Chris Duffy: The Reluctant Human Highlight Film

Aug. 10, 2005

  • Official Bio - PittsburghPirates.com
  • Video Highlight - Duffy's Glove and Bat
  • Video Highlight - First Career Home Run
  • Video Highlight - Duffy's Big Game
  • Video Highlight - Duffy's Sliding Catch

    By John Perrotto, Times Sports

    Chris Duffy hasn't placed a call to Bristol, Conn., yet, but sometimes he feels like it.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates rookie center fielder would love to talk to the people who produce ESPN's 'Baseball Tonight.'

    However, in a refreshing change in today's me-first culture, Duffy doesn't want to complain about not being shown in enough highlights. Instead, he would like to ask ESPN to not show him as much.

    'I've made some of the Web Gems,' Duffy said, referring to the show's defensive plays of the night. 'It's a little embarrassing when people call me and say they saw me on Web Gems. I'm not out there trying to make it on the highlights.

    'The last thing I want people to think is that I'm some kind of showboat.'

    Those who know the 25-year-old will readily vouch that Duffy is anything but a showoff. He comes from a family of seven children and is about as unassuming any professional athlete you will find.

    'He's just a really good guy,' said Trent Jewett, manager of the Pirates' Class AAA affiliate at Indianapolis. 'That's the best way to put it. You can't help but like him.'

    Duffy has certainly become a hit with his teammates during his two stints with the Pirates, the most significant of which has come in the last three weeks after he was called up from Indianapolis on July 17 and installed as the starting center fielder.

    'He plays the game with such enthusiasm,' veteran Pirates reliever Rick White said. 'He always busting his butt down the line to first base, going hard after fly balls hit his way.

    'When you have someone playing like that, it becomes contagious. It gets everyone on the team excited. It makes everyone want to play harder.'

    Hustle and determination are great attributes for any player to have. Talent is even better, and Duffy has showed during his second visit to the major leagues that he indeed has the skills necessary to thrive at the highest level.

    Duffy has hit .405 in 20 games, including .427 with 15 runs scored in his 17 starts.

    While Duffy has already had two four-hit games since his recall, he has also shined in the field.

    Duffy has already made a number of spectacular diving catches, running down balls from gap to gap.

    The Pirates have been shuffling guys in and out of center field for more than a decade since Andy Van Slyke took his Gold Gloves to free agency during the 1994-95 strike. The list includes such washouts as Jacob Brumfield, Mike Kingery, Jermaine Allensworth and Adrian Brown.

    Duffy, without question, is the best defensive center fielder the Pirates have had since Van Slyke.

    'He's so much fun to watch,' Pirates left fielder Jason Bay said. 'He's an old-fashioned center fielder. All he cares about is catching every ball hit to the outfield. He's made some unbelievable plays already.'

    As Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon has noted, comparing Duffy to Van Slyke is probably not fair.

    Van Slyke was an extremely graceful athlete who seemed to make even the most difficult catch look routine. Duffy, on the other hand, is more of a scrappy player.

    'I would equate him to a young Lenny Dykstra,' McClendon said.

    That would be before Dykstra started taking what he liked to call 'those good vitamins' once he got the Philadelphia Phillies and started to look like a cartoon character. McClendon is referring to the undersized Dykstra, who broke into the major leagues with the Mets and won plenty of admirers with his grit and hustle.

    The modest Duffy seems genuinely embarrassed to be mentioned in the same sentence with Van Slyke or Dykstra. However, in a rare moment when he let a trace of bravado show, Duffy sounded like Van Slyke.

    'I really believe I can catch any ball, and if I don't catch it then I'm very disappointed,' Duffy said. 'That's the way you have to think to be a good center fielder. You have to be aggressive and believe you are going to make plays.'

    There is little doubt Duffy can make as many plays in center field as most players at that position in the major leagues. Boston Red Sox third base coach Dale Sveum, who managed Duffy with the Pirates' Class AA Altoona farm club in 2003, certainly thinks so.

    'He can go get fly balls with anyone,' Sveum said. 'In a year or two he'll be mentioned with the best defensive center fielders in the game. He is that good.'

    The biggest question about Duffy is his hitting. Throughout his time in the minor leagues, Duffy was prone to high strikeout totals while drawing few walks.

    'I haven't seen him swing at many bad pitches since he's been up here,' McClendon said. 'He can put the bat on the ball and he gets down the line faster than anyone we've had in the five years I've been managing. I don't think hitting is going to be a problem.'

    Fielding certainly won't be. Thus, Duffy figures to be a staple on the highlight shows for many years to come.

    Even if it is to his consternation.



    Duffy's Career Statistics at Arizona State:

    Year

    G-GS

    Avg.

    AB

    R

    H

    2B

    3B

    HR

    RBI

    SB/A

    BB

    K

    2001

    49-48

    .373

    201

    46

    75

    6

    2

    4

    37

    20-25

    22

    34

    Total

    49-48

    .373

    201

    46

    75

    6

    2

    4

    37

    20-25

    22

    34

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