(Central Islip, N.Y., Jan. 31, 2023) – The Long Island Ducks today announced their coaching staff for the 2023 season, slated to begin on Friday, April 28. Nelson Figueroa begins his first season in the role of Ducks pitching coach, as he joins returning manager Wally Backman and hitting coach Lew Ford.
“Nelson is a former Duck, a nine-year Major League veteran and a New York native,” said Ducks President/GM Michael Pfaff. “We are excited to welcome him back to Long Island and look forward to adding his expertise to our coaching staff.”
Figueroa has 20 seasons of professional playing experience, including nine in the Major Leagues. He spent time at the MLB level with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2000), Philadelphia Phillies (2001, 2010), Milwaukee Brewers (2002), Pittsburgh Pirates (2003-04), New York Mets (2008-09) and Houston Astros (2010-11). During his time in the big leagues, he made 145 appearances (65 starts), posting a 4.55 ERA, one save and 337 strikeouts over 499 innings. Figueroa was originally selected by the Mets in the 30th round of the 1995 amateur draft out of Brandeis University.
The Brooklyn native pitched with the Ducks during the 2006 season. He made two starts with the Flock, yielding three earned runs in nine and two-thirds innings before having his contract purchased by the Washington Nationals organization. Two seasons later, he became the sixth player in franchise history to reach MLB after playing with the Ducks when he was called up by the Mets. Most recently, Figueroa served as pitching coach for the Staten Island FerryHawks of the Atlantic League in 2022, serving under former Ducks infielder and FerryHawks manager Edgardo Alfonzo.
“I am very fortunate and excited to be returning to the Long Island Ducks this season,” said Figueroa. “The organization was instrumental not only in getting me back to affiliated baseball but also in getting me back to being a big leaguer again. My goal is to help more players get back on track and to help re-establish the Ducks winning ways in 2023.”
Backman returns for his fourth season as Ducks manager in 2023. He has compiled a regular season record of 218-174, good for a .556 winning percentage. The 63-year-old has guided the Ducks to three half-season divisional titles, two division championships and the Atlantic League championship in 2019. He was named the league’s Manager of the Year in 2019 after breaking the franchise’s single-season wins record. Additionally, in his three years at the helm, more than 35 Ducks players have had their contracts purchased by or joined Major League organizations/foreign professional leagues.
The Oregon native has over 20 seasons of managerial experience in professional baseball, having amassed a 1,345-1,251 overall record (.518 winning percentage). He has led his teams to eight division championships and four league titles. Prior to his coaching career, Backman enjoyed a 14-year Major League playing career, nine of which were with the New York Mets (1980-88) where he won the 1986 World Series. He also spent time with the Minnesota Twins (1989), Pittsburgh Pirates (1990), Philadelphia Phillies (1991-92) and Seattle Mariners (1993), playing in 1,102 games.
Ford returns for his 13th season with the Ducks organization, more than any other player in franchise history, and ninth in a player/coach role. He is the franchise’s all-time hits leader with 1,002, making him one of just four players in Atlantic League history to reach 1,000 hits. He sits 94 hits away from tying former Ducks infielder Bryant Nelson as the all-time league leader (1,096). The Texas native has totaled 497 RBIs, 527 runs and 218 doubles in a Ducks uniform, which leaves him 51 RBIs, 72 runs and 27 doubles shy of tying Ray Navarrete for the Ducks all-time records. Ford’s 842 games with the Flock have him 46 shy of equaling Dan Lyons’ team record (888).
The 46-year-old has been selected to play in three Atlantic League All-Star Games (2014, 2015, 2018). In 2014, he became the second player in franchise history to be named the league’s Player of the Year after breaking the ALPB’s single-season records for hits (189) and games played (140). As a coach, the Central Islip resident has helped two other Ducks players be named Player of the Year (Jordany Valdespin, 2018; Steve Lombardozzi, 2021). Ford has amassed six seasons of Major League experience during his 23-year playing career, spending time with the Minnesota Twins (2003-07) and Baltimore Orioles (2012).
The Long Island Ducks are members of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, a Professional Partner League of Major League Baseball. Over 8.5 million fans have enjoyed the Ducks brand of affordable, fun entertainment at Fairfield Properties Ballpark since inception in 2000. For further information, visit LIDucks.com or call 631-940-DUCK (3825).
About the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB)
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary Season in 2023, the Atlantic League is Major League Baseball’s first Professional Partner League, a player gateway to the major leagues, and a leader in baseball innovation. ALPB has sent over 1,200 players to MLB organizations while drawing more than 45 million fans to its family-friendly ballparks throughout its 25-year history. Please visit AtlanticLeague.com.