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Yankees Turn To Duncan In First Round

June 4, 2003
By Alan Matthews

The same day the Yankees named shortstop Derek Jeter their new team captain, they selected a lifelong Yankees fan that just might claim the same role in the future with their first-round draft pick.

Eric Duncan is a power-hitting infielder from Seton Hall Prep of West Orange, N.J., with the pedigree of a pinstriper. Duncan swings from the left side, is described by scouts and coaches as a hard worker and, despite a commitment to Louisiana State, seems eager to begin his road to Yankee Stadium.

"They've always been my favorite team," Duncan said. "To be drafted by an organization with a great history--the way they treat their players and their dedication to winning--you can’t ask for anything more."

The Yankees had Duncan on their radar early on during the scouting process but pre-draft speculation suggested he would be picked before the Yankees drafted with the 27th overall selection.

"Eric is an extremely talented third baseman with tremendous makeup," senior vice president of baseball operations Gordon Blakeley said. "We were fortunate to have someone of Eric's ability available to us at the 27th pick in the first round. This puts a strong lefthanded hitting third baseman in our system. We're very happy."

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound 18-year-old wanted to go to the Yankees but felt his stock may have risen too high.

"I heard all the stuff that I might not get to them, but it worked out great," he said.

Now that he landed with the team of his choice, a 90-percent scholarship offer from LSU seems less attractive. "It's going to be pretty tough to turn (signing) down," he said.

Duncan's performance during a pre-draft workout at Yankee Stadium was just one of several factors that prompted the organization to select him.

"I had a pretty good day," Duncan said. "I put about four out. I hit one off the facade in right field, right off the New Era sign. That was special. To be able to watch all the guys who have done that and then do it myself was pretty unbelievable."

Duncan led Seton Hall Prep (28-1) to a North State title and a No. 11 national ranking with an impressive senior season. He was hitting .535-11-53. He also led his team in slugging percentage (1.090) and had swiped 16 bases entering the final stages of the New Jersey state playoffs.

The Yankees selected Central Islip (N.Y.) High outfielder Estee Harris in the second round, outfielder Timothy Battle from McIntosh High of Peachtree City, Ga., in the third round, Baylor righthander Steven White in the fourth round and British Columbia product Cory Stuart, also a righthander, with their fifth-round pick.

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