One could be excused for confusing Nederland (Texas) High sophomore pitcher and infielder Dillon Duplant with Superman on the baseball field up until the past two months. Despite playing in just his second season of varsity baseball, the dual-threat ace and slugger was 9-0 with a microscopic 0.58 ERA, all with a .377 batting average, 24 RBI and four home runs at the plate. Fittingly, he was recently named the Beaumont Enterprise's Super Gold Player of the Year.
That he did it in his first season at Nederland -- he played his freshman season at Hardin-Jefferson (Texas) High -- was impressive enough. That he put up those numbers while also adapting to life with troubling heart palpitations is another concern entirely.
According to the Enterprise, Duplant began feeling his heart flutter during a practice in April. While the hardball star didn't think much of it at first, he became more concerned when his heart began fluttering again just a week later.
Soon, he was feeling it twice a week, and then, terrifyingly, three times in a single day. Duplant race in to see a doctor, who quickly diagnosed him with a heart rate of more than 140 beats per minute, a speed more than twice as fast as is normally healthy.
"It doesn't hurt or anything, it just kind of scared me," Duplant said. "I told my mom we might want to go to the hospital."
While doctors have initially ruled that Duplant's elevated heart rate is likely to be a genetic condition -- both his father and grandfather have also discovered the condition in themselves at different ages -- they are still trying to determine precisely what it is.
In fact, that indecision nearly cost Nederland's playoff run dearly. While Duplant was being evaluated he was forced to stay out of action, for fear of endangering himself should his heart race during a game. The timing of that period away forced him out of his team's district playoff series against Barbers Hill (Texas) High.
Luckily, he was cleared to return to action in the subsequent series against Magnolia (Texas) High, which Nederland dropped to end its season.
While the condition may have proved to be a troubling distraction for both Duplant and his team in 2011, both the sophomore and his teammates can look forward to having him back at full strength in 2012, when an additional year of experience should make he and Nederland prime candidates for Texas hardball glory.
"You couldn't ask for anything more from him," Nederland coach Cody Robbins told the Enterprise after one of Duplant's 2011 outings, in a quote that easily could have applied to his entire season. "He threw all of his pitches for strikes, and his changeup was really, really dirty tonight. He kept them at bay."
Luckily, he now knows that his heart risk is being kept at bay, too.