SCOOP IT UP — Springville resident Dan Dallas played for a McKeever Post baseball team, over the summer. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — While rain and snow postpone baseball games throughout Western New York, Springville resident Dan Dallas will be soaking up the sun and playing baseball in Florida.
Dallas, a sophomore at Canisius High School, left for Florida on April 8 with the Canisius baseball team for a 10-day stay in St. Petersburg. Canisius will play teams from around the St. Petersburg area and is also scheduled to play IMG Academy, a private athletic training institute that provides elite athletes with professional athletic instruction, along with schooling. This will be the second straight year Dallas will be heading to Florida with his team.
“It molds us as a team and it brings us together as a family,” Dallas said. “It really makes us appreciate what our parents and coaches do for us. It brings a whole family together and makes us understand that we have to be a family, in order to play together. It’s a really good team-building trip, while playing baseball.”
Last year, Dallas transferred to Canisius from Springville-Griffith Institute where he played football, basketball and baseball. He went from playing junior varsity baseball at Springville as an eighth grader to being pulled up to varsity as a freshman, for the Crusaders.
Canisius coach Brian Tenney is entering his 23rd year as the head coach at Canisius. Since the beginning of his tenure in 1991, Dallas is the second freshman to make the varsity team.
“I knew coming in that I had to prove myself daily,” Dallas said. “I had to come in and earn my starting position. They didn’t look at me any different because I was a freshman, but I still had to prove myself, every day. Everyone expected me to perform, just like everyone else on the team.”
As a freshman, Dallas was the team’s starting first baseman and batted .308, with three doubles and 11 RBIs in league play.
“Defensively, he’s one of the best first [basemen] I’ve ever had,” Tenney said. “He has a great concept of how to play the game at first base. Offensively, it took a little getting used to, last year. The fastballs are a little faster, the curveballs have a little more break to them and the locations of pitches are better, at this level. He’s smart at the plate, very rarely swings at bad pitches and if he does, he learns from it.”
Dallas had a busy offseason, playing for a number of teams. In the summer, he played for McKeever Post, a member of the American Legion League. He also played for the Niagara Purple Eagles, as well as playing for a team that belongs to the Buffalo AAA Muny League. Dallas also attended college showcases at the University at Buffalo, Niagara University and Canisius College. Dallas spent extensive time working out to get stronger for this season, to take on a bigger role with his Canisius team.
“I worked out a lot in the offseason, ”Dallas said. “I feel a lot stronger and more prepared, coming into the season. Being a captain this year, I have even higher standards. They expect me to do more and perform at a higher rate than I did last year.”
Dallas is the first sophomore to be voted a captain in Tenney’s 23 years coaching the Canisius varsity.
“Dan brings a passion for the game and a tremendous work ethic,” Tenney said. “He brings everything a coach could ask for to meetings, practices and games. The way he is on the first day of practice, inside the gym, is the exact same way he is in the finals of the Georgetown Cup. It’s a fierce intensity to not only make himself better, but his teammates better, too. That’s the type of guy you want to surround your team with.”
Dallas will be leaned on more heavily offensively to soften the blow of losing three starters to graduation.
“In situations where we need runs and I’m up at the plate, I have to put the ball in more,” Dallas said. “Not be more of a selfish player, but be more of a team player and do situational hitting when it’s needed.”
Dallas will be one of six returners for Canisius. Senior Jon Conti is a three-year starter playing centerfield and has already signed to play at Division 1 Canisius College. The son of coach Tenney, Collin Tenney will return to play shortstop and is a three-year starter. Connor Ryan is also a three-year starter who has signed with D-II Mercyhurst and will pitch and play third base. Junior Richard Miller will pitch and play third base and has already attracted D-I interest.
“Our team worked really hard, in the offseason,” Dallas said. “Coming into this season, we knew that we lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, and we’d be young this year, with five sophomores, five juniors and nine seniors. That motivates us to win, as a young team, and win a Georgetown Cup. That’s our goal.”
Competing in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association, all teams must use wooden bats, while Section VI teams are allowed to use metal bats. The MMAA Championship, referred to as the Georgetown Cup, is played at Coca Cola Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons. The Canisius team will look to rebound from getting swept by St. Joe’s in the Georgetown Cup, last season.
“I think if we perform at the best of our ability, we’ll be able to win the Georgetown Cup with no problem,” Dallas said. “We’re going to face some really tough teams like St. Joe’s and St. Mary’s and the rest of the league that really want to beat us, because every team we play is a rival for us. With a young team, I feel like our coaches have prepared us enough to do what we need to do, if we perform at our best level.”
The Crusaders traveled to Jersey City, N.J. for two games and went 1-1 – defeating Xavier 8-3, but Canisius was shut out by St. Peters Prep, 8-0.
“We started off really slow and they came out really ready,” Dallas said, about the loss. “We took a tough loss 8-0 and it was kind of an eye-opener for us that we have to work harder and put in some better work. We just need to come out ready to play, every day, and know that we can always get better.”
When Dallas and Canisius return from their 10-day stay in Florida, they will travel to Frontier on April 22, before traveling to Nichols on April 25.