(Long Island, N.Y.) Bringing a minor league team to a baseball-starved area is an ingenious idea. Especially in New York, where both major league teams charge top dollar for seats, food and souvenirs. That was certainly the case in the mid-to-late 1990s, when Bud Harrelson and Frank Boulton made the dream a reality with the Long Island Ducks.
Since 2000, taking a game in at the quant ballpark in Central Islip has been a highlight for men and women, adults and children alike, all across the Island. The Ducks have become the epitome of how to run a family-friendly product and also be successful on the field.
They are a model franchise in not just the Atlantic League, but throughout the entire minor leagues, affiliated or independent. The Ducks can do no wrong, and have kept the turnstiles moving in an economic period where many have been forced to close up shop.
But they may be biting off more than they can chew.
The group led by Boulton has been awarded the operating rights to an Atlantic League expansion team that will play in a proposed stadium that is part of the new Nassau Coliseum plan.
“We are pleased to have been awarded this opportunity,” said Boulton. “We look forward to helping County Executive Ed Mangano bring affordable family entertainment to the taxpayers of Nassau County in the same fashion the taxpayers of Suffolk have enjoyed for 12 years with the Ducks.”
The Wilpon family, who endeavored adding a Mets minor league affiliate to the area, ran the other group in contention. They would have needed the permission of the Yankees to do so and have had a difficult time; anyway, from their financial troubles since the Bernie Madoff scandal broke.
So the only viable choice was Boulton and – being the smart businessman he is – he needs to consider some points for this second team to be a success, pending the outcome of the entire development plan.
SPLITTING THE FAN BASE
Baseball fans from both Nassau and Suffolk counties have been staunch supporters of the Ducks, so bringing a team to the backyard of one of them will have some effect on ticket sales on the other. Fans that had a longer drive out east will switch allegiances to the closer team.
The Ducks have not had this concern, especially since Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium have opened. Fans still love going out to Bethpage Park and the low prices in comparison to a night out in either Queens or the Bronx. But that is because there was no other option out here. The new ballpark in Nassau will change that and then that stadium will go through its own “the novelty has worn off” effect a few years later.
THE NATIONAL PASTIME?
Baseball’s popularity has waned over the years and there are a plethora of local teams to follow in our area. The Yankees, Mets and Ducks aside, there is also the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees. When there were zero minor league teams here, it made the wait seem worth it all. But now we may have too many options and the support for them may be difficult to keep up.