Duke Kinamon is laying the foundation for a bright future in baseball, but he’s keeping a crystal clear focus on today.
The present is looking pretty good. Kinamon hit the ground running as a freshman at Stanford, playing in 38 games as a true freshman in 2016. He took his game up to another level this year, raising his batting average 40 points to .284, fielding at a .986 clip, and stealing 13 bases. He was recognized for his strong showing with a spot on the All-Pac-12 Baseball Team.
On a roll after his sophomore campaign, he could be looking toward the stars, but he’s locked in on helping his team win. Even the thought of someday joining another McIntosh alum in the Major Leagues in Dwight Smith Jr., a recent call-up to the Toronto Blue Jays. won’t distract him for long.
“It would be cool to get up there myself, but I don’t try to get too caught up in the longterm,” he said. “I try to just control what I can control and put myself in a good situation.”
Grinding in high school and club ball earned him a spot at one of the country’s premier baseball programs in Stanford. The Cardinal finished this season as the number eight seed in the NCAA Regionals with a tough 4-2 loss to Cal State Fullerton. The ending was special because they were able to send Coach Mark Marquess out on a high note. Marquess had led the Cardinal baseball team for 41 years before retiring at the end of the season. By finishing the season strong, they got to send their coach out at home.
“As a team, we didn’t finish how we expected,” said Kinamon. “We had a great year and really made a good run at the end.”
Coming from the Chiefs, Kinamon caught on quickly. The extra games and the higher level of competition posed a challenge, but he followed the lead of his teammates.
“Playing with guys who are better makes you hold yourself to a higher standard. The grind was something I had to get used to, but in the end it’s just baseball,” he said. “It’s the game I’ve been playing my whole life. Once you’re on the field, it’s not that much different.”
The biggest change, he noticed, is the intensity level for every single game.
“If you blow one game, it could really hurt you in the standings,” he said. “Every game, you’re playing for the postseason.”
The gravity of playing big time college baseball really sank in for him in that last game. With a packed house and a lot on the line, it just had a special feel to it.
“The atmosphere was electric with what was at stake. I’d never seen a stadium so full. You look around and people are going crazy,” he remembered. “I took a step back and looked around and realized where I was, and I just tried to cherish the moment.”
The highs and lows of the loss has the Cardinal hungrier than ever to attack 2018.
“Sitting in the dugout after we lost and seeing Fullerton celebrating, you think about what it takes to beat those teams,” he said. “It started the next day. As soon as we lost, we started working so we can be in that spot celebrating next year.”
Kinamon’s success didn’t catch David Munoz off guard. Munoz, the head baseball coach at McIntosh, first coached Duke on the 8th grade football team at J.C. Booth Middle School, then again in football and baseball for the Chiefs.
“I’m happy for him, but I’m not surprised,” said Munoz. “In 11 years of coaching, he’s one of the hardest-working, most dedicated athletes I’ve been around.”
It seemed pretty inevitable that Duke would be a standout athlete. His father, Chuck, played football at Air Force. Duke himself was also an excellent football player for the Chiefs. His mother, Kari, was on the dance team at San Diego. His uncle, Eric Degraw, was a member of the 1987 and ’88 World Series teams for Stanford, and his aunt, Sheri Degraw, was a gymnast.
His older brother, Derek, boxed for Air Force and was on the receiving end of a long touchdown pass from Duke at McIntosh. Their sister, Tori, was a gymnast at Brown University. Younger brother Dane is another multi-sport star for the Chiefs.
“It’s pretty cool to be part of such an athletic family,” said Duke. “Growing up in Peachtree City, there wasn’t always much to do, so we were always playing basketball or baseball or football. We were always playing some sort of sport.”
They also played a huge role in shaping him into the success he is.
“It’s big having a family that understands the commitment and loves you and supports you,” he said, talking about how special it was to see his family travel to see Stanford play in the Regionals.
It’s only the beginning, but Duke Kinamon is playing for right now. The gains he’s making today while others are resting are enough to put the future on notice. He’s on his way to top.