Central Islip, NY-The Long Island Ducks kicked off their seventh season in style on Thursday afternoon at Citibank Park with Media Day. Addressing the media were Owner Frank Boulton, Manager Don McCormack, First Base Coach/Part Owner Bud Harrelson, Pitching Coach Dick Such, First basemen Bucky Jacobsen, and Pitcher Pat Mahomes.
The gentlemen were their usual charming selves and answered every question proposed to them. The wit of Harrelson is second to none, and the baseball knowledge that this man brings to the table is beyond compare. Boulton brought up the fact that the Ducks will surpass the 3,000,000 mark in attendance at approximately the 60th home game this season, and that they are the fastest team to reach that milestone with a ballpark of their size (6,000 seats).
New Pitching Coach Dick Such is taking the place of the departed Dave LaPoint, who is now the manager of the Ducks' chief rivals, the Bridgeport Bluefish. All are wishing LaPoint well and had great things to say about him. Such is the former pitching coach of the Minnesota Twins from 1985-2001, which includes two World Series champions (1987 and 1991). Such stated about the team's pitching staff, "Our arms are at a Triple-A or beyond, level-wise. We set a goal and will see how many guys we can promote (to the major leagues)."
Manager Don McCormack stated that the bullpen will be strong once again with three arms returning from last season's playoff team. Todd Erdos, Mike Crudale, and Tony Runion are going to be expected to take over for the starters and nail the game down. Going by their success in 2005, the odds are in their favor.
Pat Mahomes was named the opening day starter for the team's first game on Friday April 28th at Camden versus the River Sharks. The right-hander has former major league experience, including an 8-0 season in 1999 with the New York Mets.
Bucky Jacobsen will be starting at firstbase and is a former Seattle Mariner. In 2004, he hit .275 with nine home runs in the second half after being recalled from Tacoma (AAA). Injuries have hampered Jacobsen since then. "I was told to get knee surgery in 2004 and went through rehab", stated Jacobsen. "An MRI showed damage and I had a second surgery, which caused me to miss the 2005 season." A big season on Long Island can be his path back to 'the show.'
One player that will be universally missed is Justin Davies. The West Babylon native was with the Ducks from day one in 2000, and was an integral part of their 2004 Atlantic League championship. Boulton, Harrelson, and McCormack all gave Davies accolades for his on and off the field accomplishments and commitments, and wished him well in his decision to retire and move with his family out of state.
Replacing Davies in centerfield will be Mel Stocker, who Boulton stated, "reminds us of Justin in a lot of ways." Stocker previously played in the Kansas City Royals organization.
A lot of excitement, a lot of reasons to be excited. There's nothing like a day at the ballpark to catch a 'Nine Inning Vacation" with your home town team, the Long Island Ducks. We wouldn't have it any other way.