There aren’t too many players who can say they hit a grand slam off the reigning National Freshman of the Year and preseason All-American Alex Lange.
According to LSU coach Paul Mainieri, freshman outfielder Antoine Duplantis came about six inches short of doing just that in an offseason scrimmage.
Duplantis, who graduated from Lafayette High School, comes from an athletic family. Both of his parents were student athletes at LSU, competing in volleyball and track and field, while his older brother just finished his career as one of the top-10 pole-vaulters in LSU history.
The Lafayette High School product is expected to replace Mark Laird in right field this year. DIG Magazine got a chance to speak with Duplantis about his family, adjusting to college baseball and his expectations for the upcoming season.
DIG: How does it feel to keep the LSU tradition in your family going?
Antoine Duplantis: It’s great. My whole family is pretty athletic. My mom played volleyball as well as ran track. It’s just a dream come true to be a part of this baseball program here at LSU.
DIG: How did your first college off-season go?
AD: It was good. The fall was great and during Christmas break I just had to do stuff on my own. They gave us a workout plan to follow, but it was a little different not seeing live pitching. I’m definitely getting back into things.
DIG: You haven’t played a college game yet, but what’s been the toughest part about adjusting to collegiate baseball so far?
AD: The pitching is so much different. You’ve got to have a plan when you go up there or the pitcher is going to get you out. It’s so much different than high school where they just try to throw strikes, but over here they can throw a fastball if they want or a curveball. It’s a whole different game.
The beginning of the fall, I was a little inconsistent. I had some great games and some bad games but Coach Cannizaro helped me out with just finding a good approach at the plate.
DIG: What’s it like going from playing in high school last spring to facing guys like Jared Poche’ this fall?
AD: It’s great — this is what I signed up for coming to LSU. Playing against the best players in the nation is going to get me ready for playing against good SEC teams on Friday nights.
DIG: Who would you say is most athletic in your family?
AD: My little brother, maybe not yet, but he probably will be. He’s a sophomore in high school, 16 years old and he’s just ridiculous at pole vaulting. He’s catching up to me in speed, but he’s not quite there yet. Once he adds a little strength, he’ll get there.
DIG: Did you play any other sports growing up?
AD: I pole-vaulted a little bit, that’s what all of my family does. I pole vaulted 13 feet when I was in 8th grade but it wasn’t that fun for me so I decided to play baseball.
DIG: What did your parents say when you chose baseball over pole vaulting?
AD: They kind of knew; they could tell I wasn’t into pole vaulting that much. They didn’t mind because they knew I had worked hard at baseball.
DIG: What is your goal heading into this season (with LSU) ?
AD: To make it to Omaha and prove people wrong. Although we’re a young team we can still make it to Omaha and win a National Championship.
DIG: There are a lot of other young guys on the roster. How does it feel not be one of the few youngsters on the team?
AD: It helps a lot because it doesn’t really feel like you’re one of the young guys. Everybody is going through the same thing as you and we have a few veterans like Kramer Robertson and Jake Fraley who help us out and tell us what to expect.
DIG: Who are some of the veteran guys who have taken you under their wing?
AD: I’d have to say Jake Fraley. He has helped me out a lot in the outfield and with hitting. He told me what to expect. He’s really helped me.