Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rob Ducey, Big Responsibility - 584

Originally published May 4, 2012; Updated May 2015
With Ken Griffey Jr. sidelined for the Mariners in June 1997, Rob Ducey tried to do his best to fill in.

Ducey's best on this night included three doubles and a Seattle win.

"You put pressure on yourself," Ducey told The Associated Press. "Before the game, I was thinking about that. It's a big responsibility to replace the best player in baseball. That's probably the toughest job to do."

For Ducey, though, the responsibility of replacing Griffey likely wasn't as big as the responsibility of an entire nation pinning its hopes on him.

That original responsibility was evident for Ducey in his first major league at bat, in 1987 with the Blue Jays - with the Toronto native getting a standing ovation just for flying out for his hometown team.

Ducey's career began in 1984, signed by the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent out of Seminole Community College.

He started at rookie Medicine Hat, hitting .302. He made single-A Florence in 1985, then spent most of 1986 at AA Knoxville. For 1987, he started at AAA Syracuse. By May, Ducey was in Toronto.

In his first at bat, Ducey flew out to center field. The Canadian Press reported the inconsequential fly out garnered a standing ovation for the Canadian from the Canadian crowd. Ducey told The CP he was already tired of people asking him whether he felt more pressure playing for the Blue Jays as a Canadian.

"If I had half the self-induced pressure on myself that everybody thinks I'm supposed to have, I wouldn't be able to perform," Ducey told The CP. "I've got a lot of confidence in my ability, but that shouldn't be interpreted as being overly cocky."

Ducey got into 34 games for the Blue Jays that year, hitting just .198. He returned for 27 games the next year and 41 games in 1989. But Ducey was never able to gain traction with the Blue Jays. He played with them into 1992, but never more than those 41 games in a single season.

In mid-1992, the Blue Jays finally sent Ducey to the Angels in a three-player deal. Between the Blue Jays and the Angels, Ducey got into 54 total games. By 1994, though, with Texas, Ducey got into just 11. In 1995 and 1996, he played in Japan with the Nippon Ham Fighters.

But his best days in the majors were still coming. Ducey signed for 1997 with the Mariners. The outfielder played in 76 games that year, hitting .287. He played in 97 games with Seattle in 1998.

"Spring training I felt I had to fight for a job on this team," Ducey told The Seattle Times in April 1998. "Maybe that's the edge that keeps me going, maybe that's the edge I need to perform at this level. I've never felt comfortable, ever. I've always had to fight. Every day I go out there I feel I have to do something, little, big, something positive, to go back out there the next day."

Moving to the Phillies for 1999, Ducey even got five hits in a single game that August, one of the 104 games he played that year. Ducey continued playing into 2001, when he ended his career with 27 games played for the other Canadian team, the Expos.

Ducey has since gone on to a career as a scout, first with the Blue Jays and with the Rays. For 2015, he's serving as hitting coach with the Phillies at high-A Clearwater.

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