While growing up in Rochester, Minn., Dan Lyons likely envisioned the championship-clinching walk-off hit he one day would deliver as a professional baseball player. But he probably never dreamed up the way he and the Ducks walked off with an Atlantic League title last season.
The Ducks shortstop had the game-winning bunt single in the final inning of the deciding fifth game of the Atlantic League championship series that won the Ducks their first league title since 2004. That and a clutch three-run double in Game 3 earned him the series MVP award.
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We asked him about the most famous bunt on Long Island and the feeling of being crowned a champion.
How has life changed for you since you were the hero of last year's championship series?
"A lot of people know me as 'the bunt guy,' ha-ha, but I see myself as the same person. I think as the years go on -- you know, this is my third year with the team, so people start seeing me as more of a veteran guy, and I like that. I'm still relatively young [29 years old] but I like being known as one of the leaders of the team, but it does come up a lot where I'm 'the bunt guy,' and I guess that's going to be how I'm known and I'm fine with that, that's OK with me."
Describe the walk-off bunt single.
"It was a lot of fun. Everything just came together in that moment where I was in a situation to win the game for the team, and fortunately I got a pitch I could bunt on and the infield was back and I knew all I had to do was keep it fair and it'd be good."
Was there a bunt sign on?
"No, I just did that on my own. I actually thought about doing it earlier in the series but thought against it because I felt like we needed more than one run at that time in Game 2. Fortunately, I held off and still had that element of surprise in Game 5.''
What did you imagine getting a game-winning hit in a championship game would be like while growing up, and how did this compare?
"Obviously when you're a kid, you think about getting the game-winning hit in the championship, but at the time I wasn't making it out to be too much. I was just doing what I could to help the team, and at that point it all came down to me and I was able to do it."
What about your game do you take the most pride in?
"My defense. I've always taken a lot of pride in my defense. My dad taught me at an early age that you could always have an off day at the plate but you could never have an off day on defense. And I've taken that to heart. If I make an error, you can tell it really bothers me, but if I strike out, I just wash that at-bat away and focus on getting out on defense."
What did your team learn from last year's championship season?
"We learned how resilient we could be. We were really struggling in the second half of the season, and I know a lot of people got down on us, didn't think we could do it, but we were really the same team we were but the bounces weren't going our way. We were able to keep our heads up, stay positive, and it showed that if you work hard and stick with it, anything can happen . . . We've just come in with the mind-set that we're the champs until someone knocks us off. We've got a good core of guys from the team last year and we started off a little slow early but we're starting to put it together now and we know the new guys we've got coming in can do the job too."