(Long Island, NY) When a baseball player is looking for a second – or even last – chance, a place that has been a good springboard back to a major league organization has been Long Island. What may seem like a last resort to some people is a world of opportunity to others, and Jay Gibbons is merely the latest player to hope to get noticed while playing in the independent baseball circuit.
A lifetime .260 hitter over seven seasons in Baltimore, Gibbons was one of the many players named in the Mitchell Report, which could not have helped his chances of catching on with another team following his release by the Orioles in March. The investigation into performance-enhancing drugs in baseball stated that Gibbons received six shipments of human growth hormone and two shipments of testosterone, and received a 15-day suspension from the Commissioner’s Office. He made a public apology and hoped to move on.
The 31 year-old outfielder had an extremely slow start in spring training, hitting .189 with no home runs and only four RBI. The Birds said goodbye to one of their regulars and Gibbons began looking for a job.
After receiving no offers, finding a spot with Long Island is not a bad consolation. Ducks Principal Owner and Atlantic League Founder/CEO Frank Boulton welcomed Gibbons to the fold. “Through our first 11 seasons, the Atlantic League has returned over 350 players back to affiliated organizations and 45 players to the major leagues,” he said. “We’re hopeful Jay can help us win while proving that he’s healthy and ready to contribute at the major league level.”
In his first game with the Ducks on Tuesday night, Gibbons started in left field and went 2 for 4, driving in and scoring one run in a 9-6 victory over Lancaster.
Gibbons’ best season as an Oriole came in 2003, when he hit .277 and hit 23 long balls while driving in 100 runs. This also happened to be the same year that he began using the illegal substances.
Whatever the connection is, Gibbons was a good player and is still young enough to bounce back. He has to prove that he is clean and able to play at a high enough level to get back to the big leagues. A good showing here and he will find himself back in Double or Triple-A before his Ducks uniform gets washed too many times.
It is a low-risk, high-reward move for a team looking for a bench player. Signing a Gibbons-type, putting him in the system for a month, and bring him up to take the place of an injured or departed player. A second-division club is the most likely landing spot, due to the economical contract that these players sign just to be back to where they once were.
In the meantime, the Ducks have picked up a talented player that could be a special one. Before his time on Long Island is done, he should be able to give them a much-needed boost, offensively and in the clubhouse.
Going from a $5 million salary and a starting job in the majors, Gibbons has a lot of incentive to play well and return. The better he performs on Long Island, the benefit is two-fold. For Gibbons and the Ducks.