Benitez was one of the featured guests and was alongside bench coach/co-owner Bud Harrelson during the pregame autograph session. Fans made a beeline toward the former Mets reliever, decked out in a bright orange number 47 uniform.
They brought old baseball cards and glossy photos from his days in Flushing. There were no hecklers, and Benitez offered a smile or a hushed "thank you'' when somebody wished him luck.
"Right now, it's 'so far, so good,' '' Benitez said after the Ducks' 8-3 win over the Bridgeport Bluefish. "Everybody talked to me and said they were glad that I am here.''
Benitez's debut, originally scheduled for the weekend, has been tentatively pushed back to Thursday. He will pitch a simulated game Tuesday, after which his progress will be evaluated. "Well, from the first day he got here and threw a simulated game, to his bullpen session, he looked a lot better,'' manager Kevin Baez said. "His ball had some life to it, and he's getting the ball down. He's throwing and getting into baseball shape, which you can't try and duplicate unless you do it.''
Added Benitez: "There is no rush. They want to make sure that I feel good and healthy.''
For Benitez, 39, who has not pitched in the majors since 2008, returning to "The Show'' is not impossible. The Ducks have long been a destination for former Mets seeking another shot in the majors. Edgardo Alfonzo, Carl Everett, Richard Hidalgo and Pat Mahomes were among those who played for the Ducks but never returned to the majors. Other former Mets, including Bill Pulsipher and Carlos Baerga, made it back to the big leagues after successful tenures with the team.
But time is not Benitez's ally, especially after more than a year away from the game, which he spent at home in the Dominican Republic. He realizes that major league organizations will not welcome him into the fold simply because of his past success. First, he will have to prove himself in the Atlantic League.
Said Benitez: "I will try and do my job and help the team, and if I get an opportunity to go back to the major leagues, that's fine by me.''
Notes & quotes: On Friday, the Ducks signed Josh Lansford, four days after they announced the signing of Jared Lansford. The brothers, sons of former major-leaguer Carney Lansford, will work out of the bullpen.
"We were interested in the Ducks, so it was kind of cool that two spots happened to open up and that we got a chance to come here,'' Jared Lansford said.