David Kubiak was a Long Island Ducks fan when he was a kid and attended a number of games. He recalls sitting atop the dugouts at Bethpage Ballpark with friends, searching for autographs, with Quackers in hand. Quackers are noisemaking devices shaped like a duck’s bill that making quacking sounds.
“That was the first thing I wanted was one of those things,” Kubiak said. “Now I hate them.”
One good reason for that may be that Kubiak is now a starting pitcher for the Bridgeport Bluefish. When the Connecticut team played the Ducks in a four-game Atlantic League series last week, it amount to a homecoming for Kubiak, who lives in Southold and pitched for Southold High School. Last Wednesday was a day for Kubiak to look forward to, as he got the starting assignment for the first game of a doubleheader.
For one night at least, Kubiak’s friends couldn’t be Ducks fans. Kubiak had served notice with a Facebook posting two days before the game. With tongue in cheek, he wrote, “If I see you with a duck bill noise maker we are no longer friends.”
Then Kubiak went out and made some noise of his own. He turned in a solid performance, picking up the win in a 3-2 victory.
With family and friends looking on and a spring in his step, Kubiak (7-4) struck out the first batter he faced and looked sharp from that point on. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound righthander allowed six hits, struck out eight and did not issue a walk in the six innings he pitched. He threw 65 of his 92 pitches for strikes, making good use of his fastball to stay ahead in the count.
“It’s nice to finally get these guys,” Kubiak, who is 1-2 against the Ducks this season, said following his second playing appearance in Bethpage Park. “It’s always nice to play home.”
Kubiak’s ERA is 3.42 with the Bluefish. He has 91 strikeouts this season against 28 walks, allowing 79 hits in 89 1/3 innings.
Kubiak, 27, was a member of the Bluefish before the New York Yankees bought his contract in May. He put up a 1.42 ERA in three relief appearances with the Double-A Trenton Thunder before a shuffling of rosters sent him to Tampa for extended spring training. Kubiak said the Yankees told him he could play rookie ball, but he declined and asked for his release. He returned to the Bluefish in early July, but his dream of one day playing major league baseball hasn’t faded.
“I’m just trying to keep my head down and grind,” he said. “There’s no immediate satisfaction in this business.”
Kubiak could take satisfaction in his strong outing against the Ducks.
In one of his few missteps of the evening, Kubiak fielded an Anthony Vega bunt in the fourth inning and threw the ball past first baseman Sean Burroughs. It was scored a hit and an error by Kubiak. The next batter, Fehlandt Lentini, singled, making it 1-0. Later in the inning, though, Kubiak made a nice fielding play that may have saved him a run, gloving a chopper and then charging at the runner at second base, Lentini, who was tagged out.
The Bluefish didn’t trail for long. In the fifth, RBI doubles by Wellington Dotel and Jose Cuevas and an RBI single by Geraldo Valentin put Bridgeport ahead, 3-1.
The Ducks threatened in the sixth. After Kubiak fanned the first two batters, Delta Cleary Jr. sprayed a single, stole second base and came home when Lew Ford took a curveball for a double that dropped inside the leftfield line. Following a visit to the mound by Bluefish manager Luis Rodriguez, and with the potential tying run on second, Kubiak recorded a big strikeout of Cody Puckett, the last batter he faced.
Kubiak said that when Rodriguez came out to the mound, “I made sure I stared at him the whole time so he wasn’t pulling me or anything.”
Rodriguez said Kubiak had a “great start” and has been helping the team. The manager continually reminds the pitcher not to try to strike everyone out in order to keep his pitch count down.
“You need to save bullets,” he said. “The last couple of starts he tried to strike out everybody. That’s not what this game’s all about. Let those guys swing the bat. You have [eight] guys out there, they can help you. Don’t try to be the hero. So, he did a really good job.”
Of his family and friends, Kubiak said: “When they’re here and I can do well in front of them … it’s just really pretty cool.”
Then he added: “As long as they don’t have those stupid Quacker things.”
Photo caption: David Kubiak of Southold, pitching for the Bridgeport Bluefish, allowed two runs and six hits, striking out eight over six innings in a 3-2 win over the Long Island Ducks at Bethpage Ballpark. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)