The Long Island Ducks’ 2016 season ended with a loss in the Atlantic League Championship Series. Nolan Reimold’s ended in the American League wild-card playoff game.
Six months later, the two have converged. Reimold, an eight-year major-league veteran, is a member of the Ducks.
“I’m here to get an opportunity to play again and just enjoy myself,” said Reimold, 33, a .246 career hitter who batted .222 with six home runs in 242 plate appearances for the Baltimore Orioles last season. “I have an opportunity to go out there, play the game of baseball and see if I’ve still got it. I think I do.”
Reimold — who struck out as a pinch hitter in the 11th inning of the Orioles’ 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto in the wild- card game — is one of eight Ducks with MLB experience. The others are pitchers David Aardsma, Eury De La Rosa, Tim Melville, Rafael Perez and Chin-Hui Tsao and infielders Marc Krauss and Nate Freiman.
Reimold is aware that players come and go — sometimes within a few days — on independent league teams such as the Ducks.
“We’ll see what happens and take it one day at a time,” Reimold said. “But the main focus is to be able to play the game again and enjoy it again with my teammates.”
In a perfect world, for him at least, his blueprint would follow that of the Dodgers’ Rich Hill, who started (and lost) Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs last season.
Hill, now a 13-season MLB veteran, made two starts for the Ducks in 2015 — racking up 21 strikeouts in 11 shutout innings — before being picked up by the Red Sox. He signed a three-year, $48-million deal with the Dodgers in the offseason.
“It’s a team game, but also an individual game,” Reimold said. “You want to perform and perform well enough to get picked up. But it’s not something you want to focus on. You just want to focus on the game of baseball, take it a day at a time and take it as it comes.”
That’s fine with the Ducks, who have made Hill a bit of a poster child for their ability to recognize players who just need a second chance.
Five players went from the 2016 Ducks to MLB teams or their affiliates.
It was Hill’s agents who hooked Reimold up with the Ducks. “They had a positive experience with Rich,’’ said Michael Pfaff, the Ducks’ president and general manager. “Rich pitched well here and was scouted by major-league teams.”
The Ducks, looking to win it all after being swept by the Sugar Land Skeeters in the 2016 Atlantic League Championship Series, will begin their 18th season Thursday night at Southern Maryland. Their home opener is scheduled for April 28 against the New Britain Bees.
Brownell Tapped for Opening Night . . . again
In a move that’s become more of a formality than anything else, Ducks manager Kevin Baez announced that John Brownell will start opening night Thursday in Southern Maryland at the team’s annual media day Saturday morning at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip . It’s the fourth consecutive year that Brownell, a former Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year, has started on opening night.
“John won’t say it because he’s humble but, in my opinion, he’s the best starting pitcher to ever pitch for the Long Island Ducks,” Pfaff said. “He’s won two championships, been a championship series MVP, and is one of only two pitchers in team history to win Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year, the other being Mike Loree in 2011. John’s gotten better every year, worked hard every year, and is always ready to go out there.”
Brownell was 10-8 with a 3.30 ERA and was third in the Atlantic League in strike outs (147) last season.
BIG LEAGUE BIRDS
The 2017 Ducks players with major league experience:
David Aardsma, RHP
Teams: Giants, Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Mariners, Yankees, Mets, Braves
Eury De La Rosa, LHP
Nate Freiman, 1B
Seasons: 2 Teams: A’s
Marc Krauss, 1B
Teams: Astros, Angels, Rays, Tigers
Tim Melville, RHP
Games: 3 Team: Reds
Rafael Perez, LHP
Seasons: 7 Team: Indians
Nolan Reimold, OF
Teams: Orioles, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks
Chin-Hui Tsao, RHP
Teams: Rockies, Dodgers