A familiar face is joining the Yankees and their minor league family. The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders announced that former Bronx cult hero Shelley Duncan as their new manager for the 2023 season.
“We are extremely excited to bring Shelley Duncan back to the organization where he began his professional journey – and specifically back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he had tremendous success and was part of the 2009 International League Championship club,” Yankees director of player development Kevin Reese said in a release. “Shelley’s knowledge as well as his experiences growing up in the game, as a player and as a coach will serve our players well.”
Welcome home! ? The @Yankees have announced that Shelley Duncan has been named as the new manager for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
— SWB RailRiders (@swbrailriders) January 20, 2023
Duncan, 43, succeeds former MLB pitcher Doug Davis, who went 158-119. Previously, he managed in the Diamondbacks system for four years and went 233-199. He was also a field coordinator with the Blue Jays and spent last year in the White Sox’s analytics department.
Now, he comes back where it all began, when New York drafted him in 2001 and his big bat made him a star in the minors. He isn’t the first former Yankee to join the minor league managing ranks this year either. Earlier this month, former infielder Homer Bush was hired by the Staten Island FerryHawks, the former Staten Island Yankees.
Duncan debuted for the Yankees in 2007 and hit .257 with seven home runs, an .883 OPS and a 129 WRC+ in 34 games. Yet, it wasn’t so much his hitting that captured the fans as it was his personality. Duncan was always smiling in the dugout and instead of offering teammates the traditional high-five after a home run, he instead bashed forearms.
The problem was Duncan was a streaky hitter. He never quite caught on with the Yankees, nor as an MLB regular. He hit 30 home runs for Scranton in 2009 in an MVP season. Duncan then signed with Cleveland and played in 262 MLB games with them and the Tampa Bay Rays through 2013.
Family history suggests Duncan will succeed as a manager. His father, Dave Duncan, won three World Series rings as Tony La Russa’s pitching coach for the A’s and Cardinals. Dave also won a ring playing for Oakland in 1972.
Finally, there is one near-certainty with Duncan managing in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Win or lose, the RailRiders might have the most fun out of all the teams in the International League. The man has an infectious personality, has lived and breathed baseball his whole life, and now gets to share it with the next generation of players.