Lebanon High School graduate Tyler Duvall signed a free-agent deal with the Seattle Mariners on Monday. Duvall helped lead Vanderbilt to the 2019 College World Series title. PHOTO COURTESY OF VANDERBILT ATHLETICS

Lebanon grad Duvall finds right fit with Mariners

Ty Duvall knew he likely would be pursuing a professional baseball career through college free agency after this year’s draft was shortened to five rounds.

That left much uncertainty for the former Lebanon High School product and recent Vanderbilt University graduate, but a celebrated phone call Monday “made it all worth it.”

Duvall, a 2016 graduate of Lebanon and catcher for the 2019 national champion Vanderbilt baseball team, signed his first professional contract with the Seattle Mariners on Monday after college free agency opened Sunday.

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“It’s awesome,” Duvall said Tuesday. “It was so exciting to finally feel like I’m going to play professional baseball and take on this next chapter. It was awesome being on that call with the Mariners and telling them I was going to move forward, jumping up and down with my dad and brother in the living room afterward. It was awesome. It was all worth it for that right there.”

The road was much different than Duvall had pictured going into his senior season at Vanderbilt.

After the Oakland Athletics selected him in the 25th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft, Duvall decided to return to the Commodores with the goal of further developing and improving his stock for this year’s draft. He had split time at catcher as a junior, helping Vanderbilt to a 22-1 record in his 23 starts behind the plate, but he was expected to be the full-time starter in 2020. Vanderbilt’s season ended after 18 games because of COVID-19 and the draft was cut from 40 rounds down to five amid professional baseball’s stoppage.

“I had a good feeling I wasn’t going to be drafted and free agency was going to be the route I would take, but I didn’t know what it would be like,” Duvall said. “I didn’t know if I would get flooded with calls, but I didn’t want to get hopes up. At 9 a.m. Sunday we could start to get calls, and the first 10 minutes felt like an hour, but then my first call came and a couple more. Then, the Mariners called and they made an offer I liked and met all the criteria I had set prior to. They moved efficiently, and I didn’t feel the need to search any more.”

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Vanderbilt hitting coach Mike Baxter and volunteer assistant David Macias, a former minor league coach in the Mariners’ system, both had a good relationship with Seattle and had good things to say about the organization being on “the front edge of player development.” Duvall felt that as well from his conversations with people in the organization and decided “it was as good as it was going to get.”

Duvall had a good idea what to be looking for after his previous experiences talking with scouts, last year through the draft process and as a senior at Lebanon.

Warriors baseball coach Larry Price said the Cubs had been interested in him before Tommy John surgery sidelined him his final season at Lebanon. Duvall was the 2015 Greater Western Ohio Conference Player of the Year as a junior, a first-team All-GWOC pick as a sophomore and was Perfect Game’s No. 1-ranked Ohio recruit in 2016.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Price said. “He’s an outstanding player, a great kid, high-character, great family, leader. He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached. He worked hard for everything he got and good things happen to good people.”

Duvall said he was thankful for his experience at Vanderbilt, especially the opportunity to play for the College World Series championship team. The Commodores knew in preseason scrimmages that 2019 could be special, and they ended up accomplishing everything they set out to – winning the SEC regular-season title, the SEC Tournament championship and the national title.

This year, Vanderbilt was 13-5 and Duvall was batting .288 with 10 RBIs in 16 appearances and 14 starts behind the plate. Now he doesn’t know what the immediate future holds with MLB still unable to work out a plan to return, but he will continue to prepare himself for whenever that day comes. Duvall remains in Lebanon for now, working out at Elite Baseball near Kings Island and hitting regularly with his brother, Sam, in their batting cage at home.

“There’s a lot of confusion and frustration that there’s not baseball,” Duvall said. “I know a lot of it is out of our control, which makes it worse because eveyrone wants to play and can’t do anything about it. We’re trying to stay ready and don’t know what we’re staying ready for. There are a lot of challenges, but I hope baseball gets back soon so we can go play.”

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