John and Ann Snyder weren’t going to let a little rain (OK, a lot of rain) keep them from Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip and their beloved Ducks. After all, what’s better for Ducks than water?
The Snyders were the first fans inside the renamed ballpark Friday night, decked out in Ducks gear and ready to watch the team’s season opener against the Lexington Legends, one of three teams new to the Atlantic League this season.
It was the first Ducks home game since October 2, 2019 – the second game of the last Atlantic League Championship Series. The Ducks went on to win the championship and raised the banner commemorating the title Friday night, their first such raising since the 2014 opener.
The 2021 opener was postponed, and the Ducks will play a doubleheader Saturday at 1:35 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. Tickets for Friday night will be honored for the first game.
"I was excited to use the new mitt that I got for Christmas," said the foul-ball hunting John Snyder, 60, of Ronkonkoma. "I was excited because I hadn’t been here in so long. I was so excited I actually started picking out the clothes I was going to wear … I did not think about not coming. We were coming, rain or not."
Snyder had on a green Ducks jacket and a jersey with old-time baseball scenes on it.
The Snyders, who celebrated their 17th anniversary last week and sit in Section 203, have been season-ticket holders since 2019, committing to buying a package after attending 50 games per year anyway.
"I like the social experience," John Snyder said. "The ballgame is secondary to me."
The Ducks did not play in 2020. Plans for an abbreviated 70-game season were scrapped in late June after numerous unsuccessful attempts to gain exemption from the state’s decision not to allow fans into professional sports venues.
"I was very disappointed that they didn’t have their season last year," said John Weber,24, of Merrick. "…There was no vaccine last year, that’s why they couldn’t allow people. It would have led to even more cases."
The 6,002-seat ballpark will be filled at approximately 50-60% capacity to start the season, with separate sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated fans. Vaccinated sections will be available to be filled at 100% capacity and unvaccinated, or socially distanced, sections will be filled at 33% percent capacity.
John Kelly of Selden said he’s been a Ducks season-ticket holder since ‘Day One’ in 2000 and feels safe attending games. Despite being vaccinated, he said he’ll still wear a mask, which is not required by the Ducks for vaccinated fans.
"I’m vaccinated, so I feel good," Kelly, 61, said. "I think it’s the right thing to do. To be around everyone, you should be vaccinated. Wearing [the mask] is just a little extra because I have a heart condition. I’m doing this just to protect myself a little bit more. I got vaccinated, but I don’t know who will be around me, so I just want to be safe."