(Long Island, N.Y.) Big things were expected at Citibank Park this summer. All season long, promotions were geared towards the franchise celebrating its 10th anniversary and fans young and old of the Long Island Ducks came out in droves as usual.
Hoping to add to their lone Atlantic League championship five years ago, the team hired former Met and Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter as their manager. A veteran-laden roster played inconsistently in the first half and finished at 37-33, five games behind the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
After the All-Star break, the team has played under .500 baseball and is currently in third place in the Liberty Division. Because of the wild card playoff potential the Atlantic League has in place, the Ducks have an outside chance to make the postseason.
Because Southern Maryland leads the division again (as well as the Somerset Patriots in the Freedom Division, which they won in the first half), the team (or teams) with the best-combined record(s) in both halves will qualify.
With 17 games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Ducks actually control their own destiny. Currently, they are one half game at the top of the wild card standings. Not resting on their laurels, the front office went out and acquired some extra talent for the stretch run.
This past week, the Ducks have brought in three new players hoping that their experience will put them over the top. First, general manager Mike Pfaff welcomed infielder Freddie Thon from the Joliet Jack Hammers of the Northern League in exchange for future considerations.
Originally an 18th round pick in the 2004 draft by the Texas Rangers, the 25-year-old was hitting .302 with 11 home runs, 23 doubles and 63 RBI with Joliet. He is also the nephew of former big league infielder Dickie Thon, who spent the majority of his career with the Houston Astros.
Carter definitely approved of the deal. “Freddie adds a solid bat to our team,” he said. “He put up some impressive numbers in (the) Northern League and I look forward to him helping our club down the stretch.”
Pitcher Drew Shetrone, 24, was also brought in from Joliet for future considerations and the former Staten Island Yankee had a record of 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA. “You can’t have too many quality pitchers,” Carter added, “especially in a heated wild card race. Drew has been a consistent pitcher wherever he has been and we’re glad to have him join our club.”
Adding another arm came in the form of Jim Brower, whose last major league stint came in 2007 with the Yankees. The 36-year-old had three saves and a 3.77 ERA with the St. Paul Saints, also of the Northern League. “Jim’s got a strong arm and will help boost our bullpen,” Carter said of his new reliever acquired for future considerations. “Suring up our bullpen will make us that much more dangerous.”
In anticipation of things going their way, the Ducks began selling playoff tickets. They hope to keep their streak of five consecutive postseason berths alive and once that is taken care of, break the winless slump since hoisting the 2004 title.