Shelley Duncan Is Back In Trenton
Shelley Duncan is back for his second season as the amiable, power-hitting first baseman of the Yankees Double-A affiliate in Trenton, NJ. At 27, Duncan has largely fallen from the prospect radar, but that doesn’t mean he has changed his personality or his attitude.
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After Eric Duncan was converted to play first base and started this season at Triple-A Columbus, it is clear that Shelley Duncan’s future with the Yankees is limited. But he is undaunted.
“I understand what they’re [the Yankees] doing and I’m at peace with it," Shelley Duncan told us. "I am just going to continue to go about my business in a professional way. I can only try to get better everyday. I can’t control anything else.”
The biggest change for Duncan, who led the Eastern League with 34 home runs in 2005, is in his mental approach to hitting and that he claims to have a better understanding of himself.
“I worked a lot on my mental approach in the off-season and I feel like I am better in that aspect," said the 27-year old. "I spent a lot of time talking to people, friends and people in baseball, coaches, and I really tried to understand myself more, building on my strengths and defeating my weaknesses.”
Duncan’s biggest problems in 2005 were his consistency and his strikeouts. He finished second in the Eastern League with 140 strikeouts in 2005 and hit a stretch in the middle of the season where he hit a new low in terms of success at the plate. Duncan believes he made great strides in these areas last year, but says they are still areas where he can still improve.
“I made great strides last year, but I still had a month and a half stretch where I hit rock bottom and I thought a lot about why every year I hit a stretch like that,” said Duncan.
Trenton manager Bill Masse, who has managed Duncan the last three seasons between Tampa and Trenton, said last year Duncan was as consistent as Masse had ever seen him. Duncan knows what the keystone to that consistency is.
He believes, “It’s all about having the right approach at the plate and having a game plan for every at-bat.”
The off-season work has paid off for Duncan through the first eight games of 2006. Duncan is hitting .267 with four doubles, a home run, and only four strikeouts in his 30 at-bats. While Duncan is one of only a handful of Trenton hitters to swing the bat in the season’s first week, he doesn’t let himself get caught up in his own success. He chooses instead to focus on his team’s success and his progress throughout the entire season.
“Nothing [individual success] really means much unless your happy and right now I’m missing that feeling, cause like everyone in this room, I want to get a win and I’m focused on doing what I can to help my team,” Duncan admitted.
Trenton has started the season 0-8 and Duncan wants to help his team improve as he improves. Both have a long way to go.
“I have a picture of myself as a player and that’s the player I want to be," said the slugging first baseman. "I want to be a better all-around player, the most complete hitter I can be. I can play outfield and do different things to make myself valuable to the manager. The biggest thing is to be more consistent because that’s what I have to do to be a Major League baseball player,” said Duncan.
Duncan doesn’t have statistical goals for himself this season, but rather wants to focus on that consistency he deems so crucial to his future success.
“I don’t have any one goal in terms of stats," Duncan revealed. "Just to come to the field everyday and have a solid approach, stick to the plan and not worry about the results because I know if I stick to the plan, that when I look back at the end of the year, the results will be there. If I start to worry about the results and throw out the plan, then the results aren’t going to show up,” said the realistic Duncan.
It is unfortunate that Duncan seems to have fallen out of favor at first base in comparison to others because he still has the potential to be a solid power-hitting designated hitter or first baseman in the Major Leagues. While he refused to admit that he is likely playing for the other 29 teams in the league after the Yankees off-season moves, with his upbeat personality and unflappable desire to improve, there is no question he will eventually get his chance.
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