Ducks at Bears
Newark-Bert Heffernan has the most well-rounded job of anyone on the Long
Island Ducks. He warms up potential relievers, coaches first base, takes
infield and outfield practice and gives pep talks. He also hits singles that
help win games. He is a player/coach who last night proved he probably can do
his best teaching by example. He is the all-around guy who helped the Ducks to
an all-around big night in their 4-1 win over the Newark Bears.
"Everybody," winning pitcher Edgar Ramos said, "played great." Heffernan,
though, stood out. It was not only because he went 2-for-3 with two runs batted
in or that he played well in leftfield or that he hustled. The key was that he
played at all. The 35-year-old catcher from Centereach had been a do-as-I-say
guy for the Ducks until last night.
"I probably could have called a lot of major-league organizations and had
coaching jobs," said the man who played for the Seattle Mariners in 1992. "But
I guess I've just got to get it out of my system."
He was a full-time hitting coach last year with the Montreal Expos' Class A
team in Jupiter, Fla. (current Ducks pitcher Mike Hughes was on that team).
With the prospect of playing at home in front of his friends, Heffernan wanted
a shot at a two-way role. So he walks the fine line between being the one who
gives advice and orders and the one who is a buddy to everyone else in the
"I try to balance it," Heffernan said. "Maybe it will help that they can
see I can still play a little bit."
Through the first four games in franchise history, he did not play even a
little bit. No at-bats. "I've been bugging Buddy a little bit," he said,
referring to manager Bud Harrelson. Despite the bugging, it came as a surprise
to Heffernan that he started in leftfield last night. "In '94, I played there
all summer. I've played some games there in the course of my career," he said,
adding that he hasn't played the outfield since then.
He made a strong throw from left that almost retired Kaz Miyakawa,
stretching a single to a double in the third inning. Miyakawa was called safe,
but it looked very close.
Heffernan's main contributions came at the plate. With one out and a runner
on third in the second, he lined a single to left, tying the score at 1. He
came up in the fifth with a runner on second and drilled a ground single to
right, making it 4-1. "I feel strong. I feel if I can swing the bat a little
bit, I can help us," he said. "All I want to do this year is have fun."
All the Ducks had something to enjoy last night. Ramos allowed only four
hits and struck out six in seven innings for a staff that leads the Atlantic
League in ERA through the first week. Gabby Martinez hit his first home run.
Hot-hitting Lorenzo Bagley went 2-for-4 with an RBI. The Ducks stole five bases
in as many tries.
An all-around game, marked by the all-around guy who has been around.
"He sets a good example," Harrelson said. "Guys who didn't play have to
say, 'Here's a guy who hasn't had a shot and he gets in there and gets two
singles and drives in two runs. He's a good player.'"
Notes & Quotes: Bears manager Tom O'Malley said he has taken a little from
every big-league manager for whom he played. That group includes Frank
Robinson, Earl Weaver, Bobby Valentine and Ducks manager Bud Harrelson. The
latter said O'Malley was a good guy to have on a ballclub. "I had him, [Dave]
Magadan and [Tim] Teufel," Harrelson said, basically apologizing for not having
played O'Malley more with the Mets ... Ducks pitcher Robert Theodile said his
agent called to check in after his six scoreless innings Tuesday night. A
couple of more efforts like that might get Theodile an offer from some
organization. "It's not that I didn't have any offers to go to spring training
this year. I was just tired of the up-and-down routine," the eight-year
minor-leaguer said. He said Tuesday's start was only his third time on a mound