2005-09-09 / Sports

Rios + Energy = The Caffeine of the Ducks

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

CENTRAL ISLIP, NY – When Armando Rios was signed, he woke up the Long Island Ducks.

He didn’t just do it on the field; he did it in the clubhouse.

“I actually started fixing guys some espresso and now is everybody is hooked,” the former San Francisco Giant said. “I have gotten everybody awake all night. Even the manager as brought an espresso machine. We started a couple of things that we do as a team together. So it’s more a unified bunch of guys.”

The Ducks were listless at the time and went through a disappointing first half. It looked like 2005 would be a down season for the Flock, but when Rios came in, that all changed.

The outfielder, who turns 34 next week, not only caffeinated his teammates, but sparked the offense as well. Since he signed with Long Island on July 20, Rios hit .279 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI. He had a torrid August where he stroked his 12 home runs to go with a .327 average and 33 RBI.

It was good enough to have him named Atlantic League Player of the Month.

“When he first got here, one thing we were really lapsed in was power and runs scored,” manager Don McCormack said. “In the short period of time, since he’s been here he’s hit well. He’s been a big positive spark for us.”

General Manager Michael Hirsh added: “Armando has been a constant spark for our team. Whenever we need a big hit, he seems to come through. He is just one of those guys that refuses to lose.”

The Atlantic League was designed to have players show they could still play and Rios was no exception. His goal is to get one more shot at the big leagues and wanted to play in the top independent league’s top draw.

“I went to the computer when I was ready,” Rios said. “I looked at who had the best attendance in the league and picked here, Lancaster and Somerset. They are the top three teams, so my agent called them. I wanted to have a crowd and it happened to be here. It’s been a blessing so far.”

And to the Ducks, he’s been a godsend. Rios’s determination has rubbed off on his teammates as they took the Atlantic League’s North Division by storm.

They currently lead Butch Hobson’s Nashua Pride by 2 ½ games with a 29-4 record. The Ducks have made major strides to become the first team to repeat as Atlantic League Champions by signing veterans like former Cub Henry Rodriguez, Pete Rose, Jr. and Rios.

All together it gives Long Island a powerful team filled with home run hitters.

They also just made strides with their pitching staff. On Wednesday, the Flock brought back former Met Bill Pulsipher and former Phillie Matt Beech, who were key parts to the 2004 run.

So with less than three weeks before the playoffs, the Ducks look ready. McCormack is just concerned with keeping the team on an even keel to avoid a letdown.

“You are not going to win every game, so you have to try and win series,” the manager said. “In a three game series, you have to try to take two of three.”

If the team keeps the coffee warm and follows the manager’s philosophy, Long Island may just repeat.

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