May 18th, 2016
The Long Island Ducks have always been the other team. And while nothing is going to happen to change that, the other team is certainly not chop liver. The Ducks, for those who haven’t heard of them, play in the Atlantic League, which is an Independent league with no affiliation with the Major Leagues.
The team is owned by Mets World Series champion and Mets Hall of Fame member Bud Harrelson, who is also the Ducks first base coach on select home games, and are managed by Kevin Baez.
Strangely enough, there were a few weird similarities between the Ducks and the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets Single-A affiliate, and only other professional baseball club on Long Island other than the Mets. One of the first things I noticed from the moment I walked in were the high quality promotions, and family friendly fun on display at Bethpage Ballpark (the home of the Ducks).
During Sunday’s ballgame, the Ducks were giving away a Bud Harrelson Face Fan, and throughout the season there have been really fun promotions like the Grucci Fireworks Extravaganza and the Bud Harrelson Garden Gnomes. Additionally, when fans entered the ballpark, the were a line of fans getting ready to get autographs from their favorite Ducks, and fans ran the bases postgame as part of “Sunday Family Funday”
As you may have noticed, I have been talking about a lot of family friendly activities, and that’s because the fans (at least on Sunday) were mostly families with kids. While the Ducks aren’t technically MLB affiliated, I’m sure any baseball team is happy to see kids excited to go out to a game, even if they don’t pay laser sharp attention to the game, which is what the MLB Play Ball initiative is all about.
Anyway, back the Ducks, I was surprised to see how much MLB talent is present on Atlantic League rosters. Todd Coffey, Sean Burroughs and Eury De La Rosa among others were all Major league talent that has made it’s way to Islip. And like a lot of minor league teams, their players are never set in stone. A lot of contracts allow a player to leave if a major league team wants to pick a player up. Thus, a lot of scouts come out to Atlantic League games to see the teams’ top talent. For the Ducks, everyone is talking about Jack Snodgrass, a pitcher from Austin Peay State University who has spent time in the San Francisco Giants organization. When polling ten Ducks long-time fans pre-game, seven mentioned Snodgrass, and his name was buzzing around the press box.
Overall, I thought my Ducks experience was very pleasant, and I think fans enjoy going to Ducks game to have a good time. While there are fans that concentrate on the game and keep score, Ducks fans enjoy flexibility, having fun and wanting to go back, and the Ducks front office does everything in their power to make sure that Ducks fans have an enjoyable experience.
The Ducks are an important attribute to the Tri-State baseball community, and if you’ve never been to a Ducks game before, I definitely recommend heading to a game.