Editor’s note: Recently, editor Kenny Varner caught up with current UVA-King pitcher Dan Kanagy. He talked about his adjustments and his future at the collegiate level…
HS: How much faster is the game compared to high school?
DK: The game at the college level is much much faster than the high school level. It is very easy to let the game speed up on you and get overwhelmed. Most college athletes were the best at their sport at their respective high school so it can be a little bit of a reality check when you finally realize that everyone else on your team was also one of the best at their sport at their particular high school. The biggest jump from high school to college for me was the mentality. The game at the college level is much more intellectually involved than at the high school level. In high school, as I mentioned before, it is easier to simply be physically better than your opponent. At the college level the physicality of the playing field is more level, this is where you have to become more intellectually aware of the game.
HS: What position do you play?
DK: I am a weekend starting pitcher.
HS: What was your experience like heading on campus for the first time at the school?
DK: My first time on campus at the school would have been my official visit which I took this past summer. I wasn’t sure what to think, and did not believe I would truly love the school as much as I do. When we first pulled into campus, my first words were, “Wow, this place is nice!” My family and I got the full tour of the school, passing by the beautiful outdoor fountains in the pond located at the center of campus (this particularly caught my eye). After touring the locker room facility and weight room the coaching staff informed my family and I that the baseball program would be receiving a field upgrade within the next few seasons which was a plus side. We finished the tour at the new convocation center (which also serves as the basketball arena). I was truly amazed with the campus.
HS: How does it feel to be playing at the next level ?
DK: To play baseball at the collegiate level is truly a blessing. The opportunity for me to continue to play a game that I love is something that not everyone gets the opportunity to do, so for that I am grateful. To be playing college baseball is ultimately a testament to the sacrifices that I made in life during my high school years. I will say, though, that in order to play a college sport, you have got to truly LOVE the sport because it is very time consuming. Being busy all the time isn’t for everyone, but I can say I really love this sport and it makes me who I am.
HS: I know it’s early but do you have a major in mind?
DK: Yes, I am an exercise science major. I am preparing to go in the sports physical therapy or sports chiropractic direction. I want to continue to be in sports as long as I can and work with athletes who have the drive to be the best they can be.
HS: Who has been big influences in your baseball career?
DK: My father has always been a huge influence in my baseball career as he was always in the yard while I was young playing catch or hitting me ground balls; he was the one that introduced me to the game and for that I am forever grateful for him. My mother who was constantly helping to run me to practices an hour away from our home, multiple times a week was a huge part of my career as well. She gave me the confidence that I have in myself by constantly encouraging me no matter the outcome; and to that I owe her so much. Both of my parents have sacrificed so much of their time and money (because this lifestyle is NOT cheap) to help put me in the positions I need to be successful. My grandpa who has since passed away, always told me at a young age to be stubborn and not take no for answer and to always pursue my dreams. Two coaches I have had in my lifetime also play a good role. Max McDowell, a catcher in the Phillies organization, coached me when I was 13 years old and showed me what it takes to become a big league player. He helped change my perspective and the following year I lost a lot of weight, got myself into good shape and started playing at a high level. Another coach, Matt Sanders (Champs Performance Training in Lebanon, PA) gave me the keys to unlock my potential. Matt provided his knowledge and specific baseball based programs to give me access to the tools I needed to make this possible.
HS: What age did you start playing baseball?
DK: I started as early as I possibly could when I was either four or five at the tee ball level.
HS: What is your favorite sports memory that you cherish during high school?
DK: My favorite sports memory was a few games that took place during my senior year of high school. Our regular season game against Halifax Area High School and our first playoff game against Montgomery. In the game against Halifax it was our senior night. It was also a must win game to keep our playoff hopes alive. I walked on the field with my parents during the senior ceremony, taking it all in but also with one thing in mind, winning that game. I pitched a complete game with 16 strikeouts to help us win to keep our playoff contention alive. The first playoff game against Montgomery was our first in the East Juniata baseball program in the last few recent years. I pitched another complete game with 8 strikeouts to help us win and get to the next round.
HS:What would you say is you biggest strength on the baseball diamond ?
DK: My biggest strength I would say is my physicality and my intellectual ability. I have a pretty heavy fastball that I throw about 89-91 MPH and a wipeout slider that comes in about 78-79 MPH along with a curveball and changeup as well. This four pitch mix works really well to keep hitters off balance. I have worked really hard on pitch tunneling recently (which is the ability to make each pitch, regardless of what type it is, look the same… I.e. making my slider look just like my fastball) which helps keep hitters off balance. That along with my intellectual ability to read a batter’s swing and keep my emotions in check in the heat of the game helps me take my game to the next level.
HS: What are your individual goals for the upcoming season?
DK: For this upcoming season my individual goal isn’t to have any specific statistics or anything like that. Instead I want to treat each day as a new opportunity to learn something, whether that be from myself, my coaches, or my teammates, I want to learn something new each and every day.
HS: What are your goals for your college tenure? Could be athletics and/or education wise?
DK: For my college tenure I would like to continue working hard, doing what I know how to do, and transform myself into a possible future draft pick in the MLB or earn the ability to play professionally somewhere (independent leagues or MLB). From the education stand point I want to earn a degree in exercise science to prepare me for a future outside of baseball.
HS: Biggest college moment so far.
DK: Pitching in a regional championship game against East Stroudsburg at Millersville University last spring was a big moment so far. This year when I get to start my first college game with my new team, UVA Wise, will take over as the biggest moment in my career.
HS: What advice would you give to any younger athlete starting baseball ?
DK: The biggest advice I would give a young athlete starting baseball is get used to failing. The best MLB hitters fail 70% of the time. The best MLB pitchers give up an average 3-4 runs per game. Failure is often looked at as a bad thing. Failure in reality is an opportunity to grow, learn, and become a better version of ourselves. Baseball can be a very humbling sport. Take pride in the success when it happens and learn from the failures when they take place. Baseball has made me the person I am today and I truly believe it is the BEST and most effective sport at teaching young kids how to become young men and adults.