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VOL. 43 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 11, 2019

Duvall decides he has more to learn, returns for senior season

By Tom Wood

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13 picked, 12 signed

Vanderbilt’s SEC record-tying* 13 players picked in the 2019 MLB Draft in June. All signed pro contracts except for Ty Duvall, who returns to Vandy for the 2020 season.

Pos.PlayerRnd, Team
OF JJ Bleday 1st, Miami**
RHP Drake Fellows 6th, San Diego
C Philip Clarke 9th, Toronto
SS Ethan Paul 9th, Pittsburgh
OF Stephen Scott 10th, Boston
LHP Zach King 13th, (Miami
LHP Jackson Gillis 13th, Milwaukee
Pos. Player Rnd, Team
LHP Joe Gobillot 16th, Tampa Bay
LHP A.J. Franklin 17th, Kansas City
RHP Patrick Raby 17th, Cincinnati
OF Pat DeMarco 17th, New York (AL)
C Ty Duvall 25th, Oakland
1B Julian Infante 36th, Miami

*The Commodores matched the SEC record of most players drafted, also held by Texas A&M (2016) and Kentucky (2018).

** JJ Bleday was the 4th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.
Source: Vanderbilt


Ever since he started playing baseball, Vanderbilt catcher Ty Duvall dreamed of someday playing professionally.

In June, the chance to realize that dream came – and went.

Duvall was one of a record-tying 13 Vandy players selected in June’s major league draft, taken in the 25th round by the Oakland Athletics. The other dozen Commodores signed contracts after leading Vanderbilt to its second College World Series national championship.

Duvall expected to spend the summer playing minor league baseball just like his fellow draftees.

But then something funny happened. He talked to friends, family, coaches and teammates about returning to the Commodores for one final season.

“Ultimately this is where I felt like I needed to be,” Duvall explains. “I was really excited for all the guys that got drafted. I was really close to a lot of those guys and hearing them talk about it, I just don’t think I had the same feeling and I couldn’t figure out why.

“There was a lot of things that went into the decision process but this is where I felt like I needed to be. And I can’t put a finger to one exact thing that led to that, but I just had a different feeling about it than everyone else did.”

It’s a win-win situation, both for Duvall and Vanderbilt.

For starters, it’s an opportunity to help defend the Commodores’ national championship. Duvall will provide necessary stability and leadership for a team featuring 15 talented incoming freshmen.

He’ll get to catch Commodores ace Kumar Rocker, who threw the first no-hitter (with 19 strikeouts) in the NCAA Super Regional tournament and was named college baseball’s top freshman.

A standout season also could improve next year’s draft status for Duvall, who in May will graduate with a degree in human and organizational development.

Catcher Ty Duvall was one of 13 players taken in this year’s MLB draft. He took a pass.

-- Photograph Provided

“I think everything you said there is true, and I think that’s what inevitably would enhance his draft stock, is his growth,” Commodores Coach Tim Corbin says.

“(Duvall) is a baseball player. It is on the front of his mind all the time. Not to say he’s not a good student because he is a very organized student, he’s an honor roll student. But Ty loves baseball,” Corbin adds, emphasizing each of those last three words.

“But I think what the best thing for him was to be here at Vanderbilt learning and growing – because he has. And I think he sees the next step for him is an opportunity to advance himself.

“The other part that’s important to Ty is he just wants to be a leader. Leadership is a very important component of this kid.”

Duvall says there was no second-guessing the choice he made.

“No, not at all. As soon as I made a decision to come back, it was like the biggest weight had been lifted off my shoulders,” he acknowledges. “Just because I knew it was the right decision but it was hard, you know, seeing 13 guys get drafted and 12 of them sign.

“But, you know, it felt like it was something that I needed to do but I just didn’t have that feeling about it. And once I came to fruition about it and understood that this is where I needed to be and once I made finally that decision, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

“It felt like a hundred pounds had been lifted off my shoulders, and I haven’t looked back since.

“Playing professional baseball’s been a goal of mine ever since I was a little kid. Hopefully, I’m lucky enough to maybe get an opportunity again in the future. But this is where I need to be and this is where my focus is at. The professional baseball side will take care of itself.”

Duvall says he stayed in contact with several of his drafted teammates once they began playing at all of the various levels of minor league baseball.

Outfielder JJ Bleday was a first-round draft pick, selected fourth overall by the Miami Marlins. Bleday played for the Class A Jupiter (Florida) Hammerheads, batting .257 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 32 games.

Catcher Philip Clark, a ninth-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, was named to the Northwest League All-Star team while batting .257 with 48 total bases and 16 RBIs for the Vancouver Canadians.

And first baseman Julian Infante – the last of the 13 Commodores selected in the draft, in the 36th round by the Marlins – played well enough that he was called up to the Single-A Batavia Muckdogs. He batted a combined .231 for two teams.

On the mound, left-hander Zach King – a 13th-round pick of Miami – was 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Marlins.

“I understand how hard they work, how much baseball means to them and how much this program means to them and being able to see them getting rewarded for all the stuff that they’ve done for myself and this program. It’s really good to see that pay off for them in the end,” Duvall says.

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