If the Giants’ World Series title in 2010 taught the rest of Major League Baseball anything, it’s that you can’t sleep on an underdog — or you’ll get bit. Frank Duncan, a 19-year-old San Francisco native now playing baseball at Kansas University, is proving the same can be said of the college game. Duncan, an alum of Stuart Hall — a college-preparatory high school of 168 students in the Pacific Heights district — is making a huge mark on the Kansas baseball team this season despite little buzz coming out of high school a year ago.
In 14 appearances in relief this season, Duncan has a team-best 1.19 ERA, only allowing three runs while striking out 23. This all coming from a guy who was largely overlooked by Division I schools.
“It’s something that I never would have thought I would be doing, but here I am and I’m enjoying it,” Duncan said.
“He’s been an impact guy for us as a freshman, which is really rare in our conference,” Kansas coach Ritch Price said.
While Duncan could have played baseball at USF, a mere two miles from Stuart Hall, he couldn’t turn down the big break with Kansas.
“I was taking a chance and coming to a place where if I had the opportunity to play, I’d play against the best in the country, bar-none, and that was big for me,” Duncan said.
The introduction between Price and Duncan came through Duncan’s high school basketball coach, Charles Johnson, aka CJ, who once played baseball for Price at Menlo College. Menlo was one of three California junior colleges Price coached at before he started his current stint with Kansas in 2002.
“CJ thought he was one of those young men who was going to really blossom in college once his strength improved,” Price said.
After meeting with the right-hander in Kansas, and then watching him pitch in California, Price agreed that Duncan would thrive in the college system.
“I think from a projection standpoint, he was that young man when I was a junior college coach that walked in off his high school campus and came and played for me that was the best player on our team,” Price said. “They would jump leaps and bounds in their development, and those guys would leave on scholarships two years later to Division I schools. I thought he was that same guy.”
Duncan is grateful for the potential Price saw in him.
“Coach Price took the chance on a small-school kid with 37 kids in his graduating class, which was another thing that I really liked,” Duncan said of his choice to attend Kansas.
Duncan hasn’t let his new coach down. “When he got to our place in the fall, he was only throwing about 82 miles an hour,” Price said. “Now he’s throwing 88, touching 90 now, too. He’s made remarkable progress in one year.”
Price sees Duncan as his go-to closer next year. He said if Duncan continues improving, he may break into the team’s starting rotation, a move that could force MLB to take notice. “I think he has a chance to make it to the big leagues if he continues his development,” Price said.
14 Appearances Frank Duncan has made for Kansas this season
1.19 Duncan’s ERA this season
23 Batters Duncan has struck out in 22 innings