First season: 2004
Years in league: 2004
Ballpark: Price Cutter Park
Ozark, Missouri became that state's third Frontier League franchise through a situation similar to the one which led to the DuBois County Dragons joining the league in 1999.
The Central League's Springfield-Ozark Mountain Ducks were purchased by the owners of the Southeastern League's Pensacola Pelicans. It was then announced that the Pensacola Pelicans would join the Central League, temporarily leaving Ozark without a team. The very next day it was reported that the Kenosha Mammoths would play move to the Springfield, MO area and become the Springfield-Ozark Ducks, dropping "Mountain" from the name.
Joining the Texas-Louisiana League, as the Central League was then known, in 1999, the Mountain Ducks were an immediate hit at the gate. Playing in brand-new Price Cutter Park, the Mountain Ducks exceeded 150,000 fans in 1999 and passed the 200,000 mark in 2000. By 2003, however, attendance had fallen to 75,000.
Springfield-Ozark looked to be a much better fit for the Frontier League than the Central League. While the Central League teams are predominantly in Texas and Louisiana, the Ducks have two in-state rivals in Mid-Missouri and River City.
The Ducks had a moderately successful season on the field. The team was in contention all season but fell short of the playoffs. While no player had a huge year offensively, several were solid. First baseman Todd Leathers (.275-10-69) and third baseman Tanner Townsend (.252-12-61, 15 steals) provided the punch in the middle of the lineup. OF-1B Brian Kirby (.256-15-55) led the team in homers. Steve Haake (.290-10-53, 16 steals) and Eddie Harper (.294, 12 steals) also contributed, while David Fischer (.296) split time between outfield and designated hitter.
Pitching was the Ducks' strong suit. Jamie Bennett (10-5, 3.70) was the ace, while Luis Villareal went 6-3 before being traded to Windy City for Brett Stephens, who went 3-1 as a Duck. Cody Fisher (7-8, 3.79) had a chance to tie Pete Buck and Phill Kojack for career victories but failed to gain the one more win he needed. Closer Randy Vanderplow (4-2, 2.01, nine saves) was signed by the Yankees at the end of July. His place was taken by Nathan Stone (2-1, 2.23 eight saves).
The future of the Ducks in Ozark was the source of speculation all season. Attendance was not what was expected. The big blow came after the season, when it was announced that the St. Louis Cardinals would move their Double-A affiliate to nearby Springfield and brand-new 8,000-seat Hammonds Field. Management announced their intention to stay in Ozark in 2005, but before 2004 was out the team had ceased operations and was replaced by the Ohio Valley Redcoats.
Price Cutter Park, home of the Springfield-Ozark Ducks.
|Year||Won||Lost||GB||Finish||Attendance||Manager||Playoffs First Round||Playoffs Second Round|
Major Award Winners: none
Ducks Post-Season All-Stars: none
Players on FL Tenth Anniversary All-Star Team: none
Franchise Player: P Jamie Bennett (2004) anchored the rotation, leading the team in wins, ERA and strikeouts.
Ducks in the majors: none