Carroll Duvall visited a yard sale in the late 1970s.
Thus began the development of the only Major League Baseball player to ever come out of Fauquier High School.
Duvall arrived at that yard sale because his 5-year-old son, Mike, wanted a left-handed catcher's mitt, but such a glove cost a lot of money straight off the store shelf. So he instead searched for some worn, discount leather to give his child.
Mike Duvall subsequently used that catcher's mitt for only a few years, but it became the genesis of his path toward a nine-year pro baseball career.
Duvall switched to pitcher early in Little League and eventually emerged as a strikeout phenom during his senior year at Fauquier High, graduating in 1993. Following two all-American seasons at Potomac State College of West Virginia University, the Florida Marlins selected Duvall in the 19th round of the 1995 MLB Draft.
His professional baseball career included four seasons at the major league level as a left-handed middle relief pitcher, but he left the game in 2003 due to a reoccurring arm injury. Now the 41-year-old lives in Fort Myers, Fla. with his wife and three children.
“I still think it's a pretty neat thing,” Duvall said of his MLB career. “There's a very small percentage of people that get to do it. I definitely feel like I was one of the lucky ones. It was a dream of mine my whole life.”
Of all the places for Mike Duvall to earn his first Major League win, fate chose the hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium.
On Sept. 27, 1999, he struck out two batters while allowing one earned run over 2 2/3 innings to help the Tampa Bay Devil Rays beat the Yankees, 10-6.
“It was definitely pretty sweet,” Duvall said.
As a middle reliever, he rarely had opportunities to win games, but his father still managed to witness that first one during the 41st appearance of Duvall's career.
“It was definitely exciting,” said Duvall's father, who occasionally traveled to watch his son play. “It's not every day you see your son pitching in the Major Leagues, especially in Yankee Stadium. That was really something else.”
In that same game, Tampa Bay's Jeff Sparks earned the first save of his career, so Duvall let him keep the game ball. Duvall took home a different ball from the game.
“It had blue laces since it was Joe DiMaggio Day,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
Duvall also made his Major League debut in a cherished ballpark, pitching 2 2/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. He allowed three earned runs on two hits and two walks during Tampa Bay's 11-2 loss Sept. 22, 1998.
His four seasons in the majors also afforded him the opportunity to witness some historic moments. On Aug. 7, 1999, Duvall's Tampa Bay teammate Wade Boggs earned his 3,000th career hit. Boggs launched a two-run home run against the Cleveland Indians and then knelt down to kiss home plate.
Less than a month later, Duvall watched the Baltimore Orioles' Cal Ripken Jr. hit his 400th career home run while playing Tampa Bay at Camden Yards on Sept. 2, 1999.
“Still my favorite player of all time,” Duvall said. “A guy that plays every day and stays with the same team and is true to the fan base, there's not many people out there like that. It's hard to come by.”
That 1999 season was also Duvall's best. The 6-foot, 200-pound pitcher finished it with a 1-1 record and 4.05 ERA while striking out 18 over 40 innings in as many games. His best pitch was an 82 mph curveball and he threw a 92 mph fastball.
Although injuries hurt his potential, Duvall feels proud about his MLB career. But he doesn't often share his story without prompting from people.
“Unless they start talking about baseball and question how I know so much about it,” Duvall said with a laugh. “I don't usually tell people. … I don't like living in the past.”
His siblings, however, enjoy reminiscing about his success. His sister, Stacie Duvall, and brother, Matt Morris, witnessed him progress from a Little League catcher to a Major League pitcher.
“It was always cool growing up playing baseball as kids and then watching your little brother going to the majors and living the dream,” Morris said. “He never did it for the money. He did it for the game. … He just took what they paid him.”
According to Baseball Almanac, Mike Duvall made about $1,001,000 during four years in the Major Leagues with additional salary during five minor league seasons.
Morris occasionally traveled to watch Duvall play during those nine years.
“He'd get swarmed by fans wanting to get his autograph,” Morris said. “That just made me giggle and smile. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Whether it was one kid or 20 kids, he'd talk to them and sign everything.”
Duvall's professional career began with the Florida Marlins in 1995. He spent three seasons in that organization's minor league system. Following the 1997 season, Tampa Bay selected Duvall in the expansion draft, so he spent three seasons playing for the Devil Rays in both the major and minor leagues.
“Seeing your kid out there with the name on the back of the shirt, knowing he could be in the majors soon, was quite a thrill,” Duvall's father said. “We watched a lot of baseball games. We would drive down to Durham (N.C.) and then drive back, getting home at 4 in morning and having to go to work the next day.”
Tampa Bay released Duvall prior to the 2001 season and the Minnesota Twins signed him as a free agent. He played 55 games in the minors that season and eight in the majors, but he missed the 2002 season after having Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.
Duvall returned in 2003 to pitch during 24 minor league games at age 28.
“I came back in a year, which is pretty quick, but I re-injured it,” he said of his elbow. “Two years in a row not being able to play, it wears on you.”
So Duvall asked for his release in August 2003, and he never played another game.
“He had a pretty good career,” Duvall's father said. “If he hadn't messed up his elbow, it's hard to say where he could have gone.”
Fairy tale end
To his young children, Mike Duvall is a youth baseball coach, not a former Major League Baseball player.
Duvall coaches his sons Tanner, 10, and Emerson, 5, and he has a 5-year-old twin girl, Avery. His MLB career means little to them.
“My 5-year-olds, they don't get it,” Duvall said. “My 10-year-old is just right now kind of starting to understand.”
Duvall, his children and his wife, Cammy, have lived in Fort Myers the past 14 years since shortly after they met there. He attended spring training in that city with the Minnesota Twins, 2001-03.
His wife works in Fort Myers for Algenol Biotech, which turns algae into biofuel, while Duvall is a manager with Performance Foodservice after spending 13 years as a specialty brands manager with J.J. Taylor Distributing.
When his baseball career ended in 2003, Duvall decided to relax for about a year before pursuing a new career. That transition was one of the biggest challenges of his life.
“From fairy tale life to real life, that's a big jump,” Duvall said. “It was tough. … When you play a game your whole life and then get into the work force, it's definitely different.”
The prelude to Duvall's fairy tale began in 1993 when he emerged as the senior ace of Fauquier High's baseball team. After finishing his 1992 season with only a 0-3 pitching record, he began his senior season by striking out an incredible 21 batters to beat Stafford in nine innings.
“It was intense,” Duvall said recently. “Sometimes you get lucky.”
He allowed five hits and six walks in that April 5 game.
Eighteen days later, Duvall threw a no-hitter with 12 strikeouts and only two walks for a win over James Wood. That helped give him a 3-1 early-season record with 48 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings, including 15 consecutive no-hit innings.
He finished 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. He also hit a team-high 19 RBIs, had a .375 batting average and excelled at first base, earning all-region and all-district honors as well as a baseball scholarship from Potomac State College.
“When he was at Potomac State, they'd have pro scouts at the games looking at him,” Duvall's father said. “That's when we kind of knew he had something. He had the talent.”
Potomac State lost in the National Junior College Athletic Association 1994 World Series before winning the championship in 1995. Duvall was the winning pitcher in the clinching game of that series, helping PSC beat Kirkwood, 4-2.
He set a handful of Potomac State records during his two season there, including 189 career strikeouts, 150 2/3 career innings and 17 career wins. PSC later retired his jersey number and then inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2015.
“That was amazing,” Duvall said. “They put my name on the [ballpark] fence.
“And it was our 20-year anniversary from when we won the junior college World Series,” he said, “so a lot of my teammates were there. It was really special.”
Duvall said 40 NCAA colleges wooed him and he signed with Coastal Carolina before instead choosing the Marlins, whom he signed with for $10,000.
“I’d gotten the opportunity and wanted to follow my dream,” Duvall said.