COLUMBUS A memorable year received an honorable ending for the Akron RubberDucks.
After a red-hot late-season run to make the playoffs, Akron lost just once in the postseason en route to the fifth Eastern League championship in franchise history. In the wake of that championship campaign, state Reps. Emilia Sykes and Greta Johnson celebrated the adoption of House Resolution (HR) 534, honoring the RubberDucks as the 2016 Eastern League Champions.
The lawmakers welcomed a contingent of RubberDucks staffers and employees, led by owner Ken Babby, to the state house to be recognized.
“Once again, the RubberDucks continue the 34th House District’s longstanding tradition of being the birthplace of champions. I am so immensely proud of this team’s unyielding dedication that has earned them this title for the fifth time in 12 years,” Sykes said. “The RubberDucks, along with owner Ken Babby, are an invaluable treasure of the Akron community, and it has been my honor to recognize them at the Statehouse today.”
HR 534, presented during House legislative session by the Sykes and Johnson, recognized the RubberDucks and specifically mentioned the team’s energy, enthusiasm, dedication and athletic skill in winning the championship.
“As a long-time resident of the city of Akron, it is with great pride that I stand before my colleagues to recognize the RubberDucks for an outstanding season,” Johnson said. “This has been an incredible year for Northeast Ohio sports, and we must include the RubberDucks on our list of remarkable Ohio athletes. This team has repeatedly displayed not only athletic prowess, but a dedication to the people of Akron and the entire state of Ohio. Therefore, it is more than fitting for the House of Representatives to honor these extraordinary citizen-athletes and front office staff for their skill, sportsmanship, and outstanding success.”
Johnson also recognized RubberDucks head groundskeeper Chris Walsh, who was the 2016 Eastern League Diamond Pro Sports Field Manager of the Year Award winner, for his work keeping the playing surface at Canal Park in good condition through a multitude of events including the Eastern League All-Star Weekend, 70-plus home games, multiple local high school baseball games and the Akron Marathon finish line inside the park.
Babby, who has done plenty of traveling to minor league baseball’s winter meetings and other obligations since the season ended, was happy to be able to lead a small group of RubberDucks employees to Columbus to be honored.
“It was an incredible honor for our staff, players and the entire Akron community to be honored in this way,” Babby said. “We are deeply thankful for the opportunity.”
It was the latest honor for a team that has amassed quite a few of them this year. In addition to winning the EL title, the RubberDucks were also named the Eastern League’s 2016 nominee for the John H. Johnson President’s Award and general manager Jim Pfander was selected as the Eastern League’s 2016 Executive of the Year.
“We are extremely honored by Reps. Sykes and Johnson’s House resolution and for inviting the entire RubberDucks front office to the statehouse,” Pfander said. “It was great for them to recognize Chris Walsh for his hard work and talent that keeps Canal Park’s field one of the best in all of professional baseball.”
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB