After 13 years, the Long Island Ducks are still battling anonymity.
A case in point came Wednesday, as leaders of the independent baseball team appeared before the Suffolk County Legislature, asking to use some unsold tickets as promotional giveaways. Bud Harrelson, the ex-Mets all-star and club vice president, checked in at the building by saying he was from the Ducks.
"The hockey team?" asked a front desk attendant.
"It's amazing that people still don't know what the Long Island Ducks are," Harrelson said, relaying the encounter to the Ways & Means Committee.
Shortly after, committee members approved a resolution amending the license agreement between the club and the county to allow distribution of up to 500 free promotional tickets per game. The resolution is expected to pass the full legislature on Tuesday.
The Ducks, founded in 1998, play at Suffolk's 6,002-seat Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, and provide the county with $1 from every ticket sold. Upon approval of the contract change, the club will be able to give away up to 500 tickets per game for promotional purposes -- but only if 1,500 seats remain unsold within three weeks of the game, or 1,000 remain unsold within two weeks.
Suffolk's revenue will be unaffected, county officials said, because its agreement with the Ducks only pertains to sold tickets. The county received $154,961 from the team in 2011.
"It's not really to fill seats," said Ducks chief executive Frank Boulton. "It's about the need to keep our brand out there."
He explained that even if just one of 10 promotional tickets is used, exposure from a giveaway on a radio station is invaluable. As some families decline to renew season tickets because their children have grown, Boulton said, the Ducks need to "keep our product in front of the people."
The team promotes inexpensive family fun with between-inning entertainment and free parking. Officials didn't disclose its profits, but say their ticket request doesn't stem from fiscal trouble.
"Obviously, we don't want to give away tickets; we want to sell tickets," Ducks general manager Michael Pfaff said. "But this is intelligent use of unused resources."
Also Wednesday, the committee approved a bill strengthening restrictions relating to the ethics board. The action was prompted by an April grand jury report that said former County Executive Steve Levy used the then-ethics commission as a "political sword" on his enemies, including getting a member to divulge confidential business to him, and pressuring an aide to file complaints.
Levy disputed the findings, but lawmakers have proposed grand jury recommendations, including instituting fines for disclosing confidential information or generating complaints to influence a public servant. The full legislature will consider the bill Tuesday.
With Rick Brand