(Long Island, N.Y.) Since their inaugural season in 2000, the Long Island Ducks have been one of the Atlantic League teams who attracted the big names. Even with the constant turnover, fans of the Flock knew that they would see more than a few familiar monikers on their scorecard.
Former popular major league players have passed through Central Islip at one time or another, such as Edgardo Alfonzo, Carl Everett, Juan Gonzalez, Jose Offerman, Bill Pulsipher, Carlos Baerga and even John Rocker to name a few.
This year, the biggest name on the roster is Sidney Ponson, the former Yankee right-handed starter. There’s a few others who have had a cup of coffee in the bigs, such as pitcher Kane Davis, outfielder Dustan Mohr and catcher Robinson Cancel, but Dave LaPoint’s crew is a lot younger this time around than in the past.
After the season opening 8-5 win over Lancaster, the manager reflected on the importance of starting off on the right foot. “The first game of the season is always so important,” he said. “Even when we have a big lead, Joe (Valentine) and Kane (Davis) are going to come in no matter if it’s a save situation.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that if you lose the first game, you do start pressing,” continued LaPoint. “We battled and didn’t press and they were loose all night, so that’s a good sign.”
Ponson took the hill and surrendered a three-run home run to the Barstormers’ Joe Gaetti in the second inning, but persevered. The native of Aruba earned the victory by pitching six innings and allowed just four hits. He also had four strikeouts and only a single walk. Davis, who has pitched for six different major league teams, tossed a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.
The Ducks find themselves in first place in the Liberty Division with a 4-2 mark and they are hitting .332 as a team through the first week of the season. Cancel is at the top of the entire league with five hits in six at-bats (.833). On the pitching side, the team ERA is 4.75 with Ponson leading the way with wins in each of his first two starts and a very respectable 2.84 ERA.
The guys who have made ‘The Show’ may be getting a lot of the accolades, but the lunch pail youngsters have made an impact, as well. Players such as Bay Shore’s Matt Cavagnaro, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 21st round only three years ago, have been huge. The 24-year-old shortstop is batting over .400 and has driven in six runs in five games. In the opener, he went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run in the sixth inning to put the Ducks ahead to stay.
There is such a long way to go, even in the first half, but it is encouraging that the team is getting contributions from both the older and younger players they have put together. If this continues, the Ducks may change their persona as a team of up and comers looking to make the majors rather than veterans trying to get back.