Ducks' Willis Otanez has lots of good memories in his long baseball career
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Willis Otañez knows how to make an entrance. He has taken the field with 27 teams in his professional career, including Major League Baseball, the Mexican League and the minor leagues, and in his second tour with the Ducks, the Puerto Rican-born, Dominican-raised infielder made quite the splash in only his third game back on Aug. 17. Otañez hit a walk-off double to help the Ducks beat York, 7-6. After playing 21 games with the Ducks in 2010, Otañez, 40, is back on Long Island and brings 22 years of experience to a team trying to return to the playoffs and repeat as Atlantic League champions. Despite a recent skid, the Ducks have a solid second-half lead in the Liberty Division.
Why did you want to come back to Long Island?
"It's so fun, I like it here. I have a lot of friends and family on [L.I.] and I enjoy it. You just want to get to the playoffs and keep working hard, and I have to hit the way I know how to hit."
How have you handled playing in so many different cities throughout your career?
"It's not easy, but I have to do it. It's hard to be away from my son and my daughter, and I miss them. Sometimes I'm gone for months . . . But they understand that I'm doing this for them and I have to keep working, and as long as I can keep playing, I've got to play. When I'm done, I've got to do something else, maybe stay around baseball, we'll see. I think I can play for a couple of more years, and with the way my body feels now, I can, but we'll see what happens."
Tell me about your major-league service from 1998-99.
"It was a great thing. It's one of the great things that everybody in here should have just one day up there. It's a dream come true. You have butterflies. A lot of people would probably say the same thing, but it's something beautiful . . . I have almost 3,000 hits in my career in the minor leagues, major leagues, but my first at-bat, I was shaking. But I was lucky. My first at-bat, I got a hit. It was in Chicago against the White Sox when I was with Baltimore. I don't remember his name [it was Tom Fordham], but the pitcher was a lefty and he signed the ball for me after, and I have it in my house. That's something special I won't ever forget. That was the only time I felt nervous in my career, during that first AB, but after that, I've always been relaxed."
You've struggled here early, hitting just 6-for-36 before yesterday's game, but tell me about the walk-off hit you got when you came back with the Ducks and your outlook for the rest of the season.
"That was exciting, you know, it was great. I'm going to get my timing back and I feel pretty good. I just want to help this team and do what I know how to do for so many years."