Growing up, my family and I would attend several Scranton/Wilkes-Barre games yearly. Shelley Duncan was one player I remember fondly during the initial Yankee years. He was a huge fan favorite and cult hero, with fans creating a chant; “When I say Shelley, you say Duncan!” “Shelley!” “Duncan!” “Shelley!” “Duncan!”
I remember in elementary school; my class took a day trip to PNC Field for a game. A lot of my friends and I focused on Duncan. We also joined in (and I think started) on the chant. Now, 14 years since he was a member of the Yankees organization, the 43-year-old returns to Moosic, Pennsylvania as the Railriders manager. Getting to cover the team and having a chance to speak to Duncan as the Railriders manager will bring back many childhood memories. This comes after Doug Davis, the Railriders manager since the canceled 2020 season, left to manage Triple-A Round Rock in the Texas Rangers organization.
“We are extremely excited to bring Shelley Duncan back to the organization where he began his professional journey – and specifically back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he had tremendous success and was part of the 2008 International League Championship club,” said Kevin Reese, the Director of Player Development for the New York Yankees. “Shelley’s knowledge, as well as his experiences growing up in the game, as a player, and as a coach, will serve our players well.”
The Playing Days
The Yankees Organization
Duncan is well-known by the Yankees and their fans. New York drafted him in the second round of the 2001 MLB Draft. The University of Arizona alum reached Triple-A in 2006, a year before the organization moved its Triple-A team from Columbus to SWB. He played just 12 games for the SWB Yankees in 2006. But with five minor league seasons under his belt, he would never fall below the Triple-A level for the rest of his career.
Duncan made his mark in 2007 with a triple slash of .295/.380/.577 and 25 homers in 91 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The first baseman and outfielder also made his major league debut that season. He played in 34 games with the big Yankees. He ended up playing 272 games with the Baby Bombers between 2007 and 2009. Duncan also appeared in 34 more fun with the major league club in 2008 and 2009. Duncan was never able to find his footing as a major leaguer, but he was a very solid AAA player. He had his best season for SWB in 2009, when he won the International League MVP. That season, he posted a .917 OPS with 30 homers, 30 doubles, and 99 RBI.
After the Yankees
Duncan went off to play for the Columbus Clippers again, except this time in the then-Cleveland Indians’ organization. He was with Cleveland from 2010 to 2012 and played 242 games in the majors. Once again, going off to free agency, he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays before the 2013 season. The then-33-year-old played 110 games that season – 90 for the Durham Bulls and 20 for the Rays. Granting free agency again, Duncan signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in January. But he couldn’t make it to the season before getting released in March. The Cincinnati Reds then picked him up in May, but he only played 14 games in Triple-A before being released. That was the end of his playing career.
After his playing days ended, Duncan entered the coaching realm of the game. Coincidently, he joined a team he signed with but never played for in the Diamondbacks. In the Arizona organization, he managed Low-A Hillsboro in 2015 and 2016, High-A Visalia in 2017, and Double-A Jackson in 2018. He led Hillsboro to the Northwest League title in 2015 and Visalia to the Southern League championship in 2018. Duncan’s managerial record was 231-199 over those four seasons. Since leaving the Diamondbacks organization, he has served as the Toronto Blue Jays Major League Field Coordinator and as an Analytics Coordinator for the Chicago White Sox. His experience and familiarity with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre certainly influenced him to get the manager position for the Railriders.
“It means the world to me to return to the New York Yankees,” Duncan said. “The way I was taught the game of baseball at the professional level is the Yankee way. The values that have been instilled in me on how to play the game were established pretty much day one after I got drafted. Everywhere I have gone since my time with New York, I have taken those values and details on what makes a winning baseball player with me. I let them shape who I was as a player or who I am as a manager. To be able to come back to the organization is extremely special. Not only do I feel nostalgic about it, but it gives me a good feeling inside to go back to a place that matches all of those values that make me who I am as a baseball person.”
You must be logged in to post a comment.