Ducks seek Atlantic League championship

Bryant Nelson throws the ball during practice. (Oct.

Bryant Nelson throws the ball during practice. (Oct. 2, 2012) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

The Ducks won the Atlantic League title in 2004, and enthusiasm for Long Island's only professional baseball team continues to be strong. The Ducks averaged 5,551 fans this season in 6,000-capacity Bethpage Ballpark and are hoping to win the title at home in the best-of-five series against Lancaster, which begins with road games Wednesday night and tomorrow night.

Lancaster won the season series, 12-8, but the Ducks, who will host Game 3 Friday night and Games 4 and 5 Saturday night and Sunday, if necessary, do not see that as an impediment.

"They're going to be very confident because they were the best team in the league,'' Ducks third baseman Bryant Nelson said of Lancaster. "But we have a chance with some pitchers that they have never seen. I think we're going to be OK.''

What would another title mean?

"I'm not the type of guy who does too many end zone dances,'' Ducks principal owner Frank Boulton said. "I know you're only as good as your last outing . . . We have to think about next year.''

That sounded very much like the man who used to run the show in the Bronx, and if this endeavor seems minor compared to that, Boulton takes it very seriously. Boulton's formula -- inexpensive tickets, free parking, family entertainment -- works for the fans and the team's finances.

"We've always done really well, we have great corporate sponsors,'' Boulton said. "They're not here for corporate welfare, they're here because they have a marketing goal, and we make sure we pay a lot of attention to our marketing partners and our fans.''

Boulton went through some second-half angst when the Ducks fell to the bottom of the Liberty Division. "This has been a real up-and-down year,'' he said. "But right now we're up, so we're going to enjoy it while we're up.''

So are his players, who say championships matter at any level.

"I've won six,'' the well-traveled Nelson said. "It never gets old. I love popping Champagne and having fun with my team. It's going to be awesome, especially having the home field. I think it would be a great way to bring it home to them.''

First baseman Brandon Sing added, "Any championship you can win, you can always call yourself a champion. Everybody once in their life wants to be a champion. You are always trying to get that ultimate goal at the end of the year.''

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