Dennis O’Grady stood on the top step of the Ducks’ dugout Friday afternoon unsure if he would ever step on a professional baseball mound again. Scheduled to start Saturday night’s Game 4 of the Atlantic League Championship Series at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, O’Grady needed to wait out Game 3 to see if he’d even get a chance to strap on his spikes again in 2018. Thanks in large part to David Washington’s two-run, eighth-inning home run Friday night, O’Grady got that chance. The Ducks staved off elimination, won Game 3, and took the field Saturday night looking to force a winner-take-a-championship Game 5 on Sunday.
It’s what every player wants and O’Grady was hoping to end the season with a ring.
But the Floral Park native said that 2018 might be the end of the road for him professionally. Regardless of how the championship series ends, he’ll take the offseason to evaluate whether or not he wants to continue playing the game he loves.
“I’m hoping to play winter ball in Mexico,” O’Grady, 29, said. “I’ll honestly take a job anywhere. But, after that, it’s just wait and see. I haven’t completely made my mind up that I’m going to keep playing and I haven’t completely made my mind up that I’m going to stop playing. I’m kind of going to just take a step back and reflect a little bit on where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and where I’m going to go now.”
As far as factors that may determine an eventual decision, O’Grady said they are numerous.
“I guess age, expectations, verses reality, and family,” O’Grady said. “I bet I could rattle off ten more to you. I’m just going to take some time to think about it and see what the next step is.”
O’Grady, who graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, was drafted by the Padres in 2011. He spent five seasons in the Padres’ system, reaching Triple A- El Paso in 2014 and 2015. He’s spent the last two seasons with the Ducks, starting 20 games over two regular seasons and a playoff run, but primarily coming out of the bullpen.
O’Grady was 6-4 with a 3.81 ERA, 41 strikeouts, and 22 walks in 52 regular-season appearances (four starts) this year. He started the winner-take-all Game 5 of the Liberty Division Championship Series against the Somerset Patriots last Sunday.
He allowed two runs and six hits, struck out none, and walked two in five innings of a 3-2 Ducks victory in 10 innings that gave the team their third consecutive Atlantic League Championship Series berth.
It fell on O’Grady to get the Ducks through the opening innings of their most important game to that point.
“It was pretty fun,” O’Grady said. “You don’t really get that situation very often. You just try your best to just take it like any other game, but in the back of your mind, you know it’s win or go home. You just have to go out there, stay under control, and just do what you’ve been doing all year.”
Saturday night, he gave up two runs in seven innings and was the winning pitcher in the Ducks' 6-3 victory over Sugar Land that forced Game 5 Sunday night in Islip. After Saturday's win. O'Grady was on the field taking pictures with a group of family and friends.
"That was special," he said. "I have a lot of support from my family and a select group of friends. Some people say they have a little extra pressure (with a group at the game). But it helps me concentrate a little more on what I have to do."
Should O’Grady decided to return in 2019, he said that the Ducks will be a strong consideration, and one of the few teams, outside of a major-league affiliate, that he’d even contemplate.
"If I was to keep playing and not find a job back in affiliated ball, this is the place I’d want to be,” O’Grady said.