Michael Pfaff, the president and general manager (GM) of minor league baseball’s Long Island Ducks, is returning to his old stomping grounds on Thursday afternoon, March 19.
The 43-year-old Pfaff, a Manhasset High School graduate, will be the Manhasset Men’s Club’s luncheon speaker on that date. The event starts at noon at the Congregational Church located at 1845 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset. In his remarks, he’ll preview the Ducks’ 2015 season and reflect on his professional sports career.
“Many of the players that will wind up playing in the Atlantic League this season are in major league baseball training camps right now,” said Pfaff, a reference to the eight teams in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, many of whom feature former and future major leaguers on their rosters. The Ducks have been competing in that league since 2000, playing their home games at Central Islip’s 6,002-seat, family-friendly Bethpage Ballpark.
Pfaff, who graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in athletic administration, worked in the National Football League’s (NFL) commissioner’s office before joining the Ducks as its communications director in 2002. He was promoted to assistant GM in 2004 and became GM two years later. The Ducks’ three owners—Frank Boulton, former New York Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson and former Deutsche Bank Americas CEO Seth Waugh—named Pfaff as the organization’s president and GM in 2011, after which the Ducks won two Atlantic League championships (2012 and 2013).
“Major League Baseball benefits from our league,” Pfaff continued. “We have players that can step into the role a major league team needs them to fill.” Lew Ford, for instance, began 2012 as the Ducks’ starting left fielder and batted sixth. Ford ended 2012 as the starting left fielder and sixth batter in the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup. The 38-year-old Ford, one of the best players in Ducks history, has since returned to the Ducks as a player and now serves as the team’s hitting coach too. He led by example in 2014, with a .330 batting average, prompting Ford’s designation as the Atlantic League’s Player of the Year. Dontrelle Willis, a one-time standout pitcher for the Miami Marlins, and Ramon Castro, a former Mets catcher, are among the other major leaguers who have played for the Ducks.
The 2015 Ducks, Pfaff said, are in the market for starting pitching to bolster a rotation led by John Brownell (who had a record of 13-9 last season), corner infielders (shortstop Dan Lyons and second baseman Cody Puckett are returning), a catcher and a closer.
Off the field, Pfaff oversees a year-round, full-time staff of 20 employees. The Ducks’ part-time payroll expands dramatically when spring arrives as ushers, concessionaires and grounds crew members, among others, return to their posts. The first of the team’s 70 regular season home games is being held on Friday, May 1 against the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters. The Ducks’ first game is on the road, on Friday, April 24 against the York (PA) Revolution.
Given that the Ducks, and their seven competitors are waiting to see who becomes available as major league baseball teams make their final cuts, the Atlantic League’s spring training schedule is a condensed one. For the Ducks, it’ll start on Monday, April 13.
Pfaff, a married father of three children, resides in Sayville, but there’s one key thing he’d like his former neighbors to know. “We’re not the Suffolk Ducks; we’re the Long Island Ducks,” Pfaff stated, a message the team has conveyed in its marketing and advertising, as well as by having Hofstra University’s radio station, WRHU, 88.7 FM, broadcast the team’s Wednesday and Sunday games.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism.