Wednesday, April 28, 2010

East Meck's Daniels bros. power Eagles baseball team

Leighton Daniels stood quietly on one side of the locker room, changing out of his East Meck baseball uniform, starring out the window at driving rain that had just postponed a game against defending state champion, Ardrey Kell Tuesday night.

The teams play tonight at 7 p.m. at East Meck in a game with first place implications.

David Daniels was clear on the other side of the locker room where most of the chatter was coming from, talking and joking loudly with several teammates about what might have been.

If their last name didn’t spell it out, and they hadn’t grown up at each other’s side for most of the last 16 years, it would be hard to tell that they were brothers, just 15 months apart in age.

“(Leighton and David) are completely different individuals, their personalities are like night and day,” East Meck baseball coach Clint Koppe said. “If you watch them interact on a daily basis, you wouldn’t know they were brothers. On the field and in practice, they really just act like teammates.”

Leighton, a senior shortstop, and David, a junior catcher, may act like teammates because they have been on most of the same teams since they began playing baseball in the Dixie Youth League on Sardis Road. From there, the duo joined forces at McClintock Middle School before making their way to East Mecklenburg High.

“Off the field, we are very different kind of people,” Leighton said of himself and his younger brother. “But on the field, we look a little more alike. We both take a similar approaches to the game.”

Both brothers have started since they stepped foot on campus at East Meck, playing a big role into taking a resurgent Eagle baseball program from a team that struggled to compete in the unforgiving Southwestern 4A conference, to a team that is contending for a league crown in the final week of the regular season.

Leighton, a four-year starter, is batting .446 with 25 hits, six doubles, one home run, 14 RBI and six stolen bases. The eldest Daniels has committed to play baseball at Winthrop next season.

David, a three-year starter, is batting .439 with 25 hits, five doubles, three homers, 12 RBI and seven steals. The younger Daniels has been offered by Liberty, but is still considering other schools including Wake Forest.

“Those boys are two great players, who play the game the right way,” East Meck assistant baseball coach John Reisterer said. “They don’t get any better than that (pointing to the brothers).”

Both Daniels are also co-captains of a team that has already won more games, 14, than it did in the last two seasons combined. After starting the conference slate 0-4, the Eagles have now won five straight conference game and seven of nine games overall.

“It’s pretty exciting to be in this position (winning more), because in the past we were competitive, but we could never get over the hump,” David said. “Now, I think we have a lot more heart, and we expect to win every time out.”

That competitive attitude has driven both the East Meck team and the Daniels’ brothers, who quietly have their own sibling rivalry.

“Last year, I won the ‘Big Stick’ award that goes to the player with the best batting average,” Leighton said, who hit .443 for the 2009 season. “I definitely want to win again, and try to stay ahead of my brother.”

For David, the feeling is mutual.

“My goal has always been to be better than my brother,” David said. “I’ve been looking forward to making a name for myself for a long time. I’m tired of being known as Leighton’s (little) brother.”

If the Eagles can finish the regular season strong, both players think they will be a dangerous team to face in both the SW4A and the state tournament.

“Our goal is to go all the way and win it all -- in both tournaments,” David said. “We know we can compete with Ardrey Kells and the Providences, because we’ve done it. If we can beat those teams, that we can beat anyone in the state.”

“Sibling Rivalry”

Profile of David and Leighton Daniels

Leighton Daniels

Team: East Meck Baseball

Class: Senior

Position: Shortstop

Batting Average: .446 (As of 4/26)

Home Runs (’10): 3

College Interest: Committed to Winthrop

David Daniels

Team: East Meck Baseball

Class: Junior (15 months younger)

Position: Catcher

Batting Average: .439

Home Runs: 3

College Interest: Liberty (offered); Wake Forest.