June 29, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN – As Scott Duval walked toward Plainsman Park on the fateful day in the fall of 1997, he decided to stop. It was a decision that changed his life.
Duval, in his second year at Auburn after transferring from the University of Mobile, had minutes secured a job working as a manager on Cliff Ellis’ basketball staff. But baseball was his first love. He walked inside and, by chance, head coach Hal Baird was sitting in his office.
Sitting at his Plainsman Park desk Friday morning, Duval remembered.
“Coach Baird just happened to be in his office,” Duval said. “I said ‘I’m interested in working with the team and I’ll do whatever. I’ll wash clothes, work on the field. They put me with the head manager at the time, Adam Bates, and we just kind of walked around the field and picked up trash. He just said ‘Practice is tomorrow at 2. We’ll see you here.’”
Five coaches have come and gone since that day, but Duval has remained. He became director of baseball operations in 2001 when Steve Renfroe took over when Baird retired. When Renfroe was fired, he was retained by Tom Slater. When Slater was fired, he was retained by John Pawlowski. And now, in the wake of Pawlowski’s firing, he has been retained by new head coach Sunny Golloway.
Known to almost everyone involved with Auburn athletics as "Duvie," Duval’s loyalty and work ethic have been a linchpin in Auburn’s baseball program almost since the day he decided to stop by Plainsman Park.
“I’ve always taken pride in the way I’ve done things, whether it was school work or whatever,” Duval said. “When I came out here as a manager, one, I wanted to do a good job just because that is who I am. But, two, I was trying to make the best impression I could because I wanted to work in athletics.
“… I became close to Coach Baird and Coach Renfroe. The time of Coach Baird’s retirement and everything worked out for me to go on fulltime just as I was finishing grad school.”
Duval grew up an Alabama fan in Mobile. It came naturally because his father, who recently retired from his practice as an optometrist, is an Alabama graduate. Duval played baseball and basketball at Murphy High School and went attended the University of Mobile as a freshman and sophomore. But one trip to Auburn changed everything.
“My sophomore year I came up here and visited a group of friends during spring break and literally fell in love with it,” Duval said. “Before I headed back to Mobile, I stopped by and picked up an application. I got home and said ‘Dad, I’m headed to Auburn.’ He was all for it. He’s an Alabama grad, but he sits here in the stands wearing his Auburn hat.”
Duval didn’t know what to expect when Golloway was introduced as Auburn’s head coach on June 15. Would he have a job? Would he have to move with his wife Jessi, 3-year-old son Bronx and infant daughter Tessa? Then he got the call for which he’d hoped.
“We talked a little bit about my responsibilities, my desire to be at Auburn and that sort of thing,” Duval said. “He was having a team meeting with guys still on campus and asked me to meet with him prior to that to see if we could discuss the future and my role.
“Obviously, this is where I want to be after this amount of time and having gone to school here. We had a real good meeting and came to an agreement. He went in and announced to the team that I would be staying on board.”
That was welcome news for Duval and his family. It was welcome news, too, for Auburn players who hold Duval in high esteem as Auburn players have for 16 years.
The more Golloway, who moved to Auburn after nine seasons at Oklahoma, has discussed his plans, the more optimistic Duval has become about the future. He sees a different mindset, a different approach.
“He has a very clear vision and a plan in place,” Duval said. “A huge part of that is the culture of the program and the belief and the mindset. To me, when that is there, this program can do anything you want it to.
“I don’t think we’ve had one conversation yet when Omaha wasn’t mentioned. It’s not just the head coach when he’s doing an interview or talking to the team. When the head coach, the assistant coaches, the players, the trainers, the managers to every day have the mindset of knowing and expecting that. We’ve had that before, and when you have it, you go out and play like it.”
No one is more loyal to Auburn and Auburn baseball than Duval. No one believes more fervently in what can be done. He’s seen Auburn baseball in the good days and the bad, and he says he has no doubt better days are coming.
And that’s why he has turned down attractive job offers in the past and has no interest in leaving his job, his school and the program in which he has invested so much.
“I’m probably about as competitive as they come,” Duval said. “I’m not going to go to Omaha (for the College World Series) until I’m making travel arrangements for Auburn. I’ve missed Omaha by about a game five or six times. I’ve been right there.
“I know what this program can be and will be again. Sitting there watching the College World Series, that’s something I definitely want to do one day as part of the team. I would never rule anything out, but at the same time there is a lot of stuff in this job you can’t put a price tag on.”
When Baird finished his career as the winningest baseball coach in Auburn history, Duval was there. He was there when the Tigers started 0-9 in the SEC in 2001, Renfroe’s first season, and roared back to finish 15-15 and play in a regional. He was there when the 1998 Tigers won the SEC Tournament, hosted a regional and played in a super regional at Florida State. He was there when Slater’s first team played in an NCAA regional in 2005 and when the 2010 Tiger won the West and hosted a regional.
“I’ve seen a lot,” Duval said. “I wouldn’t change any of it. Obviously, you don’t like to see coaches go, but when I sit back and think about it, my story is pretty awesome.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: