Duplantis Incorporated: Lafayette family dynasty united again in track and baseball at LSU

LSU's Kramer Robertson (3) and Antoine Duplantis (20) celebrate after both scored on a two-run RBI double by Greg Deichmann during the eighth inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional gameagainst Mississippi State in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, June 10, 2017. LSU won 4-3. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BATON ROUGE — It was the spring of 1988 when Bob Duplantis bumped into a friend who was a high school track coach in the area at a track meet in Lafayette.

"Hey," the coach said. "How's your son, Greg?"

Greg Duplantis of Lafayette High was and is a household name in track and field in the area and had competed against this coach's team before becoming a world-class name as an All-American pole vaulter at LSU, where he competed from 1982-86 and later was a U.S. Olympic team alternate in 1996.

"Great," Bob said. "He just married a girl from Sweden."

2016 FLASHBACK: Greg and Helena Duplantis discuss Antoine playing at their LSU

That was on Aug. 1, 1987, and the bride was the former Helena Hedlund of Aresta, Sweden. She was a pioneering LSU women's athlete from 1986-89 as both a heptathlete on the LSU track team and a star on the LSU volleyball team .

"Wow. I want to see their kids," the coach said.

Well, three of them have been in action at LSU this weekend.

Antoine Duplantis slides into home to score a run against Mississippi State at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.

» Antoine "Twanny" Duplantis, who is the second oldest at 22 and played on the U.S. national collegiate baseball team last summer, started in right field and batted third as No. 1 LSU opened the season Friday night against Louisiana-Monroe in Alex Box Stadium. The senior from Lafayette High hit two home runs in a game for the first time in his college career — a grand slam and a two-run shot — as the Tigers won, 12-7. ... Parents Greg and Helena and grandparents Bob and Carolyn were there. 

Armand Duplantis is shown accepting the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year award.

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» Before that, Armand "Mondo" Duplantis, the third child at 19 and an elite world class pole vaulter and freshman at LSU out of Lafayette High, won the pole vault at 18 feet, 7.5 inches in the LSU Twilight Indoor meet Friday at the Carl Maddox Field House across Nicholson Drive from Alex Box. ... Parents and grandparents were there.

» And on Saturday, Johanna "Yo" Duplantis, the youngest and first girl at 16 who is another world-class pole vaulter, competed at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Indoor championships at the Carl Maddox Field House for Lafayette High, where she also plays soccer. ... Parents and grandparents planned on going there before catching Antoine's 2 p.m. baseball game against Army Saturday with Yo.

» Andreas "Dre" Duplantis, the oldest at 25 and a top pole vaulter at LSU from 2012-15 who earned a degree in textile, apparel and merchandise, would like to watch his three siblings, but he is in business in New York City. An All-District baseball player at Lafayette High his sophomore year, he quit that sport to focus on pole vaulting. "He could have played college baseball, no doubt," grandpa Bob said.

Helena Duplantis talks to son Mondo at the Beaver Relays.

More:Johanna Duplantis carries on family tradition at LHSAA State Indoor Meet

"It's going to be a busy weekend," Helena Duplantis, a volunteer track coach at LSU, said last week at their home in Lafayette. "It's really neat that we live so close that we can be part of it. When I ran track at LSU, my parents were in Sweden, so they couldn't experience the meets. So, it's great. We should be able to see everything."

Antoine and Armand are the first Duplantis siblings to be at LSU at the same time, as Andreas finished just before Antoine got to LSU in the fall of 2016.

"That's what's great," Helena said. "Toine and Mondo do so much stuff together, and I think it's really good for Mondo to have his older brother there."

Meanwhile, Johanna is enjoying some alone time with her brothers all out of the house.

LSU senior Antoine DuPlantis rounds the bases during a baseball game.

"She had to grow up with three kind of bullies for brothers. She's a very tough girl," Mondo said at Alex Box Stadium with Antoine last week.

"She's probably the one who got it the worst," Antoine said.

"I would say she's almost a woman already because she's very tough — very tough for her age," Mondo said.

And Yo might get some more tough treatment from Antoine and Andreas after a blunt answer when asked which of her brothers is the best athlete.

LSU outfielder Antoine Duplantis rounds the bases.

"I don't want to dog anyone out, but I'd have to say Mondo," she said. "Well, I just did."

Asked if she was the best overall child, "Oh yeah, for sure," she said without hesitating.

"That was an easy question," Helena said. "She was actually the most active one. She was the one who could not just settle down on the sofa when she was little. I'd say, 'Go watch a movie.' She'd say, 'No.' She was the one who was all over the place and had the most stitches everywhere. She was the wildest one."

Antoine is the "chill" brother. Andreas is the alpha dog, and Armand may be the loud one.

"Go to my Instagram. You'll see me hit a home run," Armand said.

"They were throwing you meatballs," Antoine retorted.

"Antoine didn't have the 'Big Brother' attitude, where he was trying to bully me and pick on me," Mondo said. "He was the quiet brother. I would say Andreas, the oldest, he was more the bully type because he was great at baseball, great at pole vaulting. He could do anything, really. He was a lot stronger and bigger than us because he was older. He was more the bigger brother. Antoine was the quiet one — the chill brother."

Antoine would prey on Mondo's competitive nature to get him to play baseball, which was the sport of choice in the Duplantis Dynasty Incorporated only for Antoine.

"The only way I could get him to go throw with me or hit with me outside was to mess with him," he said. "I'd say, 'I like baseball way more than you.' And he'd be like, 'No you don't,' just to be competitive because he didn't even really like baseball as much as me. He just wanted to prove me wrong."

LSU Tigers outfielder Antoine Duplantis (20) drives in a run in the third inning against the Oregon State Beavers at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

Mondo used the same ploy to get Antoine to pole vault.

"He didn't really like to pole vault," Mondo said. "But I was a little better than him technically at pole vaulting, so we were pretty even because physically he was a lot better because he was older. So, the only way I could get him to pole vault was, 'Hey, I can out-jump you right now.'"

But there was a time when Antoine pole vaulted higher than Mondo, and it is on video.

"Mondo was not happy about that," grandpa Bob said.

This was in the Duplantis' backyard, which was a "Kid Cave" of the highest order with a pole vaulting pit, a trampoline, a batting cage, a tree climbing rope apparatus along with an assortment of balls, dogs and visiting neighborhood kids.

Greg and Helena did not push their kids like former NFL quarterback Todd Marinovich's dad, Marv, who trained him as a toddler on. They just made everything available in the backyard of the home that Bob left his son Greg. The Duplantis' still lives there in Greenbriar Estates in Lafayette.

"It was a playground back there. You had everything. Everything a kid could want," Mondo said.

And the remnants remain. Johanna was practicing on the rope just last week.

"You can use that for pole vault drills and how to turn above the poll," Antoine said. "Pretty much all of our friends at least tried pole vaulting. There aren't a lot of people that have a pole vaulting pit in their backyard."

There was and is also a vacant lot next to the Duplantis' home that basically extended the Kid Cave.

Greg Duplantis pats his son Andreas Duplantis on the head during batting practice on Wednesday at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

"We always had a bunch of kids come over," said Mondo, who had his sixth birthday in that lot on November of 2005 with special guest appearances by the Lafayette Little League team that played in the World Series the previous summer in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Andreas Duplantis was on that team along with Andrew Stevenson, who went on to start in center field at LSU from 2013-15, and Jace and Brenn Conrad, whose dad Mike coached that team. They went on to play at Louisiana-Lafayette.   

"That was Mondo's birthday wish," grandpa Bob said. "They all played baseball in the lot. They all pole vaulted in the backyard - or tried to pole vault."

Lafayette native Bill Franques, who has been LSU's sports information director and Alex Box Stadium's announcer since the late 1980s, is familiar with the Duplantis' neighborhood in Greenbriar.

"Antoine's grandfather, Bob, and Antoine's dad, Greg, lived across the street from my grandparents when I was a kid," Franques said. "And I lived not too far from there, maybe a mile. Then Greg and I were at LSU at about the same time. It was great growing up in Lafayette and great to see the Duplantis legacy continue here at LSU."

And the Duplantis' backyard was a field for all seasons.

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"It was really the perfect kind of setting that we grew up in because we had this backyard that we could pretty much do everything," Mondo said. "We could pole vault. We could play baseball. We could jump around. And then we had this big ole field next door. So we'd play rag ball, or football, soccer, anything, any type of ball that we could get our hands on."

Greg Duplantis, who is an attorney in Lafayette like his father Bob before him, would hold casual track meets.

"But it wasn't that organized when we were growing up," Mondo said. "We weren't training, per se. We were just messing around. We were doing all kinds of sports. We were just having a great time competing against everybody in the neighborhood. It wasn't like some crazy thing where we were just like in a military camp as kids. We did what we wanted to do, and our dad never really pushed us. We just loved competing."

Yet, the results continue to be world class.

"Anything we wanted to do, we pretty much had available in the backyard," Mondo said.

"Lafayette has been a great place to raise kids," Helena said. "One of the best places in Louisiana to have a family."

And now Antoine and Mondo are together again in a larger backyard called LSU, where their parents competed, where older brother Andreas competed, and where Yo competed Saturday, and will perhaps in the near future for LSU.

"It's great," Mondo said. "Maybe it wasn't exactly how Twanny wanted it to turn out after last year, but for me and for him, it's going to be a great year."

Antoine thought he would turn pro after his junior year of baseball in 2018, but he was not drafted until the 19th round and decided to return for his senior season. He will get another chance at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, where LSU reached the title series in 2017 before losing to Florida. And he gets another year in the bigger backyard.

"I have no regrets about coming back," Antoine said. "I'm so glad I'm back, and I get to spend this year with Mondo and another year with this program. He seems to have it more figured out than I did when I was a freshman. I feel like everything was going a million miles an hour when I was a freshman. So, it's nice to just show him the ropes."

So far, though, none of the historic oaks at LSU have climbing ropes attached.

"To be able to spend this last year with my brother before he's just traveling around all the time playing minor league ball," Mondo said, "I think it's good to get this before that."

LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri is just glad Antoine did not join the family business of pole vaulting. Duplantis as of Saturday before the Army game was just 83 hits from breaking the SEC hits record of former LSU first baseman Eddy Furniss, who had 352 from 1995-98. Duplantis has 272 career hits, though Mississippi State senior Jake Mangum entered the season ahead at 275.

Duplantis has been the model of consistency at the plate with 89 hits as a freshman, 90 as a sophomore and 89 as a junior.

"Not only is Antoine a consistent hitter, he's a consistent baseball player," Mainieri said. "He's consistent in everything he does. How can you ask for more out of a player?"

He could be asked if he is the best athlete in his family.

"I do kid him and say he's the sixth best athlete in his family," Mainieri said. "But he's my favorite athlete in his family."

Grandpa Bob Duplantis, meanwhile, stays away from the best family member question.

"I'm not allowed to say," he said.