Eddy Furniss grew up with a batting cage in his back yard, the son of a small-town family doctor who himself became a small-town family doctor.
Antoine Duplantis grew up with a pole vault pit in his back yard, the son of an internationally athletic family whose pole-vaulting brother Mondo may one day soon become the world record holder.
At first glance they couldn’t seem more different. In truth, both were much the same as they charted their course through the LSU baseball record book.
Early Sunday night, Duplantis vaulted past Furniss to become the top hitter in LSU baseball history with his 353rd hit, moving the former Tiger slugger whose career ended in 1998 into second place.
Furniss, who has been supportive of Duplantis during his quest, almost relinquished their tied record in the first inning in the first inning Saturday night. Duplantis laced a liner toward right field, but Southern Mississippi first baseman Hunter Slater lunged to his right and snagged the ball out of the air, doubling Brandt Broussard off to end the frame.
Senior right fielder Antoine Duplantis broke the LSU record for career hits on Sunday night, snapping a tie with Eddy Furniss.
Duplantis left no doubt Sunday night. He barreled up a 1-0 pitch from USM starter Josh Lewis and roped a single, the 276th of his career, into center field where there was no chance anyone would catch it. As Duplantis trooped into first place at first base, he seemed to self-consciously tip his cap to the standing ovation that enveloped him and the moment that LSU baseball fans had been waiting all weekend to see.
You had to believe Duplantis was glad to get it over with after an 0-for-4 night Saturday. He might have surpassed Furniss in the ninth in that first game with USM, but the Golden Eagles intentionally walked him. LSU fans, who had to that point mostly saved up their boos for the umpires, rained disdain down on USM coach Scott Berry for foiling the record attempt.
The Golden Eagles scratched back from eight runs down Sunday afternoon to eliminate Arizona State 13-12, setting up the rematch with the Tigers and setting them up to be a footnote in the LSU record book alongside Duplantis' record hit.
Furniss issued a recorded video statement of congratulations from a ballpark back home in Texas.
“Hey, everyone, Eddy Furniss here," he said. "I just wanted to congratulate Antoine Duplantis on breaking the 20-year old LSU hits record. Now, let’s go out and get another win. Geaux Tigers!”
Both men have been excellent hitters or they wouldn’t have topped all the great players who have come through LSU’s program, particularly during the past four glory-crowned decades. But neither was the major-league prospect in the style of a Todd Walker or an Albert Belle or an Alex Bregman. All of those guys left for pro ball before their senior seasons and predictably rocketed up to the major leagues. Their chances of setting something like LSU’s career hit record was never realistically on the table when there were millions to be made.
But Furniss and Duplantis stayed the course for four hit-parade seasons. Furniss went on to four more seasons in the minor leagues, and Duplantis will surely be selected at some point during this week’s major league draft that begins Monday. Still, Furniss starred brightest when he retired from the minors and went on to medical school. The future will likely be written in a similar vein for Duplantis.
The career hitting record is about consistency, patience, dedication. It is showing up and being rock steady dependable game in and game out, season in and season out, while not quite possessing the tools that say your best bargaining power with the major league club that drafts you comes after your junior season.
Who is the better hitter? Though he is now in second place on the hits list, you still have to say Furniss. He batted .374 or better his last three seasons, including a torrid .403 en route to the 1998 Dick Howser Trophy as the national player of the year. And his 80 career home runs is an LSU record that still stands, one that will be even harder to eclipse (Duplantis has 17).
But praise for Duplantis, too. Who wouldn’t take his superb .322 career average heading into Sunday’s play? And his school records for at bats (1,094 after the record hit) and singles (276) deserve their own measure of respect for his incredible brand of dependability for four years.
Maybe it would be great if they could share the hits record forever, but that isn’t the way things work. What they will share is a special place in the hearts of LSU baseball fans forever, and for Duplantis, perhaps a retired No. 8 jersey up on the façade in Alex Box Stadium one day next to Furniss’ No. 36.