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‘Baseball Lifer’ Chris Duprey Has His Focus Set On A Career In The Majors Story by Y.A. Teitelbaum • Photos by Abner Pedraza

Even at 14 years old, Chris Duprey is a baseball lifer. He has been playing competitive baseball since he was 7, forsaking all other sports for his passion. “My dad started me playing Tball when I was four,” said Duprey, an eighth-grader who plays center field and pitches for Wellington Landings Middle School. “I played other sports, but baseball really stuck with me. I play basketball and football with my friends, but not in a league.” Duprey said he got his enthusiasm for baseball from his father. “My dad was athletic. He always pushed me to be an athlete, to work hard,” said the 5-foot-8, 140-pound Duprey, who has been on the middle school team all three years. Wellington Landings ended the regular season with an 8-2 record and reached the playoffs. Duprey finished with a .444 batting average and 16 stolen bases. And as a reliever, he struck out 10 in 10 1/3 innings. “With middle school baseball, you depend on your eighth-graders to carry your team,” Wellington Landings manager Jason Hugus said. “Chris isn’t normally a pitcher, but he stepped up big this year. He throws really hard, and he wants to compete, so he took on the role of closer this year, and he has done an excellent job on the mound.” In a late-season game against Crestwood, Duprey started in center field but was called in to pitch in the third inning with his team trailing 1-0. He promptly hit a batter on his first pitch, but battled over the next three innings to earn the win, as Wellington Landings rallied for a walk-off victory. He didn’t allow a run, while striking out two and walking two — and picking off a runner at second to end a scoring threat in the fifth inning. “You’ve got to use him where he helps 84

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the team win, and he’s all about helping the team win,” Hugus said. “He’s a team player, a great student, a great teammate. He can hit, he can run, he can field. His strength is definitely playing the outfield. Fantastic speed, premier speed, gets great reads, great jumps, knows the game.” Duprey, who wears the number 21, admitted he enjoys pitching more than playing the outfield. “When I have the ball, I feel like I control the game, that I can set the tempo for the game,” Duprey said. “It’s a lot more thrilling. Most of the time it’s a lot more thrilling than center field. I like that I can set the pace.” But his favorite part of baseball is hitting. And he emphasized that point by hitting a monstrous home run in a 2-1 victory over Polo Park in mid-October. “That was amazing,” recalled Duprey, whose favorite player is perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout of the Angels, who also wears number 21. “I felt it off the bat, and I took off running. I didn’t know where it was, I just took off

running. Definitely, my best hit ever.” Hugus was equally impressed with the blast. “It was all of about 360 [feet]. It was an inside-the-parker, no play at home,” Hugus said. “It was impressive. All the kids from last year’s team are jealous because Chris hit the farthest ball ever hit on this field. They’re all mad because a couple of them hit some bombs last year.” Duprey has the multitude of skills needed to continue to play in high school and perhaps beyond, but Hugus believes his best attribute is something that can’t be quantified. “Everybody who watches him play would say it’s his speed,” Hugus said, “because he is ridiculously fast. But I think it’s his competitiveness. He wants the ball on the mound even though he’s not a pitcher. He wants the bat in his hands; he wants to be the guy on the bases scoring the run. He’s probably the toughest competitor on this team.” Duprey agreed that he is competitive in everything he does. “I wouldn’t call myself a sore loser, but I get aggravated,” Duprey said. Duprey also has a unique nickname, “Coquido,” given to him at birth by his mother. It’s a combination of his heritage; his father is Puerto Rican, and his mother is Italian. A coqui is a small frog native to Puerto Rico, and guido is a common Italian slang term. “I like it; it’s different,” Duprey said. Like many athletes, he has his pregame rituals. He doesn’t have a specific pre-game meal, but rather likes all kinds of food. “I love food,” Duprey said. “Steak, chicken, all the meats. And I like rice and beans and pasta.” Before a game, he usually listens to music, mostly rap, and prays.

Wellington The Magazine December 2017  

December 2017 | ON THE COVER Wines of Wellington owner Brandon West, profiled in this issue, photographed on location at Suri West, styled b...