Setting the standard: Duke becomes the first Millennium male athlete to sign with D1 college
TRACY — Caden Duke has set a standard in many things at Millennium High School.
As a freshman quarterback, he was handed the keys to the football program.
It only took seven games into his freshman baseball season before he was called up to the varsity team.
And Duke excelled academically, being the top academic male student at the school, according to Drew Reyes, Duke’s baseball and football coach.
“When you think about what you want in a male athlete, or any type of athlete, you want a student who takes academics seriously as they take athletics, a team player who makes their teammates better,” Reyes said. “You want all of that and he brings all of that to the table and he has done it for four years.”
Duke added to his list of standards when he became the first male athlete at Millennium to sign with a Division I school. On Thursday he signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at University of the Pacific.
“I have been looking forward to this ever since I began talking to UOP’s coach (Chris Rodriguez),” Duke said. “Since freshman year I always hoped to get that offer, especially leading up to this signing day. And it is pretty cool to be the first signing day on our school campus.”
Reyes, who has been the head baseball coach at Millennium for 12 years, said he has never had a better player at the school than Duke.
After those seven games on junior varsity to begin his freshman year, Reyes said he had no choice but to move Duke to varsity to face tougher competition.
Reyes added that Major League organizations, including the San Diego Padres, had Duke on their radar and “checked in” on his development during his sophomore year.
It was that early success that gave Duke aspirations of college baseball.
“Seeing that and how I performed against better competition at a young age, I could see myself continuing to get better and actually being able to do something with it,” he said.
Pacific offered numerous opportunities, including the opportunity to play close to home.
“Just the first day, when I met the coach (Rodriguez), I felt involved already,” he said. “The fact that they are a high academic school and so local, so my family and friends can come watch. Just the fact that I can play on a really solid team, also get a good education and it’s close, I just kind of put the pieces together.”
Last season, the Tigers were 8-9 before the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down the remainder of the year.
Duke said he and his family decided to skip his senior football season, because of COVID-19’s impact on the season. With football season starting so close to baseball, he didn’t want to risk an injury.
As Duke heads off to Pacific, he said he will have a chance to pitch and play first base next season at Pacific. He said his primary goal for his freshman year is to find his way into the Tigers’ everyday lineup.
And when returns to visit Millennium, he will do so knowing his impact on the Falcons’ athletic standards.
“I’m kind of proud of myself for pushing, knowing that coming into this school and it is more of an academic school and not really all sports,” Duke said. “It shows that even if you go here you can still make something out of it.”