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Some things old, some things new for 2010 Ducks

Ducks' Manager, Dave LaPoint chats with catcher, Robinson

Ducks' Manager, Dave LaPoint chats with catcher, Robinson Cancel in the dugout during the teams 6-1. (April 17, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by Kathy Kmonicek

The faces - from Bill Pulsipher to John Rocker to Edgardo Alfonzo to Gary Carter - come and go. The name on the front of the ballpark - from Suffolk County Sports Park to EAB Park to Citibank Park - is built and torn back down again.

But each season, the Ducks continue to immerse themselves in the fabric of spring and summer on Long Island. The first pitch of the second decade of Ducks baseball on Long Island will be thrown Thursday. A look at the 2010 season:

The star: Ray Navarrete

Even in a league in which a player with major-league aspirations stands to benefit more from personal statistics than team success, Ray Navarrete remains the consummate team player.

After hitting .309 with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs last season, Navarrete said he would gladly exchange his Atlantic League MVP award for another trophy. "It's a great award and I'm very humbled by it," Navarrete said. "But I'd trade it in to have played in the championship and won it. Somebody else in the league can have that award if it means we win in the end."

It sounds like a quote pulled straight from a Derek Jeter biography, but Navarrete said it with such conviction that there is no denying his dedication to the Ducks.

Scouts take notice when they see the letters MVP, though, and Navarrete was no exception. He generated major-league interest but suffered an injury to his right arm while playing winter ball in Puerto Rico.

"When I went down there, I had a couple inquiries and a couple of feelers out there," he said. "A couple teams said they were interested and they were going to watch me play. Unfortunately, I got hurt."

Entering his fifth season with the Ducks, the 31-year-old will play mostly leftfield and hopes to lead a revamped Ducks team back to the playoffs while catching the eyes of major-league scouts along the way.

"I'm optimistic," Navarrete said. "I hope that somebody will give me one more chance. If not, I'll come out here, play hard and have a good time."

Maybe even win a league championship.

The big name: Sidney Ponson

Taking the mound for the Ducks on opening night Thursday will be the most recognizable name on this year's roster, Sidney Ponson. After struggling with the Royals last season, the two-time Yankee hopes to prove he still has something left.

"It's not like I had a great year last year," Ponson said. "I had a high ERA and I didn't win a lot of games. I think if I go out there and show the scouts that I can pitch, somebody can take a chance and we go from there."

Ponson went 1-7 with a 7.36 ERA in 14 games for the Royals last season but showed glimpses of his ability to perform at the major-league level, highlighted by a win over the Mariners in which he allowed one run in 71/3 innings.

The manager: Dave LaPoint

It's easy to see the differences in managerial style between Dave LaPoint and that of one-time successor and now predecessor Gary Carter.

"I like to put the ball in play and put the pressure on the defense," LaPoint said, "where Gary was more of a guy that was laid-back and would wait for a three-run home run to happen."

LaPoint managed the Ducks to a 145-123 record in 2007-08 before becoming pitching coach under Carter last season. LaPoint returns for his second stint. "I've managed my share of years," said the former pitcher, who spent 12 seasons in the big leagues, including two with the Yankees. "I'm not replacing anybody. I'm just coming back to do what I do."

Newcomers

Robinson Cancel, who played sparingly for the Mets during parts of the last two seasons, headlines a list of newcomers.

He joins returning starters Navarrete, Matt Cavagnaro, Juan Francia and Johnny Hernandez on a Ducks team that went 74-66 in 2009 and lost to Southern Maryland in Game 5 of a best-of-five Atlantic League playoff semifinal. "The roster is different this year," LaPoint said. "We don't have the big major-league veterans in here. There are a lot of guys with some time and a lot of guys that are still hungry to get back. We are more athletic this year and the pitching staff looks real young and healthy."

Where are they now?

Preston Wilson: The former major-league All-Star hit .307 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs in an injury-shortened season with the Ducks but couldn't generate interest from major-league teams. "I'm not playing," Wilson, 34, said via text message. "I tried to get into spring training this year but somehow could not even get a minor-league invite."

Estee Harris: After three seasons with the Ducks, the 25-year-old outfielder will be playing in Indiana for the Evansville Otters of the independent Frontier League (Class A).

Lew Ford: Ford, 33, struggled at Triple-A Louisville, hitting .158 (6-for-38) with one home run, six RBIs and seven strikeouts in seven games. The former Twin is playing for the Oaxaca Warriors of the Mexican League (Triple-A) and had a .400 average through 20 games before action Friday.

Bill Simas: The former closer is now the pitching coach.

Gary Carter: Carter guided the Ducks to the playoffs in his only season as Ducks manager. He is working close to his Florida home as manager of the Palm Beach Atlantic University Sailfish (Division II), 15-16 through action Friday. Carter declined to comment.

The stadium

Without a naming rights partner, the park formerly known as Citibank Park will revert to its original name, Suffolk County Sports Park. The facility will serve as the home of the Ducks for the next decade after the team renewed its lease with Suffolk County for that length of time. With that assurance came capital improvements to the ballpark. "We wanted to give the ballpark a fresh look for the fans so when they come into the park, there is that wow factor," Ducks general manager Mike Pfaff said.

The park, which will be the site of the Atlantic League All-Star Game on July 6, will include a new, state-of-the-art high-definition digital video board in centerfield. It is 16 feet x 34 feet, more than double the width of the old board. The Duck Club, a new bar/restaurant on the suite level behind home plate, will be open to holders of season tickets and suites.

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