Long Island Ducks surpass an attendance milestone
Back in the year 2000 when the Long Island Ducks franchise first started, expectations were unknown. Would the people come out to see a minor league team playing in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, an independent outfit fielding what some people called 'has-beens and never-wills?' Especially considering that the local major league clubs were both very successful. The Yankees were in the midst of their dynasty and the Mets were growing into a contender, as well. That same summer, both teams faced off in the first 'Subway Series' since 1956. Would there be enough fans to go around?
That question was obviously answered shortly after the Ducks' inaugural season started. Their brand new stadium, EAB Park (since renamed Citibank Park), was filled with fans young and old. The product was a hit on and off the field. The team's mascot, Quackerjack, was everywhere you looked. The gift shop at the ballpark, The Waddle In Shop, was selling team memorabilia and souvenirs like hotcakes. One of the biggest sellers to this day are Quackers, which can be seen and heard all throughout the stands.
The team itself was very successful and many of the players have gone on to play in the major leagues. They came oh-so-close to a playoff berth so many times with heartache to be left out at the end. It all came together in 2004, when the Ducks captured the Atlantic League championship. They have already clinched their third consecutive post-season appearance in 2006 by winning the First Half North Division flag.
Attendance in the just-over 6,000 seat stadium averages over capacity. An incredible milestone was reached on Sunday September 3rd when the 3-millionth fan walked through the turnstiles. Christine Seeley of Wantagh entered through the West Gate side prior to a contest versus the reigning champion Somerset Patriots and help set a record. The Ducks became the fastest team with a stadium of this size to reach the 3-million mark. They are in their seventh season of operation and do not appear to be slowing down.
In addition to the attendance celebration, there was a scheduled post-game Grucci Fireworks Extravaganza. The crowd, which was over 6,500, were wowed by the show that took place over the batter's eye in centerfield.
Oh yea, there was also a game played that day. An entertaining one that ended up one-run win for the guests. Former Met pitcher Bill Pulsipher (3-4) started the game for the Ducks and was not as sharp as he has been. Former two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez went 3-4 on the day with an RBI and a run scored. Another ex-big leaguer, Henry Rodriguez, also had an RBI.
The Ducks were poised to either tie the game or take the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Elvis Pena bounced into a 4-4-3 double play (the old rally killer) with the bases loaded to end the threat. The final score read 5-4 in favor of Somerset.
Any of the questions back in year one are no longer a concern. The bigger issues are if the Ducks can add to the championship banners flying over rightfield and when the 4-millionth fan will be named.