NAPLES — Lake Region High catcher Danny Place says it isn’t easy playing three varsity sports, getting good grades and also doing a little extra work in his favorite sport.

But Place would have it no other way.

“I practice sports five days a week, do agility and speed workouts, and play in a wooden bat league in Massachusetts,” said Place. “If I didn’t do all that, I would be bored. Baseball is my life.”

Place, a junior catcher, had a strong season last spring as a sophomore and looks forward to another one for the Lakers.

Place is recovering from a torn disc in his back so he won’t be catching when the season starts today at home against Greely. But he’ll be in the lineup, playing shortstop and batting third.

“I think it happened when I dove into the bleachers during basketball season. It only really hurts me when I’m in my catcher’s squat,” said Place.

Place has been doing rehab for his injury and hopes to be back behind the plate by the fourth game of the season.

It hasn’t affected his hitting. He hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat against Sacopee Valley last week in an exhibition.

“We’re counting on his hitting a lot this season,” said Coach Dan Leland. “I feel he’s a stronger and better hitter than last year.”

Last season, Place was named to the all-Western Maine Conference first team. He batted .465 with five homers and 24 RBI. Because of the work he’s put in, Place hopes to improve those figures.

Last season he had a perfect spot in the lineup, batting ahead of No. 3 hitter Brandon Chase, who’s now playing baseball at Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire.

Place got good pitches to hit because opponents didn’t want to have runners on base with Chase, a home-run threat, at the plate.

“I think pitchers will be careful what they throw Danny, but if he gets pitches to hit, I think he’ll get his stats,” said Leland.

Place also threw out 16 runners in 26 steal attempts.

“He’s worked hard on his mechanics,” said Leland. “If our pitchers can keep the runner close at first, Danny can throw most kids out.”

Place said he probably started throwing a ball as soon as he could stand.

“My dad was a good baseball player growing up and he got me started,” said Place.

When he was younger, Place threw with either arm. He also liked to switch hit. He became a catcher at age 9.

“I loved baseball right from Day 1,” he said. “I just picked my right hand and I’ve been throwing that way ever since.”

Place is a left-handed batter, but occasionally will switch to the right side in scrimmage games and practices.

“Swinging a wooden bat makes you concentrate on making solid contact because the bats are less forgiving than aluminum bats,” said Place.

In high school, an end-of-the- bat hit with aluminum can fall in. With wood, a batter’s hands would be stinging in spring weather, a big difference.

Place trains at a couple of indoor facilities, plays American Legion baseball, has attended a baseball camp at Clemson University, and travels to Massachusetts with other Maine kids to play with wooden bats.

It’s all part of his plan to be playing college baseball.

With two full seasons remaining in high school ball, Place already has started thinking ahead to the next level. Franklin Pierce, Southern New Hampshire University, Assumption, Curry and USM are some of the schools he’s examining now. His various coaches and instructors have their eyes and ears open for possible schools that would be a good fit.

One school that has been in contact is Connecticut.

“I see myself playing college baseball,” said Place, “but for now I want to have another good season at the plate and help the team reach the playoffs.

“We have two good pitchers and I think our hitting will be strong.”

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]