-Smelson Ducks Most Valuable Player. In his first season with the Flock, the four-year MLB veteran had an impressive year offensively. He led the Atlantic League in hits (154), runs (94) and triples (7) while finishing just .0007 points behind Somerset’s Craig Massey for the Atlantic League batting title at .3377. Valdespin ranked second in the league in total bases (222) and on-base percentage (.399), third in stolen base percentage (.857) and fifth in slugging percentage (.487). In 113 games with the Ducks, he totaled 12 home runs, 55 RBIs, 18 doubles and 46 walks.
The Ducks totaled 120 home runs as team during the 2018 regular season, which led the Atlantic League by seven over the Skeeters, and was the team’s highest total since hitting 150 in 2011. By launching at least 100 homers, they met the Chapey’s Home Run Challenge for a second consecutive season. Dioner Navarro’s two-run home run in Game Two of a doubleheader at Southern Maryland on August 23rd allowed the Ducks to reach the century mark. By meeting the Home Run Challenge, Chapey’s Funeral Homes will donate $5,000 to the QuackerJack Foundation, the charitable arm of the Long Island Ducks.
With the 2018 season coming to a close, Long Island Ducks players, coaches and front office staff would all like to thank everyone who came to the ballpark and supported the team this year. From Opening Night of Ticket Sales to the final out of the Championship Series, the team’s success, both on and off the field, would not be possible without the passion and dedication of the fans. While the All-Star Summer officially ends, the team is already looking forward to celebrating the 20th Anniversary Season of Ducks baseball in 2019!
The Long Island Ducks are members of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball and play their home games at Bethpage Ballpark. For further information, call (631) 940-DUCK or visit www.liducks.com.
About the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB)
The Atlantic League has been a leader in professional baseball and a gateway to Major League Baseball since 1998. Over 40 million fans have attended Atlantic League games and more than 900 players and 70 managers and coaches have joined MLB organizations directly from the ALPB. The Atlantic League emphasizes winning baseball games, showcasing the talent of top-caliber players and offering affordable family entertainment.
For more information, please visit www.AtlanticLeague.com.