Despite setbacks student athlete prevails

Comet catcher makes difference on field, in classroom


George Morin / The Advocate

Comet catcher Lawrence “Davey” Duncan leads the Bay Valley Conference with the least passed balls as a catcher. Duncan is known for the loud vocal leadership he brings to the Comet baseball team.

By Jose Jimenez, Staff Writer

Sitting in a room where Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) takes place await- ing test results after experiencing brain trauma could diminish an athlete’s motivation.

But for Contra Costa College catcher Lawrence “Davey” Duncan, this was not the case.

“I honestly believed the doctor was going to say I couldn’t play baseball anymore.”

Duncan regularly had to sit on an ice-cold hospital table. He suffered three concussions over a five-month period while he played on the Newark Memorial High School football team.

“I was fine with the doctor telling me I couldn’t play football ever again,” he said.

In 2009, Duncan would end up sitting out the rest of his only football season to cope with head trauma and evaluate his athletic options.

“Baseball is my passion,” he said. “As a little kid I remember all of my Little League teammates being scared of the ball. I was the only one getting back (behind home plate) and enjoyed suiting up with all that heavy catcher gear.”

Currently, he ranks first in the Bay Valley Conference with the least passed balls as a catcher.

His father, Larry Duncan, said his son’s faith and tribulations through injuries have made him the anchor of CCC’s pitching staff this season.

Statistically, he is one of the better catchers in the BVC.

Larry Duncan said he was with his son throughout the recovery period of his head injuries.

“He was going against some bigger kids at the time in high school and (Davey) was definitely seeing some stars afterward,” the elder Duncan said. “The hard-ass coach, which was me at the time, didn’t know it was a concussion.

“However, my fatherly instincts immediately came out and I soon realized something was seriously wrong.

“I was worried and scared after learning about the long-term symptoms of concussions.”

After the concussions, Duncan played basketball his sophomore year at Newark Memorial, but said the athletic passion in him was dying.

“Something was missing,” Duncan said. “I was looking for a spark.”

The year 2010 would end up being his final one at Newark Memorial.

His mother, Denise Duncan, said the commute from Vacaville to Newark was strenuous.

So Denise Duncan said she enrolled her son at Rodriguez High School in Fairfield.

Duncan said she was happy with the move and knew her son would welcome the new change because he always got along with everybody.

She said as a “little guy” Duncan was a natural team leader — a “team-first” type of guy.

Newark, she said, was a less desirable place to be for Duncan because he was able to get better academic guidance and baseball training playing for the Mustangs.

“I was very happy as a mother,” she said. “While I bet he missed his friends at Newark, I believed he would be OK with the move because he adjusted to change so well. Plus he was the class clown.

“He would always make people laugh. He always found a way to get out of a funk, no matter what.”

Close friend and Comet outfielder Randy Rudolph, who is also from Fairfield, said Duncan is a very talented and knowledge- able person who knows how to brighten people’s lives.

“He’s also a stand up comedian,” Rudolph said.

“He always makes everyone on the team laugh and is just so easy to get along with. He has been an inspiration on my life since I have joined the team and I consider him as one of my brothers.”

Duncan said he met Rudolph when he transferred to Rodriguez High School. This is where Duncan also met Mustang baseball coach Jason Chatham.

Chatham said he still remembers when Duncan came to the team his junior year in high school.

“We already had a good team,” Chatham said.

“Players were already established on the Mustangs, especially our senior catcher at the time. But (Duncan’s) personality really came out. Even after our practices, he was always the last guy to leave the baseball field.”

He said Duncan always puts in extra work but was waiting for the right moment to put him into a game.

His opportunity came during a playoff game in 2011 when Duncan played during the playoffs against Placer High School in the semi-final of the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships, Chatham said.

“I felt the other catcher wasn’t ready for the moment and I looked at (Duncan) and knew he was ready,” Chatham said. “You couldn’t rattle this guy.”

The Mustangs won the section championship on Duncan’s solid catching and play calling behind home plate and the rest is history, he said.

Duncan is the youngest sibling in his family and has two older sisters, Sera-Rose, 23, and Desirae Durbin, 31.

He said he and his sisters have built a strong relationship with his parents, who he calls his “best friends.”

Growing up his mother was president of his Little League team, the Newark American Little League ballclub.

He said he became fascinated with SportsCenter and ditched cartoons for good, watching all the athletes on TV.

He knew he had to do whatever it took to feed his competitive appetite for playing baseball.

His father quickly told him catching was going to be his spot in the lineup from now on and said if Duncan really wanted to play baseball, he was best suited for suiting up and getting behind home plate.

“He was a duck in water,” his father said. “He loved putting on all the equipment and he just enjoyed being around all the action. Catchers pretty much touch the ball all the time just like pitchers. And he thrived on it.”

Duncan did not play T-Ball growing up. His father put him straight into the next level.

“I love baseball and welcomed all the competition ever since I was small,” Duncan said.

“Growing up my dad’s management skills helped me in my game as a kid. But he also pushed me hard when I first started and didn’t play favorites.” Growing up his father told him the assumption of T-Ball was essentially “babysitting”.

Larry’s philosophy is that an individual’s baseball skills could not really be presented at the T-Ball level.

He said he ultimately decided to coach Duncan through his first year of baseball. “I’ll do anything for (Davey),” Larry Duncan said. “Our relationship is far more than base- ball. It’s about family, his future and not just about what’s happening right now in sports.”

Duncan is third on the Comet team in steals and walks. So far this season he has a 1.000 fielding percentage, according to California Community College Athletic Association stats.

Duncan’s aggressive play, combined with his baseball IQ are attributed to watching his favorite players, Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals and Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, play baseball.

“I try to incorporate their skills into my game when I’m playing,” he said.

“I might not be the fastest, but my aggressiveness while running bases and catching skills make me the player who I am today.”

Where his baseball skills take him after CCC is currently undecided, Duncan said.

He said he is a California kid at heart and dreams about playing for his favorite base- ball team — the Los Angeles Angels.

However, to get to that level, Duncan said he will have to continue to train hard to make it to Division I baseball.

He said going east across the Mississippi River to Alcorn State is a possibility, but he will ultimately decide when he graduates from CCC majoring in liberal arts.

Comet baseball coach Marvin Webb said Duncan is a good team player and a hard worker.

“He’s already a good catcher,” Webb said. “But he is always working to get better.”

Comet pitcher Christian Sadler said that is what separates him from the rest.

“He’s good at blocking balls and knowing how to frame pitches perfectly,” he said.