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The Tigard High grad is set to pursue baseball career

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Tigard High School graduate Nick Duron, shown here pitching for Clark College this past spring, was selected by Boston Red Sox in June's Major League Baseball draft. While growing up in Salinas, Calif., Nick Duron dreamed of one day playing football.

Instead, the right-handed pitcher is now playing professional baseball.

Duron, a 2014 Tigard High School graduate, was selected in the 31st round (921st overall) during this year’s Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, which took place June 8-10. This came on the heals of one stellar season at for Clack College, located in Vancouver, Wash.

Duron finished his one season with the Penguins with a 2-1 won-loss record, to go along with a 3.75 earned-run average. He also struck out 40 batters in 36 innings of action. In his last outing of the season, he fanned 11 Clackamas Community College batters in seven innings of work.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Duron isn’t looking back on any of his decision making, but hopes to someday follow his high school dream of becoming a fire fighter some day. For now, his main focus is getting prepared for what he hopes to be a long career in the big leagues.

“Ever since my junior year of high school I wanted to become a fire fighter just like my great grandfather Glenn and my uncle Larry,” said Duron from his Crown Plaza hotel room in Fort Myers, Fla., home of the Red Sox spring training facility. “But now I’m living out my new dream and playing pro ball just like what every baseball player hopes for.”

The 19-year-old Duron, an only child and his parents Lynna and Jason parted ways with their California lifestyle and made way for Tigard after Lynna accepted a job with Capital One, and Jason found work at Providence Hospital.

“Glad we chose Tigard. It was up in the air between Tigard and Richmond, Va.,” said Duron an All-Pacific Conference honorable mention pick as a pitcher following his senior senior at Tigard. “I’m just happy things worked out.”SUBMITTED PHOTO - Tigard High School graduate Nick Duron gets decked out in Red Sox gear after signing with the Boston organization.

Duron reported to Fort Myers on June 18 after a quick delay in Dallas from PDX. He said that’s when emotions of excitement and anxiety started to kick in. He said surreal doesn’t describe the way he’s felling inside.

“I went by myself and slept on the plane until Dallas,” Duron said. “Then I was wide awake and so excited to get to Florida and begin my journey in professional ball. I’m just pumped for the opportunity and excited to be a Red Sox, even though I grew up an Oakland A’s fan. The Red Sox are now my new favorite team.”

Duron was sought after by Red Sox area scout Chris Pritchett, 45, who played in 61 MLB games himself between 1996-2000.

Duron’s journey was scheduled to begin on the road on June 22 when Duron got to experience his first professional game in the Gulf Coast League against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.

According to Duron, it was never about what round he was pegged for and how much money was offered on the table for his signing bonus. Instead he trusted his heart and decided to skip another season of college baseball. According to Clark College baseball coach Brett Neffendorf, many scouts think Duron would have signed for much more had he came back for a second season with Clark College.

Instead Duron signed the dotted line with the Red Sox organization on June 20.

“It was real exciting,” recalls Duron, who was anxious to get it out of the way. “I was getting tired of the waiting game and wanted to start practice. I have my first bullpen tomorrow (June 23).”

Though Duron didn’t feel like revealing his signing bonus when he signed his contract, he still wants to emphasize on the fact that it never boiled down to money.

“My mom reminds me of the quote that says, ‘Money I the root of all evil,’” Duron said. “I just felt like I was ready to advance and move on. I wasn’t about to let a dream like this slip away. I absolutely have no regrets. I can’t look back now.

“Don’t get me wrong. It would be nice to have a million dollars in the bank account and buy my parents a new home and to get myself some nice stuff, but again, money wasn’t any big factor at all.”

Duron still isn’t sure if he will come out of the bullpen or as a starter on the bump. He said he isn’t too worried about it, though.

“I’m still not 100 percent sure,” he said. “I would like to be a starter, but I’ll be fine with whatever job they give me. I’ll close games... I’ll become a middle reliever... I don’t really care. I’m just happy again for the opportunity and feel so lucky and blessed.”

Duron recalls seeing scouts for the first time during his Clark College games. He said it was towards the end of the season when area scouts started coming in bunches to watch his fastball zip with some above average movement. It sure didn’t hurt any that his velocity in less than a year went from 84 mph to 94 mph. That alone had scouts drooling.

“I felt really good that day. All the scouts came out to see me and had their radar guns out,” Duron said. “I didn’t let them get into my head, that’s why I took five long seconds to myself to breathe and then I was ready to go and pitched a really great game that day.”

Duron has no reasonable explanation for his rise in velocity, but he sure isn’t complaining. Either are the Red Sox organization, who like Clark took a chance on a high ceiling kid who had potential.

“I didn’t envision hitting 90 mph,” Duron said. “It’s crazy how much my velocity has gone up. That’s why I was so under the radar coming out of high school, which kind of bothered me.”

Neffendorf said he had never seen a player add such speed on his fastball within a year.

“The kid has a live arm,” said the first year Clark coach. “Nick is filthy. I couldn’t believe other teams weren’t recruiting him. He impressed all of the scouts that came out to watch him pitch and do his thing.”

Although Duron is a four-year letter winner in baseball, twice at Tigard High School and twice at Everett Alvarez High School back in Salinas, his only other scholarship coming out of high school was for football from Western Oregon University in Monmouth where the coaching staff wanted to move him to outside linebacker after playing tight end and defensive end while at Tigard.

Instead he went with his gut feeling and came to the conclusion that he wanted to pursue baseball over football.

“Football had always been my first love,” said Duron. “Baseball was more secondary. But I felt like my performance on the baseball field could only get better. I’m happy I decided to go to Clark College.”

Neffendorf couldn’t be more thankful for the chance to coach Duron, if only for one lone season.

“The kid has a great story,” said Neffendorf. “He was very coachable and bought into our program and what we were all about. For better or worse. And he became so darn good throughout the year. He’s a stud.”

Duron was quick to thank Clark and coach Neffendorf.

“Neff gave me an opportunity to be successful,” said Duron. “Clark showed me everything and took a good chance on me.”

They sure did. And it all worked out in Duron’s favor.

Though he one day dreamed of becoming a football player and then later a fire fighter, Duron wants to now focus on one day at a time and hopes to reach MLB in the next five years.

“I am focused on baseball and read that it takes four to fives years for a player in the minors to reach the bigs on average. Hopefully that will happen for me,” Duron said. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t become a fire fighter later in life. You just never know.”

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