The Ducks celebrated 20 seasons of baseball Friday, and at least 10 more are on the way.
As a capper to the pregame ceremony honoring the milestone before the Ducks faced the High Point Rockers at Bethpage Ballpark, team founder and CEO Frank Boulton signed a 10-year extension on the ballpark’s lease with Suffolk County.
“Should I sign it?” Boulton asked the crowd before whipping out the agreement and signing it on the podium.
The Ducks wore their special teal “20th anniversary” jerseys and welcomed back three of their greatest players: Dan Lyons, Ray Navarrete and original Duck and West Babylon native Justin Davies. They also welcomed their greatest figure, part owner and former manager Bud Harrelson.
Harrelson, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, received the biggest ovation of the night when he was escorted out to the field by longtime Ducks player/coach Lew Ford. Harrelson had his No. 3 retired by the team last summer.
“It’s great to see him at the ballpark in uniform,” said Navarrete, whose number also is retired. “I was here last year for his [number] retirement ceremony, which was a really special night. To know what he’s battling and what he’s going through, he’s still smiling . . . That just goes to show you how tough Buddy Harrelson really is.”
Lyons added: “He’s someone who had a great impact on my career on Long Island. I don’t know if I would have had the career that I had here if it wasn’t for him.”
Despite the Ducks’ 5-2 loss, the night meant many things to Davies, Lyons and Navarrete, who all turned uncertain baseball futures into excellent Atlantic League careers. Navarrete broke some of Davies’ franchise records and Lyons played a significant role in the 2012 and 2013 championship runs.
It was a night to give thanks to a place where countless baseball careers found new life.
“I was released by the Mets and my family had just moved out to Long Island, so I thought it was the perfect fit for me,” Navarrete said. “I thought I was coming here to finish out the 2006 season and that would be it. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of eight years, and the best eight years of my career.
“The Atlantic League is great baseball. It’s a bunch of guys chasing a dream, and that’s what it’s all about.”