Dalton native Duquette makes most of second chance in baseball with Orioles
Ten summers ago, Dan Duquette was helping rake the home plate area at Wahconah Park, helping prepare the field for a Pittsfield Dukes game. Today, Duquette is riding high as the front-office chief of the American League East champions.
"I was hoping to get another opportunity [in Major League Baseball] and I was fortunate that [owner Peter] Angelos gave me another opportunity with the Orioles," said the Baltimore executive vice president of baseball operations. "I think the time away from the game made me appreciate the time in the big leagues."
The Orioles clinched the AL East on Sept. 16, beating the Toronto Blue Jays. It was Baltimore's first division title since 1997, and it marked the first division title for Duquette since the Boston Red Sox won the AL East in 1995.
Prior to joining the Orioles, Duquette had spent five years running the Berkshire/Pittsfield Dukes of the New England Collegiate Baseball League from 2004-08. He also opened the Duquette Sports Academy in Hinsdale in 2003.
The Dalton native, who graduated from Wahconah Regional High School and Amherst College, was Boston's general manager from 1994 through 2002. The Red Sox went to the playoffs three times in Duquette's tenure, the last coming in 1999.
But in 1995, the Sox lost to Cleveland in the American League championship series 3-0. The winning pitcher for Cleveland in that first games, a 13-inning, 5-4 win, was Ken Hill. A North Adams State graduate, Hill just happened to be the first player Duquette acquired as general manager of the Montreal Expos.
"I was happy for the fans in Baltimore," Duquette told the Eagle during a phone interview from his office at Camden Yards. "The city has waited for a championship for 17 years."
Baltimore lost to Cleveland in six games in the 1997 American League Championship Series. The Orioles made the playoffs in Duquette's first season running the team, but they dropped a five-game Division Series to the New York Yankees. The division title means that Duquette-led teams have now been to two postseasons in three seasons. Baltimore has had three consecutive winning seasons under the leadership of Duquette and manager Buck Showalter.
For much of the spring, the Orioles hovered around the .500 mark. They were 26-27 after losing at Houston on May 30. One month later, Baltimore won 9 of 11 games, taking possession of first place in the division on July 5. The Birds did not relinquish it.
"We started playing really well June the first. I was concerned how we would be able to sustain a competitive team after [catcher Matt] Wieters got hurt," Duquette said, when asked when he thought the Orioles were for real. "It's very difficult to recover from losing a catcher of Wieters' caliber, being an all-star and a Gold Glover. We were able to pick up [Nick] Hundley from San Diego to help fortify our pitching staff.
"After we were able to stay a competitive team in light of the injury to Wieters, I thought we had a chance to have a pretty good year."
That capped off a pretty big weekend for Duquette. The trade was consummated on May 24, the same day son Dana graduated from Endicott College. Three days after that, Duquette and wife Amy welcomed newborn son Colt into the world.
"I was completing the trade by text during graduation ceremonies at Endicott," Duquette said with a laugh. "We had a lot to be thankful for as a family -- the baby boy and another boy graduating from college. The team doing well over the season, that's a great tribute to the guys doing all the work."
One of those "guys" is manager Showalter, who predates Duquette in the Baltimore organization, having been hired in 2010. Duquette said he has worked as well with Showalter as perhaps any manager he's had.
"I would say that Buck is a complete manager who really knows his business. We share a lot of the same fundamental approaches on building a winning team," said Duquette. "It's been a pleasure to work with him. I really enjoy working with Buck because his intensity is contagious."
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