When Jarren Duran first stepped on the Bohl Diamond at Blair Field for a fall practice in 2016, then-junior shortstop Garrett Hampson knew he was not another run-of-the-mill freshman. He carried himself higher than others and didn’t require the same amount of attention from coaches or more experienced players.
“I think he’s just really the type of kid who’s not phased by much,” Hampson said. “He [was] one of those freshman who kind of already [had] it figured out…He just needed to learn some little stuff, but mentality-wise, he was there.”
From that day forward, Duran began his ascent into an immediate impact player and now the most dynamic star Long Beach State will feature in the 2018 season.
Now a junior, the three year starting second baseman looks to make the same impact as his friend and mentor Hampson, now with the Colorado Rockies Organization, had in 2016 for the Dirtbags.
While he’s put on 10-15 pounds over the offseason to get up to 200, Duran is ready to begin the 2018 campaign after improving most on the mental side of things.
“I used to be really get down on myself when I’d get out or make a mistake, even going back to playing as a kid,” Duran said.
He’s now adopted a mentality that his teammates are fully capable of picking him up and moving along despite his failure.
“He’s developed security, his baseball IQ, his physicality and confidence and he’s made leaps and bounds in those areas,” Dirtbags head coach Troy Buckley said. “I give Hampson a lot of credit and think [Duran] will too.”
Duran, 21, has been a constant at the keystone in the last two successful Dirtbag campaigns. He’s started 113 games and boasts a career average of .290, has an on-base percentage of .374 and has stolen 32 bases. His .308 average last season was second best on the team while his 47 runs scored led Long Beach.
“He’s now one of the better players on our team from the talent perspective,” Buckley said. “The only thing he really has to be careful of is that he plays the game that best suits him.”
The one hindrance Duran faced last year was being struck in the face with a fastball by Cal State Fullerton pitcher John Gavin on March 26. He was forced to leave the game immediately, but recovered from surgery faster than expected and returned to action about a week later, donning a protective mask on the field and at the plate.
“I thought I was going to be out for way longer,” Duran said. “They told me I could play only if I wore the mask and I was ready to do anything if I could play. It was really weird to play with that on though.”
Duran didn’t skip a beat and come time for the NCAA Regional in Long Beach, he was the most potent hitter on a nightly basis. He collected nine hits, drove in six runs and scored three over five games and was even trending on Twitter during the championship game that was aired on ESPN.
After the NCAA Super Regional loss to Fullerton, Duran spent his summer in the Cape Cod league, college baseball’s premiere organization of summer teams in which only the top players get invited to.
“That was awesome,” Duran said. “In the Cape, everyone you face is a Friday night guy and you’re always competing against the best.”
The experience even gave him a taste of what life would be like as a minor league baseball player; living on his own with a host family and playing baseball every day. The thought of getting drafted like many players before him still rests in the back of his mind.
“I’m excited for him,” Hampson said. “He’s one of my good friends and I wish the best for him. I know he’s going to have a great year and most importantly be a leader out there. He’s going into his junior year and he’ll put the draft stuff aside and kind of focus on being the leader of the team and making sure everyone is doing what they need to do.”
Before his name could be selected by a pro team in July, Duran has a name of his own to leave behind.
“I want guys to look back and say that I was a good teammate to them,” Duran said. “Hampson left his own legacy of being a great Dirtbag, but no one could see the little things he also did like take me under his wing and lead the team with culture.”
That culture is left in the good hands of Duran, who is already doing his part to pass it down to the next generation of Dirtbags.