By: Mike Ashmore (Special to LIDucks.com)
(Central Islip, N.Y., Oct. 2, 2019) - Nobody would bat an eye if Daniel Fields grumbled, even if it was only a little bit, when he once again saw his name penciled into the nine-hole in Long Island Ducks manager Wally Backman’s lineup card on Wednesday afternoon.
It was a spot the ten-year veteran and former major-leaguer filled just four times during the regular season, but it’s where he’s found himself during the postseason; he smacked a solo home run in Game 2 of the Liberty Division Championship Series and got the start in Tuesday night’s Atlantic League Championship Series opener all while batting in the number nine spot.
But, it isn’t even putting ego aside for the affable former Detroit Tigers outfielder. He already comes to the ballpark with the right attitude, with perceptions about spots in the batting order having long since been thrown out the window.
“I don’t even look at it that way,” Fields said. “For me, as long as I’m in the lineup and I’m playing, I’m happy about it. Whatever I can do to help the team win, I’m down for it, and I don’t really care about where I’m hitting in the lineup. I just want to be in there, playing and helping the team win and that’s all that matters for me.”
It is every bit of a genuine statement for Fields, who hit .244 with a career-high 14 home runs and 36 RBI in 89 games for the Ducks this season, his second with the club and third in the Atlantic League.
“He’s a good team guy,” Backman said.
“I’ve hit Fieldsy second, because of the numbers or first a couple of times because of the numbers, and it always seems to work out for him. And I’ve done the same thing with (Vladimir) Frias going from eight to two or to one, it’s worked out when you’re trying to rest a guy…Fieldsy brings speed and power to the table, and usually you don’t have that in the 7-8-9 area, very seldom. I know he hit 14 home runs, and it was in less than 300 at-bats, and he’s a guy that’s at the bottom of the order that could change the game with one big swing. (The Skeeters) have (Javier) Betancourt, and I know he can swing it and hit one out once in every great while, but it doesn’t set the same presence, I don’t think. I’m playing the numbers right now. With Fieldsy, it’s all about the numbers and the success he’s had against these guys. (D’Arby) Myers deserves to play too, he’s a speed guy and he’s played well, but I’m strictly playing the numbers right now.”
Just don’t expect an artificial boost in those numbers for the 28-year-old based on where he’s hitting. Having long built a reputation as one of the most steady, consistent and well-rounded outfielders in the league since debuting with the Bridgeport Bluefish in 2017, Fields says that he isn’t getting pitched any differently despite where he’s hitting.
“I think people know what I can do, they’ve seen it before,” Fields said. “I don’t think, necessarily, that because I’m in the nine-hole, they’re saying, ‘Let’s groove fastballs’ or anything like that. They still pitch me the same way from when I used to hit third or when I was hitting second or the middle of the order. I’ve still got to keep my same approach, I know I’m not going to get fastballs right down the middle. They’re going to challenge me with offspeed.”
With the length of the lineup, especially with a power presence like Fields at the bottom of the order, it will provide him some unique opportunities to drive in runs from that spot that he might not be afforded on other teams.
“A lot of times, you come up to hit, and you’ve got guys on base and guys in scoring position,” Fields said. “Usually, night in and night out, we’ve got exciting things happening with guys hitting home runs. We’re scoring a lot of runs. It’s fun, it’s exciting to be in that lineup. You kind of feed off the other guys, when they do stuff, it makes you want to do something too. It’s been a lot of fun this year.”
Fields and the rest of the Ducks look to continue that fun, and will do so with a 1-0 series lead when Game 2 of the AtLCS gets underway at 6:35 PM on Wednesday night at Bethpage Ballpark.
“We’ve just got to keep playing how we have been,” he said. “Not putting any pressure on ourselves; we need to execute, get guys over when we can and drive guys in when they’re in scoring position. We just want to have fun.”