Meet Kent State's Jeff Duncan
By Sean Ryan
the 2013 season, Big 10 head baseball coaches named Purdue’s
Jeff Duncan as the assistant coach most ready for a head job in
a CollegeBaseballInsider.com survey. Duncan gets his chance,
taking over for Scott Stricklin as the new coach at Kent State.
Duncan was a key part of the Boilermakers’ run to
their first Big 10 title in 103 years in 2012, a year when they
also hosted an NCAA Regional. At Kent State, the former major
leaguer inherits a program that Stricklin and longtime pitching
coach Mike Birkbeck guided to the College World Series, a run
that started by winning the Gary Regional hosted by Purdue.
First Inning – What attracted you to Kent State?
The tradition and expectations.
Second Inning – What kind of pressure do you feel
to maintain the winning tradition at Kent State?
None. There is pressure, but pressure is
good. That’s what lured me to this job, the expectation to win.
Third Inning – Pitching coach Mike Birkbeck
stayed at Kent State instead of moving on to Georgia with Coach
Stricklin. What does that mean to the Golden Flashes?
You’re talking about a staple of the program, one
of the best pitching coaches in the country. He’s loyal and
believes what’s going on here. That is what makes it so special.
Fourth Inning – You were part of Purdue’s best
college baseball season. What was that experience like?
It was really neat. We hadn’t won a Big 10
championship in 100 years. What made is so special was the
players. We had a very good team with a good chemistry, as well.
It was something I’ll never forget.
Fifth Inning – At 34 years old, how does your age
help you as a coach?
I’ve got energy and I’m not too far removed from
playing. I know how hard it is to play the game.
Sixth Inning – After playing at Arizona State,
you spent nine years in professional baseball. What’s the
toughest part about minor league ball?
The whole business of professional baseball is
demanding and unique. There are a lot of adverse
conditions. Guys that have played professional baseball become a
unique breed because they’ve been through a lot of adversity as
far as moving up and down levels. It makes you a resilient
Seventh Inning – You spent parts of two years in
the majors with the Mets. What do you remember about your only
Major League home run? Any other top big league memories?
It was a great experience. My family happened to
be at the game, which was great. It was against Brandon
Duckworth. I was leading off or hitting in the 2-hole that game,
got down 0-2 and got a fastball in. It was a great feeling,
something I’ll never forget.
Eighth Inning – Who are the five toughest
pitchers you’ve faced, whether in college, the minors or the
Randy Johnson, Billy Wagner, Jason Schmidt,
Javier Vasquez, Mark Prior
Ninth Inning – What are some of the things you
look for in recruiting hitters?
Feel. The feel of being able to make some
adjustments, having some rhythm, bat speed and hand-eye
(photo courtesy of KSU Media Relatons)