Categorized | Sports

Slugger’s Chance

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Jodie Duncan signingDuncan to Martin

For Jodie Duncan taking hacks in the cage with her softball bat served many purposes.
Growing up in Tipton County, the Munford High School senior used her time in the batter’s box for fun and even as an escape when her mother Ally was battling breast cancer.
Sometimes practice at the plate was time to bond with her father Jeff and older brother Drew. But under it all, the time in the cage helped groom Duncan into a highly recruited softball player in West Tennessee. And on National Signing Day, Nov. 13, Duncan’s dedication and hard work paid off with her signing a national letter of intent to UT-Martin.
“A lot of hard work with 50 to 75 swings everyday during the season and offseason,” Jeff recalled. “I remember one afternoon on Christmas we were practicing. She was about 10 or 11 years old. We’d all open up presents and they had fallen back to sleep. She was like, ‘You want to go practice?’ It was me and her and some older woman up there walking in Atoka on Christmas afternoon.”
Since she started playing the game at the age of 5, Jodie has loved softball and it became a major part of her life. In her career, she has played on championship Atoka Dixie League teams. Duncan has been a key part of Summer League teams for Head Coach Troy Sisson.
And in high school Duncan has been a Best of the Preps caliber player on three State Tournament teams for Munford Head Coach Glenn Goulder.
“She’s definitely a leader,” Goulder said. “She’s one of the hardest working people on the team. She’s the first one to practice, the last one to leave. I can see her on the weekends running. Then she comes by my house, ‘Hey coach, may I borrow the keys to the batting cage?’ You’ve heard of gym rats. Well she’s a softball rat.”
During her freshman and sophomore seasons, Duncan was one of the leaders in slugging percentage, batting average and RBIs for the Lady Cougars. In her first season at Munford, Duncan was a key part in helping the Lady Cougars reach the State Softball Tournament for the first time.
By the time Munford was trying to make a run at its third straight State appearance, Duncan suffered a hand injury and was sidelined.
“We appreciated her the most last year when she went down,” Goulder said. “Then you realize what you don’t got when you take her out of the lineup.
“Immediately, soon as she got the cast on, she was at the next game and the practice,” he added. “She came to practice. She understand s what it is all about. She wants to be a coach one day, and I think she’ll be a great one because she absords everything.”
Growing up Duncan absorded the lessons from her Dad. Along with Drew, the trio headed to the backyard or the fields of Atoka to practice.
“I’m really happy for Jo, especially going to a Division I school is the opportunity of a lifetime with a full ride,” Drew said. “It’s definitely better than what I could do. I’m proud of her and hope it goes well. I figured she was good since she was throwing a bunch of yellow bullets at me.”
Drew’s time in the field allowed Duncan to become a dependable third baseman. It was her arm and bat that started to gain Jodie attention from college scouts early.
“The first time I realized it was her freshman year,” Jeff said. “She got offered then by one school. And then an NAIA coach tracked her down in a parking lot at our team hotel and offered her there in Hendersonville. She was so excited.
“She wants to be a D-I softball coach,” he continued. “I told her, ‘One of the easiest ways to be a D-I softball coach is be a D-I player.’ That was probably at 8 or 9 years old. Now she has that opportunity.”
Sisson knew the opportunity was coming Jodie’s way when she joined his summer team. For three summers scouts have inquired about the red-head from Munford.
“Everybody comes up to me talking about her,” he said. “I tell them she’s a very good player. She’s very dedicated and great work ethic. And she knows the game.
“She’s a great team leader,” Sisson added. “She’s a team motivator. She greets the players coming on and off the field. She’s the real deal. She has it all, glove, bat and the mind.”
Duncan said her mind was strengthened by her coaches, teammates and family over the years. The trio who helped raise Duncan played the biggest role in her life. Drew was always there for practices and giving her honest critisim.
Jodie noted her Dad as her biggest critic and biggest supporter at the same time. And she called her Dad a true blessing to have in her life. And as for her mother, Jodie said her mother played the biggest part in her life and was the umpire for in the house making sure everything was balanced.
“She worked so hard at it,” Ally said. “It was something she wanted. She was consistency telling her Daddy, ‘I want to be the best I can possiblity be.’ The both of them worked together.
“And that’s where big brother came in being the target at first base,” she continued. “He had to catch everything. It has been her dream to go on and play. We did all we could to help her achieve it.
Achieving her dream made Jodie the third Lady Cougar to sign a Division I scholarship joining Cali Overbeck (Ole Miss) and Sami Jo Schulz (Memphis).
“It’s such a blessing because those are two of the greatest athletes, not just softball players, to come through Munford,” Duncan said. “Just to be able to be mentioned with them is such a blessing.”
Goulder said it’s a blessing for Munford Softball too.
“It’s important to all us,” he noted. “It’s not only accomplishment for Jodie, her parents, family and her summer league coaches. It’s also an achievement for the program here. When one of your own gets recognized in that fashion, it’s good for all of us.”
Duncan’s big day was shared with the Munford High School community. The red-hair slugger wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s one of those special days,” she said. “I’m just glad I get a chance to spend it with all these people. These are the ones who mean the most to me and helped me get here.
“I have a batting cage in my backyard,” Jodie continued. “It’s like I live there. If I don’t have volleyball, I’m back there hitting at least 100 balls a day just going at it. God has given me so much talent and has allowed me to develop it to get to where I am today.”
And the day was made more special for her mother. After surviving her battle with breast cancer, Ally’s prayer to be there for her children’s big moments was answered once again.
“I’m here,” Ally concluded. “It’s very exciting. I’m excited to see her dream come true.”
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