Ducks manager Wally Backman speaks with reporters during media day on April...

Ducks manager Wally Backman speaks with reporters during media day on April 16 at Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip. Credit: George A Faella

Ducks manager Wally Backman took a trip back to his roots last weekend, leaving the team for two days to attend Mets Old-Timer's Day Weekend at Citi Field. Backman, who played nine seasons with the Mets and won a World Championship in 1986, got one of the bigger ovations as the fan favorite – and one-time fan-favored pick for manager – walked onto the field in his familiar orange and blue uniform.

“It felt great,” Backman said of the reception. “It just shows the respect [I] earned while I was here in New York playing. I've always loved the New York fans. I think I've made that well known and it was a very exciting time for myself and for a lot of others.”  

Backman continued: “: “I thought they did a really nice job with it. It was a lot of guys there from a lot of different teams, a lot of the ‘86 team was there and a lot of other players as well. It was a really nice get together. I thought [Mets owner] Steve Cohen did a very nice job.”

Over the course of the two-day event, Backman reminisced with teammates and Mets from other eras, and met Cohen for the first time. Like many of his fellow ‘old timers,’ Backman came away impressed with the franchise’s new leader.

“He's a baseball guy,” Backman said. “He's a fan. He's put together a great team, so he's a smart business guy. He's done a lot of good things for the New York Mets in a short time.”

Backman said he also spent some time speaking with former Mets manager Bobby Valentine – there first extensive conversation in nearly a decade – and current manager Buck Showalter, their first conversation ever.

“He's the right guy for the job,” Backman said of Showalter.  “He's done a good job with that team. Buck’s an old school baseball guy. He knows how to use the analytics, as well.

Backman said he kept up with the Ducks by watching the games on his phone (all games are webcast on the team’s official website and YouTube channel). Outfielder and hitting coach Lew Ford took over in Backman’s absence.

“I was still watching,” Backman said. “I wanted to know what was happening. Friday was the blowout game (12-0), then a tough loss on Saturday, the 3-2 game. We’ve had way too many of those tough losses this year. It’s something that we’ve all learned from.” 

Ford gets 1,000th hit

Ford, who is already the Ducks’ all-time hits king, notched his 1,000th hit with the team last Sunday. He’s the fourth player in Atlantic League history to reach that mark, and the first to do it entirely in a Ducks’ uniform. Former Duck Ray Navarrete also has 1,000 Atlantic League hits, but had 68 with Somerset in 2005.

Ford, 46, is in his 12th season with the Ducks

“I started to think about all the years I was here, the memories we had here, and the championships,” he said “The 1,000 hits over that time, it's been very enjoyable.”

Ford, whose been somewhat declarative about his desire to retire in past seasons, wasn’t so definitive last week. He said he would be open to both playing and coaching next season. 

Playoff hunt

The Ducks remained five games out of the first, and likely only, wild card spot with 15 games remaining, entering play Saturday.  They are trying to avoid their first playoff-less season since 2014.

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