Team Awards

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The Fact that I am writing the team awards without at least a championship appearance is tough, if not just down right sad. I felt like we had the team this year to actually compete and make a deep run, but it felt like the only time that pitching and hitting showed up in the same game was the season opener. It was a tough year overall, one that I will highlight throughout this post.

Team MVP

Stef Blackstone (SS, 2B, CL)

Stef was undoubtedly our MVP for the year, although arguments could easily be made of his competitive advantage, being young and in college, I don’t think we could count those. Stef was one of the best players in the league when he was with the Jays, and we were lucky enough this year to have him join up with other former Jays (Brandon, Billy, and Coach Nolan ha.) Stef led the team in batting average, hits, stolen bases, and triples. If we played in a league where pitchers actually cared about guys stealing bases, it would have opened up even more opportunities for our offense to score runs. Not only was Stef our leadoff hitter he anchored us down in the middle infield. We lost our second baseman early this year, and our shortstop had multiple military commitments. If everything goes right, Stef would have been our super utility guy, startiung every game, freeing up multiple guys to pitch and giving rest to some of our older team members. Either way, I am sure things would be the same. Stef stepped up and helped us out monumentally, playing both positions without missing a beat, making plays that most normal PGH NABA AA guys wouldn’t. Even on the rare occasion that Stef booted a ball his arm strength would make up for it and it would be an out. When not pitching, Stef stepped up and shut teams down on the mound. It was truly fun to watch.

Pitcher of the Year

Brandon Blackstone SP

Brandon was once again our anchor this year. Starting off strong with what the MLB would label a ‘notable achievement,’ a shortened No hitter. Brandon pitched most of this year at less than a hundred percent, and it didn’t show. He went out there and continuously gave us a chance to win. Brandon led the team in appearances, innings, wins, shutouts, and ERA. Not only was Brandon productive, he always wanted the ball, no matter the situation. As a manager that is a relief to have in your back pocket, a guy who no matter what is going to be competitive and give you a chance to win. After the first couple weeks of the season I thought I would have a tough decision between three horses when it came time to decide who our Pitcher of the year would be, but when Billy went down, Brandon stepped up and powered us to the playoffs. “Who are you guys throwing,” was a question that we would run into a lot at the beginning of the year, but it quickly turned to the random surprised comment, “Brandon isn’t starting?” Without B, I don’t know where we end up this year. I definitely don’t think we get a chance in the Semi finals, Brandon shut down the Devils when our bats fell asleep, and it was a fun game to catch. It was truly one of those games where I felt like whatever I thought out, that pitch would be executed. I couldn’t have asked for better. Honestly it was one of those seasons.

Offensive Player of the Year

T.J. Morgan (OF, DH)

To me TJ is the Nelson Cruz of PGH NABA, seemingly ageless, and one of the toughest outs in the league. TJ was the Left hook of our “one two” punch at the top of the lineup this year. Not surprisingly, once that change was made, we started rolling to wins, and eventually rolling to the Four Spot in the regular season. Hitting behind the smooth swing, and watching him just hit rockets really made it easy to be a three hole hitter. TJ was running right with Stef in the batting average conversation right up until the last week of the season, when it seemed like the two of us could not hit water if we fell out of a boat, not saying that TJ wasn’t making great contact, he was, but the baseball Gods decided that nothing was to fall. I also think TJ has a bout 3 or 4 homeruns if we played every game at the Pond. TJ was the heart of our offense, and without a doubt one of the Pillars of the Duck soul. Driving long distances to shit on baseballs and giving us a chance to win (and help me to 2nd in the league RBI race) are just more reasons that TJ earns this award. I could say more, but its all been said before.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kenny Rayl (3B)

Kenny was, in my opinion the best third baseman in the league this year. Anything that was hit down that way, I felt like he had a chance get it, no matter the shortstop, the left side of this infield was something I knew that I didn’t have to worry about. I hear some jabroni make a comment this year that was something like “he’s only solid if you hit it at him,” then two plays later Kenny made some diving play that led to someone else on that team saying “it looks like we just shouldn’t hit it to third base,” and all I could do was laugh. Having Ken at the hot corner was one of the saving graces of the Ducks this year, and the infield definitely didn’t feel right if he was out.

Ducks New guy of the year

Ben Doak (OF, P 1b)

Doak was as solid of an addition as it gets, coming in a quarter of the way through the season and maybe missing one game. Doak added some lefty power to an already lefty heavy order. Hitting a definite Home run at spring hill that was called a double (it hit the second of two fences by the batting cage,) and then a little league homer that I would have labeled an actual homerun had I known the other manager a little better. Doak was not only solid at the plate, he was a solid fourth outfielder, pitcher, and heir apparent to Clark at first base. I truly cannot believe that we got so lucky with two straight slugging first baseman. Oh, did I mention that he pitches, pairing what seems like 72 different pitches with an uncanny pick off move from the left side is something that the Ducks have not had since I came on in 2017. Doak is a welcomed addition to the team, and hopefully a corner stone for years to come.

This season was tough, who knows where we stand if 2/3s of our weekend games weren’t in the first month of the season. If Billy doesn’t get hurt, Randy’s schedule doesn’t limit him to weekends, and some other things that are out of our control don’t happen. It was said in another article that I made different mistake than I did last year, which is true, some of them were the opposite of the mistakes I made in the previous year, and maybe I will find a healthy medium in here somewhere. I can’t help but blame myself for us falling short, attendance wasn’t great this year, but not only did I manage poorly at times, I had my worst year at the plate since like, 3rd grade. Its insanely frustrating. I think as a team we need to do more baseball things, while I was watching the Olympic game between Japan and the US this morning I felt like I was watching a Ducks game. Starting extras with guys on first and second, the US team swung away and tried to make the big play, then in the bottom half Japan came up, bunted the two men over and then hit a single to win, you know, baseball things. We don’t do them, but really we don’t need to in the regular season, we are a solid club, a lot of talent, and in my honest opinion the second best team in this division, if it wasn’t for age and attendance I think we would be 1. This team was my favorite I have played on in the last ten years, and second best ever to a team I played on with fellow Duck Steve aka Goose when we were youngsters.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and honestly that factors in for this year, I am not saying we would have made it to the championship, but it would have been an easier road if we would have just played to lose our last couple regular season games. Instead, I thought we could win out, and D2, who is now in the championship, put a halt on us getting the third seed. Its unfortunate, we had the tools this year to smoke the field, but things didn’t plan out. I’ve been playing baseball for 23 years now, and have yet to win a championship. Hopefully, next year is the year.

Quack.

Ducks Year end Review/Awards

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This year was a tough year for the Ducks, and really, probably all of the Pittsburgh NABA. But, I have to say, this league is resilient, and the struggle barely showed. Joe brought us all together, and it seems like everyone being so damned desperate to get out of the house made everyone a bit more interested in doing baseball things. Hell, the desperation even got some articles in the surrounding newspapers. I really hope this situation doesn’t last until next summer, but if it does, tickets to games at the Duck Pond, if we play there, start at $3 general admission. IF you are interested in sticking around after the game for a beer with the boys, $5 VIP tickets will be available.

I am going to be honest with all of you reading this, managing is worse than I thought it would be, and I have to give all the kudos to Ben for getting this ‘organization’ through as many years as he did. In my opinion this year was a shit show, but maybe it was the best year for me to jump on and take the reins. I was lucky enough to have six or seven former managers on the roster, and although it shows our age a little bit, it gave me a lot of places to turn to ask questions. I don’t know if I could have lasted the year, or even have been willing to do it again without them.

This year, I feel like we had a a lot of additions to the team, I think the most that we have had since the year Lombo and I came onto the team. Last fall we added Liam, who slots in perfectly at second base, it seems like a natural fit. Then Ben tells me that he has a line on an outfielder, little do I know, I could have had a Line on this outfielder too, and we get Dillon, who does everything textbook, it looks natural, and according to Ben, Dillon is going to be the CF next year. Around February, we found out that our 26+ league was folding, and that added to three more additions, one unfortunately didn’t work out, but I could chalk that up to COVID I figure. The other two, I felt like were great additions to the Ducks. Kenny, the rival Blacksox manager turned Ducks 3rd baseman was a huge addition, and a solid bat in the lineup, and the source of one of my favorite comments of the season, something to the tune of, “Look, I even bought Green cleats, do you know how hard these are to find. Don’t worry, this isn’t my last year.” Then we got what I refer to as our Nick Swisher, the ultimate team guy, Jay, formerly mentioned as the Devil’s cast off, Jay slots in nicely as a rotational guy on the infield, and after some work this fall and offseason, a middle relief guy who comes in and gives these dudes the OL RAZZLE DAZZLE, oh and not to mention the dude gets on base on a regular basis.  In the draft I found three more players, one who moved before the season even started, another, a Japanese business man who was just silky smooth on the baseball field, RIP #11 jersey. Shit, maybe he was sent by the baseball gods so I could return to my old number, since the Jersey we have would never fit this belly. Lastly, we got Jay French, another ultimate team guy and all around goon. If not for a slew of injuries, I think he plays a big part in our season this year, a lefty who can spot up and get outs. Lastly but most certainly not least, with got a couple Sheridan guys, and I still do not know if I spell their old teams borough correctly. First Brandon, who took Randy’s role of our horse this year, and basically brought to life the Ducklings, which is what I am calling our fans from now on, and brought a lot of fire to the mound. I feel like Brandon is a dude that is down to throw hands whenever the team is and that is something our bunch welcomes and gets behind. Brandon also brought on Billy, who slots right up there with Brandon in the innings department, and is probably our opening day starter as long as he sticks around. Billy was quiet but fiery, and honestly, mowed guys down this year. I see a few no-no’s and lots of shutouts coming as long as these two stick around. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of new guys in my first year.

The unfortunate record I believe falls on my shoulders, we had arguably one of the best lineups in the league, and a solid combination of starting pitching, although attendance from one of those three wasn’t fantastic this year. I left guys in on the mound too long, and later in the year, definitely assisted in bringing the team morale down. I feel like everything went down hill when we lost one of our core guys, and had to build back up from there. Luckily, we figured out that Mullen slots in nicely, and although it took us some time to find the right combination, I think it is a winning one. There were a lot of long games, outbursts, and general frustration that came along with this year, but I think the Ducks are better for it. We got routed to end the season by the eventual champion Oilers, which I feel like would have been different had TJ not gotten bounced by an ump with a short fuse. Speaking of umps, we had a shit time with them this year, I think it came with our frustration, but who knows. It seemed like we were getting a shit shake more often than not. Maybe next year it will be better. This year we also found a new rival, it seems like we are the Devils public enemy #1, and you know what, I am here for it. I consider a lot of those guys to be friends of mine, but who knows, maybe we have ushered in a new era of rivalry. I definitely think our additions of black sox and Jay helped the matter. Apparently we were talking shit too, which, I didn’t know updating the score of a playoff game on twitter, which is something we do yearly, was shit talking. Pick up your jocks and come back next year, so we can go punch for punch again and hopefully meet in the championship this year. Really, all this means is BAD NEWS FOR THE DEVILS. Welcome to the Thunderdome bitches.

I know without the core group of Ducks, the mainstays, I don’t stick around. This guys are a fun bunch of talented old bastards, and I love it. Three … Four (?) years ago I was lucky enough to get picked up by Ben, and I finally have fun again on the baseball field. I hear it all the time from our guys, talking down ourselves because collectively we have probably played baseball for around 200 years, but who cares. This is a championship team, and as long as we can stop shooting ourselves in the foot, we are going to march for that Gold.

Enough Ranting, time for team awards:

Ducks Rookie: Dillion Williams. Dillon came in this year and sured up our outfield. With him we can finally have a rotation, and easily cover some of the huge outfields that we have to deal with in the NABA. Not only was Dwill a huge contributor on the defensive side, he has slotted in nicely as the Duck’s leadoff hitter, hopefully for years to come.

Pitcher of the year: This award is a tie for me, and mainly because I caught them both, and without them, we were probably in last place. Billy and Brandon. Billy was unhittable most of the year, if he was pitching, I know that we had a surefire shot to take home the win. Brandon was our workhorse, pitching more innings than almost everyone else in the league, and keeping is in every game. Brandon also has like 17 pitches, and anyone can be the strikeout pitch that day. I took wins away from both of this guys by leaving them in too long this year. They definitely are a force to be reckoned with in the NABA.

Comeback Player of the year: Ben Gwin. Not managing seems to have taken years off of Ben’s career. Hitting over .400 this year, with hits in big spots, and more stellar outfield plays. Ben is the glue that holds the Ducks together, even if he doesn’t believe it. Honestly, it was awesome to see Ben come to the games with some joy, other than the misery that comes with managing a bunch of ragtag fucks. *Said with love btw*

Hitter of the year: TJ Morgan. TJ comes in, after saying he’s scrubbed last year, and hits .500, and drives in some huge runs for the team. Not only was TJ our leading hitter, if it wasn’t for his comic relief on the bench, and constant sarcasm, the Ducks wouldn’t be who we are. TJ is another life blood member of this team, I couldn’t be happier to slot him in the lineup.

Defensive player of the year: Derek Clark. He’s the best first baseman in the league, hands down. I don’t know of another that makes all of the plays he does. Maybe someone in AAA but that is even questionable. I feel like he is the savior of our infield at times. He also slots in pretty nicely behind the dish. It makes it easy for me to take a day off here and there.

Team MVP: ME. Kidding, I’m not that much of an asshole. Although I think my hat could be in the ring due to some game winning hits, but I wasn’t there when it mattered at the end of the season.

The team MVP(s) in my opinion was our middle infield tandem. We lost arguably the best shortstop in the league this season and were shorthanded. Once we figured out the right combination, it seemed like things started to come together. These two dudes slotted in nicely with each other and constantly kept things loose. We are very strong up the middle. Its one thing I don’t think I have to worry about next year.

Moment of The year: We beat the Oilers on a walk off bomb hit by yours truly, do you think I would pick something else?

I think next year I am going to do this the Cranberry way and have a vote, that would make things much easier on myself.

See y’all as soon as the city gives us a field for fall ball.

BAD NEWS FOR PGH NABA AA.

Quack Quack, bitch.