Forty-eight days before the Indians lost to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series on Nov. 2, 2016, their Double-A affiliate, the RubberDucks won the Eastern League championship, their second in five years.

Thirty-three days before the Indians’ disappointing Game 5 loss to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series on Oct. 11, 2017, their single-A affiliate Lynchburg Hillcats emerged victorious in the Carolina League championship.

For the Indians, their recent success at the major-league level is breeding the same winning culture, much in part due to the familiarity among players in the organization. The familiarity reaches into the dugout as well.

RubberDucks manager Tony Mansolino, hitting coach Kevin Howard and pitching coach Rigo Beltran all served those same positions last season in Lynchburg.

As of now, that familiarity is working. The RubberDucks currently are at 44-34 and 1.5 games ahead of the Altoona Curve in the Eastern League’s Western Division.

Former Ducks manager Mark Budzinski joined the Indians coaching staff after the 2017 season, which opened the door for Mansolino’s promotion. Mansolino found out from the organization around Christmas time, and the rest is history.

“[The promotion] is more the product of Mark Budzinski being an addition to the major-league staff,” Mansolino said. “That opened up a door here. You get familiarly. It’s kind of easier to go through the day with that.”

Only seven members of the 2018 Ducks were not members of the 2017 Hillcats, and all but four players were drafted by the Indians.

The impact of last year’s Hillcats team is evident up and down the roster. Outfielder Andrew Calica leads the team with a .296 batting average, and Connor Marabell leads with 40 RBI.

Sean Brady has a 3.73 ERA in 72 innings, and Kieran Lovegrove has only allowed two earned runs in 17 innings out of the bullpen. The players who contributed for the 2017 Lynchburg Hillcats have picked up right where they left off.

“The camaraderie is already there,” outfielder Ka’ai Tom said. Tom had 65 RBI with Lynchburg last year and is fifth on the RubberDucks this year with 31 RBI. “Some things are hammered on more because it’s AA and you’re a step closer to the big leagues. This year kind of started out like last year [in Lynchburg] in that we started out slow with the bats but had solid pitching and have since picked it up.”

Last year’s Lynchburg team also clinched the first-half and second-half Northern Division titles, setting up a showdown with the Frederick Keys in the championship series. The Hillcats beat the Keys 7-1 in the clincher. Willi Castro (the only current RubberDucks player on the Indians’ 40-man roster) went 3-for-5 with two RBI, current Indian Adam Plutko picked up the win on the mound and Ducks reliever Argenis Angulo threw a scoreless ninth inning to set up a champagne celebration on the mound.

“I go back to [Single-A] Lake County with some of these guys, so it feels more like a family,” Angulo said. “You’re not working here, you’re coming to have fun with your family.”

That sense of kinship is vital for the Ducks since the jump from high-A to Double-A can be the toughest in minor-league baseball. From the pitch clock to the longer season, there’s a multitude of variables that players have to adapt to on the fly, Mansolino included.

“Everybody’s bullpen is good,” he said of the biggest Double-A difference. “Before, you’d get to the [back of] a bullpen and they’re average guys. Now [those guys] are pretty good, and maybe your last guy is average. The bullpens are unrelenting.”

For Ducks starter Triston McKenzie (the No. 2 prospect in the Indians’ system who went 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA in Lynchburg last season), it was more the speed of the game.

“It’s much faster here, and there’s the pitch clock,” he said. “That’s going to take some adjusting to. The game is the same from every level, just speeds up a little bit.”

This, coupled with the fact that you’re a step closer to the major leagues, can prove to be too much for some players, whether it be from a talent standpoint or a mental standpoint. But for Mansolino, it’s all about making sure his players keep their perspective.

“Don’t overreact to the lulls in a season,” he said. “Just continue to understand that you’re here for a reason, and that if the game tells you that you need to make an adjustment, listen to it.”

One of the things that has helped the Ducks become so close is their affinity for ping-pong. According to Tom, it started in Mahoning Valley, where he and his roommate, Marabell, would invite their teammates over and they’d play in their host families’ basement. Now they do battle in the middle of the clubhouse, Tom slamming the ball across the table, while Marabell focusing more on backspin.

The next few years could feature a significant roster shakeup for the Indians. Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall will all be free agents after this season. Jason Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer are all set to hit free agency after the 2020 season. Maybe the Indians choose to bring most of them back, surrounding Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor with familiar faces when they conceivably hit their peaks. Or maybe the choose to let them walk, allowing current Ducks such as No. 3 prospect Bobby Bradley, McKenzie or Castro to make an impact at the major-league level.

But Mansolino isn’t looking that far ahead. For him, he’s making sure his players, the ones that he’s been with since Lynchburg, are focused on taking it one level at a time.

“This is a great place,” he said. “The big focus is making sure that these players are ready for

AAA next year.”

“The camaraderie is already there. Some things are hammered on more because it’s AA and you’re a step closer to the big leagues. This year kind of started out like last year [in Lynchburg] in that we started out slow with the bats but had solid pitching and have since picked it up.”

Ka’ai Tom

RubberDucks outfielder