Dontrelle Willis, Ramon Castro and Ian Snell were among some of the ex-big leaguers who were on hand for the Long Island Ducks fan fest yesterday. Strong Island Grapher has a recap of the event from an autograph collector’s perspective.
The Long Island Ducks, last year’s Atlantic League champions, have been busy signing high-profile former major league players over the past few days.
Nine-time All-Star and 2004 American League MVP Vladimir Guerrero undoubtedly made the biggest splash when he signed on Thursday, but the Ducks followed that up by signing 2003 National League Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis on Friday.
The Ducks’ latest addition is former major league catcher Ramon Castro, who played for the New York Mets from 2005 until 2009.
New Jersey fans will have to wait awhile to see the Long Island Ducks – they make their first trip into the Garden State for a weekday series against the Camden Riversharks from May 20-23. They return to Camden for another weekday series from June 17-20 before making their first trip to Bridgewater to play the Somerset Patriots in a weekend series from June 28-30.
The Newark Bears posted a video of their 2nd Annual Mardi Gras Arts & Crafts Day last week.
The Bears also have auditions coming up this weekend for potential dance team members, mascot performers and national anthem singers, and a job fair on February 3rd to find candidates for a variety of positions.
Around the Can-Am League, the Worcester Tornadoes have named last season’s bench coach, Chip Plante, as their manager. Ed Riley, who managed the team last year, was promoted to the front office as Special Advisor to the General Manager.
And in Newark Bears alumni news, infielder Ramon Castro was one of the first players to re-sign with the two-time defending Atlantic League Champion York Revolution.
The Newark Bears played in the Atlantic League for 12 seasons, and will begin their second in the Can-Am League this May. While the City of Newark’s baseball legacy is recognized at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, there is little evidence of the history of the current incarnation of the Bears – just a pair of banners recognizing their 2002 and 2007 Atlantic League championships.
The Newark Bears have had some famous players wear their uniform over the years: Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, the infamous Jose Canseco, 2004 Boston Red Sox closer Keith Foulke, former New York Mets stars Edgardo Alfonzo and Armando Benitez and a number of others.
While it’s clear that Henderson is the best baseball player to appear in a game for the Newark Bears, it’s not as easy to say who was the best Newark Bears player in franchise history. Henderson is definitely in the running – in 147 games for Newark in 2003 and 2004, he hit .302 with 17 home runs, 64 RBI and 46 stolen bases.
Jose Canseco didn’t spend that long in Newark, and he didn’t put up a lot of big numbers. His brother Ozzie is a different story. In 2000, Ozzie Canseco hit .299 with 48 home runs and 129 RBI in 138 games. The team added a second level of netting beyond the left field wall because his home runs kept ending up clearing the ballpark and landing in the road, according to stories I’ve heard from fans who were going to games then.