It is unknown if anyone will recite the movie line, ”you’re killing me, Smalls,” but former Major League Baseball player Daniel Murphy — a Mets playoff hero — said he is just looking for a sandlot to play in. The 2015 postseason record breaker is part of the 2023 Long Island Ducks, the team’s 23rd season.
”The Ducks have been gracious enough to let me use it,” said Murphy, an infielder, referring to Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip, where the team plays. “You get the most of joy out of it when you find ways to un-weight yourself.”
Long Island is one of 10 teams in the Minor League Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, an MLB partner. Murphy, who played second base for the Mets, hit seven home runs as New York marched to the 2015 World Series, and hit homers in six consecutive games in the National League playoffs.
Before the 122-game season got underway on May 2, the Ducks hosted its annual media day where owner Frank Boulton, president and general manager Michael Pfaff, manager Wally Backman, Murphy, pitcher Ian Clarkin and outfielder and hitting coach Lew Ford shared their expectations of the upcoming season with reporters.
Disappointed with how last season ended with a 64-68 record and in third place of the North Division, Backman said the ball club rededicated itself to winning.
”We’ve gone back to kind of the way we had the team, maybe even better,” he said. “When you see our Opening Day roster, you’ll be shocked to see how many Major League players are on this roster.”
Murphy, Al Alburquerque, Adeiny Hechavarria, Ty Kelly and Ruben Tejada are the former Major Leaguers that aim to win Long Island’s fifth league championship. The 26-man roster is expected to be split evenly between pitchers and position players.
The team was not the only thing overhauled during the off-season as the ballpark received several upgrades. A new high-resolution scoreboard 30-foot high-by-36-foot wide was installed nearly in the precise space of the previous scoreboard, but the new one has four times the resolution. To enhance the ballpark experience, more than 75 new speakers were also installed.
‘You’ll see the improvements around the ballpark,” Pfaff said, highlighting the video scoreboard. “We’re cheaper than the movies at this point. You’re talking $15 tickets. So it is sort of the last bastion of affordable entertainment.”
The Ducks continue their big draw status and led all MLB Partner Leagues in attendance last season, and has sold out an Atlantic League record of 699 games. However, Pfaff said the team is always looking to do things better.
“We set a lot of records in terms of attendance, did a lot of great things off the field,” he said. “We’re very proud of it. A lot of teams would have been pleased with the 2022 season. There were a few things in our operation that we knew we could improve upon.”
Being a partner with Major League Baseball translates into the Atlantic League being the laboratory where new rules are experimented with that are now in use at the higher level.
A new wrinkle for Long Island will be live-streaming audio and video of the games through Flo Sport’s at FloSports.tv. Selected Monday, Wednesday and Friday heard games will be broadcast on Hofstra University’s WRHU radio station at 88.7 FM.