NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The shine on the rings and the polish on the trophy has hardly lost its glisten, yet the Commodores have had to force themselves into thinking about the 2020 season and a new journey.
That task is certainly a little easier for all the newcomers Vanderbilt baseball head coach Tim Corbin has on his roster. Maybe a bit tougher for the program’s lone two seniors Ty Duvall and Harrison Ray.
“It’s a completely new team and it kind of goes back to Day One, just building foundations and reestablishing the standards and things like that and understanding how last year is last year and this is a completely new year,” Duvall said. “So we’re pretty much starting over.
“I got to play with Julian Infante and Ethan Paul and Stephen Scott – and these freshmen didn’t. I’m trying to relay some of the messages and lessons that I learned from them so that I can teach these freshmen to help them.”
Duvall played in 63 games last season while Ray appeared in 66. Each was a big part of a team that won 59 games, a Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament title and, of course, a national championship.
Many of the teammates who they took the field with about three months ago, of course, are gone due to graduation or from signing professional contracts. The play, the leadership and the consistency with how those former Dores went about their business is a model to be passed on.
“Watching all our seniors last year and seeing how they handled the situation I think that has given me a little bit more insight on how to go about things,” Ray said. “But it’s definitely been a little bit of a learning process for (me and Duvall). It’s getting better each day.”
Ray, from Longwood, Florida, started 64 games in 2019, mostly at second base. He led Vandy with 21 stolen bases, hit .276 to go along with an on-base percentage of .358 and drove in 38 runs.
A sociology major, Ray said he’s always gravitated toward helping and coaching and that, perhaps, the best plan for doing that is not really having one.
“I don’t think I have a blueprint for how I’m going to lead,” he said “I’m definitely a big person that helps people out. I watch younger guys, see what they’re doing and then, you only have what, three coaches out there? I got to help out a little bit.
“If I see something that somebody’s doing I definitely talk to them, help them out. I’ve been here four years now so I’ve seen some of the things they’re doing and I’ve probably done them. Let me give them that help that will get them through it probably a little quicker than I got through it.”
Drafted in the 25th round of the MLB Draft this past summer, Duvall returned to West End after playing catcher and being a designated hitter during the 2019 campaign. He hit .275 and totaled 42 RBIs.
Duvall said he’ll have a simple mindset for this year’s team when they look to him for leadership by citing another sport that counts on strikes.
“The way I view leadership is kind of like bowling,” he explained. “When you start bowling you have guard rails. You have to let the freshmen go, in a certain sense, where they have to be on their own, they have to learn on their own – but you never let them get in the gutter.
“In terms of leadership it’s guiding them along the path and making sure they’re where they need to be and making sure they’re doing the right things – but also letting them figure it out on their own because that’s a very valuable thing. I can’t hold their hand through everything.”