Northern loses a baseball leader

GRAND SLAM OF A GUY: Kent Duncan, seen here in the dugout at MCU Park on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, was credited for putting Northern baseball on the high school map, and for having a knack at winning important games. He died Dec. 3.

Kent Duncan, 62, was a high school sports fixture despite being retired

Kent Duncan had a sixth sense when it came to the game of baseball.

Unfortunately, both the Leaside Baseball Association and the Northern Secondary phys. ed. department will miss that intuition.

Duncan died suddenly on Dec. 3 of a heart attack.

“We did a lot of things together and he was my pal,” said one of his closest friends and colleagues at Northern, Brian Gaw. “I’m still in shock to be honest. We were just out after the game last Friday and he just passed away Saturday.”

Though the 62-year-old Duncan had retired from teaching in 2005, he continued to be a presence at Northern as a substitute teacher and an extra hand for the hockey and baseball teams. In addition, he would be in the stands for all of Northern’s big games.

“He still bled Red Knight blood,” Gaw said. “He came to every football game and he supported everybody in the phys. ed. department by coming to big games — when he could — like the basketball finals, supporting Bryan (McAlpine) and the senior girls in the City Championships.

“He said he’d come by and help me when I needed it,” he added. “He had it all lined up to go to some hockey games next week.”

That dedication to sports also led him into a job as bench boss job for Leaside’s junior baseball team.

He saved the team from folding in 2009, association president Howard Birnie recalled.

“We got lucky and got him to coach the juniors three years ago,” he said. “He bailed us out because at that time I was desperate. We had lost a couple of coaches who had committed but then had to withdraw.”

Duncan even went that extra inning during the spring to get all the proper coaching accreditations through Ontario Baseball to qualify for the position.

“Although Kent had coached forever, he didn’t have coaching accreditation for baseball because it’s not necessary for a phys. ed. teacher,” Birnie said. “He certainly went out of his way that first year he coached, giving up two or three weekends to get the necessary accreditation.”

The results were Toronto Baseball Association titles in 2009 and 2010.

“He obviously had a lot of success because he knew the game and the young men — he knew how to deal with them,” Birnie said. “They were three good years and he was talking about one more year.”

That same insight was felt in the 31 years he taught at Northern, elevating Northern’s status in South Region Tier 1 baseball, even in retirement.

“In terms of not having my right-hand man around, it’s going to be very strange,” Gaw said. “When I look across the diamond to the first-base coach’s box and old Kent isn’t going to be there, I’m not sure what we’re going to do.

“(But) we’ll get by. There is Jonathan Isaac and a couple of other alumni guys that have already said they will come back and help out like they did last year,” he added. “It will just be different without Kent around, the old, crafty vet he was.”

Duncan leaves behind his girlfriend Laura Shin, and son Todd and daughter Elana from a previous marriage.

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