Eric Duncan: Intangibles Included

Eric Duncan has impressed us with his powerful swing of the bat, his solid glove at third base, and simply the possibilities he brings as a future big league star. But, if you look closer, you could see that what makes the Yankees #1 prospect a star are things that don't make the box scores.

You hear the word a lot. It is often associated with players like Derek Jeter and other stars of just about any sport you can think of. It is the intangibles. Few players have it, but when put in the hands of the right athlete, the results can be extraordinary. The Yankees were lucky enough to find that combination of pure skill and intangibles in Derek Jeter. And, like it or not, players like him are what fueled the Yankee dynasty. It has taken them many years to find one, and they really are not easy to find, but a 20 year old named Eric Duncan just may be the answer.

When the Yankees drafted Eric Duncan in the opening round of the 2003 draft, they obviously predicted big things from the lefty swinging New Jersey native. But, whenever the Yankees make a first round pick, they tend to look a lot into just what type of young man they'll be getting. Having talent is great, but going by their school of thought, the makeup is key. Sure, they couldn't help but salivate over the towering home runs he hit during pre-draft showcases, but they also knew that this young man they were scouting had what it took to be the copyrighted "true Yankee."

Take a look at a game in a long season for Eric Duncan. First off, the Yankees thought enough of him to start him in AA as a 20 year old here in 2005. And, as most people know, AA is widely recognized as the toughest jump on the Minor League baseball ladder. So, Duncan has gotten off to a slow start which is more than understandable. He still is only 20 years old. But, he sure hasn't reacted to his early season slump like a typical 20 year old might. On Sunday, when the Trenton Thunder took on the New Britain Rock Cats, the third baseman strode to the plate out of the cleanup spot, his normal place in the lineup despite his struggles. With the way he approached the at bat, no one would ever know of his slow start. His patience never left him and neither did his intangibles that the Yankees saw from him beginning two years ago.

Well, what was so significant about the game on Monday, April 24th? Most people, for good reason, will point to Duncan's first AA home run. To touch on that first, it had to be a weight off of the young, New Jersey native's shoulders. However, he still handled it the way everyone would expect him to. Off the bat, the everyone in attendance knew it was gone, but by the time it cleared the trees in right field, Duncan was almost halfway to second base. Perhaps a bit of excitement, relief or just plain hustle, he showed the Trenton Thunder faithful what he was about with one trip around the bases.

After hitting a missile over the right field fence earlier in the game, Eric Duncan finally had the monkey off his back. But, by no means was he finished for the day. Even with a 5-0 lead, the Yankees' top prospect still led by example. It was a routine groundball to shortstop, perhaps on a couple of hops, but before you could blink, Duncan had simply beaten it out from pure hustle. "Even up 5-0, he runs that out and gets a hit out of it," manager, Bill Masse said after the game. "That's one of the things that people really don't understand about Eric. He can beat out balls like that." Many people might not know about it, but Duncan has a good reason for it. "That's what keeps your average up," Duncan said. "Anytime you really do something you don't have to do, teammates appreciate it. We know each other really well. A lot of us played together in Tampa and we're all hard workers, and we will pick each other up like that."

With a pump of the fist and the clap of his hands, Eric Duncan knew he had earned his way on for his second hit of the game. Not to mention, he was able to get off the interstate, pushing his batting average to .200. How did he get there? Hustle, plain and simple. That is the type of thing you get from a player like this. The score or situation has no bearing on how he plays the game. Fans can see it, coaches can see it, and it is something that the Yankee organization knows that they have to treasure. You can find talent, but when you combine talent and intangibles, well, you have Eric Duncan.

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