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Jon Duplantier Healthy, Humbled And Ready For What's Next

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Initially believing he was well on his way to a football career, Jon Duplantier started to see signs "from above” that maybe he wasn’t cut out for the gridiron.

The signs were also coming from his collarbone, knees and wrist.

Duplantier, currently the D-backs’ No. 2 prospect, was a two-sport standout at Seven Lake High in Katy, Texas, before injuries convinced him to take a detour that has led him to Salt River Fields, the D-backs' spring training headquarters. Now, his promise on the pitcher's mound has many believing the righthander could start the season at Triple A.

While playing high school football, Duplantier suffered a series of injuries that began during his sophomore season. In three years, there were two collarbone fractures, a broken wrist and torn meniscus cartilage in his knee. The knee injury during his senior season was the clincher. When he tore his meniscus, Duplantier decided that football was not the sport he was meant to play.

“After the meniscus, I took it as a sign from above,” he said. “If you want to look for a sign, that’s a sign. You’re not fragile but, for some reason, let’s steer in another direction.”

Despite the injuries, Duplantier was close to committing to Yale to play both football and baseball. However, due to his torn meniscus, he chose to instead commit to Rice, where he would focus solely on baseball. Duplantier said his parents played a huge role in getting him past the injuries.

“My parents during those injuries were real positive,” he said. “It’s just part of the plan. ‘You're going to learn something from this. I want you to walk into that pain, accept it and feel it. You’re alive kid, feel alive.’

“(It) sucked at the time, but it made me tougher,” he said.

Duplantier’s parents never let him dwell on bad performances or injuries for long.

“My parents didn’t allow sulking,” he said. “'You go out there and you stink, you walk six and give up four runs and three home runs. You got an hour after the game. Don’t bring that to my dinner table.’”

In his freshman season at Rice, Duplantier was named to the Conference USA all-freshman team working primarily out of the bullpen. But he was sidelined the next season by a shoulder injury and took a redshirt year. That following year, however, in 2016, Duplantier bounced back. He was named Conference USA pitcher of the year and named first-team all-conference by throwing 111 innings, striking out 148 batters and walking 47 while compiling a 7-7 record. Opponents hit just .194 against him.

After his breakout season, Duplantier was drafted in the third round, 86th overall by the D-backs, and immediately sent to short-season Hillsboro, where he appeared in only one game. It was in the 2017 and 2018 seasons when he began to ascend through the D-backs' minor league system, starting in low Class A Kane County and reaching Double-A Jackson in 2018.

While at Double-A Jackson, Duplantier’s fastball topped out at 95 mph. He totaled 67 innings, striking out 68 while compiling a 2.69 ERA. Now, this spring, Duplantier has been a part of Cactus League play for the first time, and he knows he still has to continually show he belongs.

At the start of spring training, former Arizona Coyotes' forward Shane Doan of the NHL visited the D-backs' clubhouse to share some words of wisdom with first-year players. And maybe, that was a sign too.

“The one thing I took away from that was: We’ve been given everything,” Duplantier said. “Sure, as athletes we work hard, put our bodies on the line and sacrifice a lot. But, realistically, I was given so much more than I should."

Duplantier is humbled by it all.

“I don’t deserve this, in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “I’m just grateful to be in this position. Now I just need to go out and attack this opportunity.”

Stephen Perez is a senior majoring in sports journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between Baseball America and Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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