In a family that’s managed to set the athletics bar high, Lafayette High School senior center fielder Antoine Duplantis has remained grounded.
Instead of holding onto the same instrument that made his father Greg an All-American pole vaulter at LSU and later a professional, Antoine grabbed a bat and gravitated toward baseball.
“Since I was 7 or 8, I’ve always loved (baseball),” Duplantis said. “It was almost as soon as I was able to pick up a bat.
“My parents knew I didn’t really like pole vaulting that much. I always knew I loved baseball more.”
Antoine — the middle of Greg and Helen Duplantis’ three sons — has done just fine for himself without catapulting himself several stories skyward in a show of speed, power and fortitude.
Not only did his father establish himself as one of the best American pole vaulters during his career, both of Duplantis’ brothers Andreas (a senior at LSU) and Armondo (a Lafayette High freshman) have continued the family’s high-flying legacy.
That’s not to suggest Antoine never took flight. He pole vaulted all the way through middle school and was asked just for fun to jump in a varsity meet last year.
“I jumped 14 or 15 feet,” he said. “I can still do it, but it just doesn’t interest me as much. Baseball’s more of a team sport and fun for me.”
Lafayette coach Sam Taulli counts his blessings Antoine’s been a part of his program, beginning as a courtesy runner and reserve player four years ago to his current role as the Lions’ lead-off batter and defensive stalwart.
Andreas Duplantis played third base and was a designated hitter for nearly three years before opting in the middle of the baseball season to concentrate full time on pole vaulting.
“(Andreas) felt he liked track more and went full time to track,” said Taulli, whose 16-5, 4-1 (District 3-5A) team visits Barbe (20-5, 4-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday. “He knew where his future was going to be. Antoine was just the opposite. I was really fortunate Antoine liked baseball more than he liked track.”
With just over three decades spent at the school, Taulli doesn’t hesitate in his praise of Duplantis, whose athleticism, speed, and power have served him well.
“Watching him day after day,” Taulli said, “he’s as good an outfielder as we’ve ever had. He goes out there and performs at a really high level. He’s pretty even keeled.”
While there’s an appreciation for his ability to serve as Lafayette’s offensive catalyst — he leads the team in batting (.465) and on-base percentage (.553) — Duplantis’ true value may not be the runs he helps produce but the ones he prevents.
Duplantis ability to read the ball off the bat enables the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder to react quickly and utilize his gap-to-gap speed to take away extra-base hits.
“It’s always been a strength of my game,” Duplantis said. “My hitting has started to come around in the past couple of years. When I was younger, I was known more for my speed and defense.”
Not only does Duplantis, the state’s sixth-ranked player and Perfect Game honorable mention All-American, lead Lafayette in batting average, but his power numbers are among the team’s best with three homers, eight doubles and three triples. He’s also scored 29 runs and stolen 20 of 22 bases.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri saw enough Duplantis’ attributes in one inning last summer to want to extend a scholarship. During a game with Marucci Elite at a tournament in Atlanta, Duplantis homered in the first inning and came back in the bottom half from center to throw out a runner at second base.
Upon his return home the next week, Duplantis made an unofficial visit to LSU, was offered and committed, giving the Tigers another player in the mold of current junior outfielders Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird.
“Hopefully, for me, they will get drafted after this season,” Duplantis said. “I can take over their roles. That would be amazing.”