Ducks closer Ryan Kussmaul wanted to make sure he had the ninth inning secured. After being released in March from the Chicago White Sox system, where he had spent the last five seasons, the 28-year-old said he received offers from Atlantic League and American Association teams, but only the Ducks gave him the opportunity to be a closer.
Entering Saturday night's game with Bridgeport, Kussmaul's 24 saves led the Atlantic League. In 36 appearances and 381/3 innings pitched, he was 3-1 with a 3.05 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 15 walks.
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Kussmaul was one of seven Ducks selected to the league All-Star Game, July 8.
Entering Saturday night's game, the Ducks were four games behind Bridgeport in the Liberty Division second-half standings and held a 10-game lead in the wild card, which would take effect only if either first-half champions, Somerset or Southern Maryland, also win the second half.
How important is it that you identify yourself as a closer?
Having the closer name under your belt is important because, normally, closers are the first ones to get signed out of the league. You're getting saves, coming into high-pressure situations, and making sure the game is secure for the team. It's a very important thing to have underneath my name . . . It was very important for me to come here and be the closer because I wanted get signed elsewhere. I had other options this year. I could have got signed in Mexico or Taiwan, but I decided to stay here because I want to play in America.
When you're in an All-Star Game, do you have goals set for it?
You want to have as much fun as you can because you have four days off and you don't get many days off during the year. You have guys who make the All-Star team and say, 'Thanks, but no thanks. I'm going to go spend it with my family.' Then you have other guys who want to go enjoy the game and bring their family or significant other. At the same time, you want to be prepared and ready to play in the game because this is independent ball. This isn't the big-league or the [affiliated] minor-league All-Star Game. You're looking to get picked up at the break and impress those 12-15 scouts that are behind the net. Hopefully, one of them says, 'This guy needs to be with us.' Everyone here in independent ball wants to get out of here and back into affiliated ball.
What did it mean to make it to that game in your first season in that league?
It's a great accomplishment. I'm always proud of my accomplishments. It's a big deal, especially with this being my first year out of affiliated ball. I wanted to do the best that I could in the first half so I could possibly get signed.
Next up: Ducks at Bridgeport, Sunday, 5:35 p.m.