CRAWFORD | Duvall enjoys All-Star return to his hometown in Reds - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Duvall enjoys All-Star return to his hometown in Reds' exhibition

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Duvall speaks with reporters before Friday's exhibition in Louisville Slugger Field. (WDRB photo by John Lewis) Duvall speaks with reporters before Friday's exhibition in Louisville Slugger Field. (WDRB photo by John Lewis)
Adam Duvall -- the Bobblehead (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Adam Duvall -- the Bobblehead (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Reds outfielder Adam Duvall (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Reds outfielder Adam Duvall (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Neither the game, nor the season, had started as the Cincinnati Reds walked into Louisville Slugger Field for batting practice before an exhibition game against a Reds’ Futures squad Friday, but Adam Duvall already led the team in one category -- steals.

“He stole my tickets,” teammate Billy Hamilton said, before the exhibition. “I think he stole everybody’s, actually.”

Duvall, the Louisville native and former star at the University of Louisville and Butler High School, had the largest cheering section in the stadium Friday night, and was enjoying the star treatment.

Fans who got to the stadium early received an Adam Duvall bobblehead doll. He was the main attraction for autograph seekers -- and he admitted, it felt a little strange.

“I never thought I’d have a bobblehead,” Duvall said. “You know, whenever you get to come back and play in front of your hometown fans its unbelievable. It was kind of surreal walking into the ballpark today and seeing a bunch of fans outside, so they’re excited and I’m excited. I think we all are.”

Duvall spent much of his offseason in Louisville working out with trainer Eric Hammer at Baptist Health Performance Training. His aim was to improve himself physically, and to build himself for the long haul of a 162-game season.

But some of the things he worked on the most were psychological, or mental, like his two-strike approach to hitting. Duvall led the Reds with 33 home runs and 106 runs batted in during the 2016 season, but with two strikes, hit just .141. Of his 39 two-strike hits, 26 were for extra bases and 11 were home runs, but he’s hoping to improve that average, as well as cover more ground in the outfield.

“I think he’s had a terrific spring,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He hit a lot of balls hard early in camp with not much to show for it. But with Adam, again, we think of him a guy who hit the ball off the top of a scoreboard the other day than a guy who can really scratch you out a good at-bat, and that’s what I really wanted to see. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s going to hit his share of homers and some extra-base hits. But to be able to battle with two strikes, not just Adam, but for everybody on our ball club, is to appreciate the importance of getting the ball in play, and these guys all worked so hard at it. The thing that is so good about Adam, in particular, is he really covets improvement, and wants to get better. He’s not sitting on his hands and saying, ‘Hey, man, I’m an all-star, I hit 30 homers and drove in 100 runs, I’ve made it.’ He’s chasing greatness, and that’s what we preach here and that’s what expect here.”

About that scoreboard. It was hard to miss the shot Duvall hit in the Reds Cactus League spring finale in Goodyear Ballpark. It hit about three-quarters of the way up the large video board. Duvall said he never saw it land. He finished the spring as the Reds’ leader with six home runs. But when asked for the estimated distance of that shot, didn’t have one.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said. “That’s probably one of the longest ones I’ve ever hit. But we were working on a couple of things in the cage before the game and it was gratifying to see that pay off. But I don’t know.”

“If that scoreboard hadn’t been there,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know how far that thing would have gone.”

But rather than long shots, Duvall said he’s seeking incremental improvements in his game this season.

“I had some success last year and just want to look to build on it this year,” he said. “There are certain things in my game that I want to get better and some that I want to maintain. . . . I just try to trust in the process and try to get better each day. One thing I took a lot of pride in working on was my two-strike approach. But again, you just have to go out and compete.”

He came to the plate twice Friday night, and both times he pleased his large fan contingent with a pair of hits, a double and a base hit, in what wound up as a 1-1 tie.

Now, he’ll look forward to the pageantry of Opening Day in Cincinnati, and building on a breakout season with the Reds. But home is never too far from his thoughts.

“For me, I grew up here,” he said. “I’d been at this stadium. I remember being a young kid and looking out there and thinking, ‘Man, they throw the ball hard. And they’re so big, and they hit the ball so far.’ So it’s really cool that I actually get to play in this stadium, coming up a long way from when I was a little kid. So it’s very gratifying. I’m really glad we get to play this game here. For me, it’s pretty awesome.”

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