Thursday, April 7, 2011
#654) JEFF DUNCAN
Jeff Duncan was selected by the New York Mets organization in the seventh round of the free agent draft on June 5, 2000. The talented outfielder was named an All-Star while a member of the Single-A Capital City Bombers in 2002. He was a member of the Double-A Binghamton Mets when recalled to New York on May 18, 2003. Wearing uniform no. 61, he made his major-league debut at Shea Stadium on May 20th. Duncan appeared as a pinch-hitter and stayed in the game as a defensive replacement in centerfield. Jeff's first big-league visit was short-lived for when Jeromy Burnitz returned from the disabled list the rookie was returned to Binghamton on May 23rd.
The first Met to ever consistently wear uniform 61 returned on July 10, 2003. (Mario Ramirez wore the number for two days in 1980.) "I'm not going to say anything about it until they change it for me," Jeff said when asked about the odd number selection. The fleet-footed Duncan fit well into the second spot in a batting order that now featured fellow rookie, José Reyes. His superb outfield play also drew praise. "We're a different defensive team with him in centerfield," stated Mets manager Art Howe.
"My favorite Shea moment was my first home run," shared Duncan. "Hit it off the Phillies' pitcher, Brandon Duckworth." The moment came during a 4-3 victory on July 12th and started a period where Jeff collected 12 hits in 11 games and raised his batting average to a scorching .400. A prolonged slump lowered that average and he was sent to Triple-A Norfolk in August. Duncan returned to finish the season in New York, and was still part of the team for the beginning of the 2004 campaign before being returned to the Norfolk Tides on May 5th. Jeff was released at the conclusion of a full year in the minor-leagues on August 10, 2005.
Following time with other teams, Jeff ended his playing career in 2008. He took a position as a volunteer assistant coach with Auburn University that same summer. It allowed the former outfielder opportunity to pursue his passion to teach the game. Duncan had served eight years as an instructor at the Diamond Sports Academy in Mokena, Illinois, from 2001-2008. Auburn Tigers Head Coach, John Pawlowski said on Duncan's arrival, "He is an up-and-coming coach that really knows his baseball and I am looking forward to him working with our team." In 2009, Duncan joined the staff of Purdue University as an Assistant Coach for their baseball program. He began working with the Boilermaker hitters, outfielders, team defense, and base running, as well as assisting with recruiting.
Jeff Duncan signed his card in the set for me following the Purdue and Butler University game at Bulldog Park in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 6, 2011. Adding the date of his first major-league home run which he hit at Shea Stadium on July 12, 2003.