UM Baseball: Briggi Has Interesting Story

Daniel Briggi grew up loving the game of baseball. As he told me, “There is something about the rhythm of the game. The pacing, the feel – I believe you are either a baseball guy or you are not a baseball guy. I – I am a baseball guy.”

He tells me of his two younger brothers, one who plays Lacrosse at The Club Level as a sophomore in college, the other who is currently playing Lacrosse at his Alma Mater, Hendrick Hudson High School (where all three brothers attended) in Montrose, New York. “My brothers are lacrosse guys. I love sports. I tried hockey late, too late, but I love it, but growing up I knew I wanted to be a baseball player.” Briggi liked the fact that when he put in work in baseball, he would see results. Not always immediate, but the amount of work a baseball player puts in as he is maturing (natural talent aside) has a definitive correlation to the level of the performance a player has on the diamond. “Growing up I wanted to play baseball. When I realized pro baseball probably was not in the cards, that goal shifted to playing Division One College Baseball. So the dream became pitching for the University of Miami.”

Very matter of fact about it, Danny tells me, “Relative to that of South Florida, the level of competition was not good in New York. I don't have anything from junior year because I didn't really play (much for the Varsity). Less than ten innings that year and the numbers were probably rough”. Between his Junior and Senior Seasons, “Something Clicked”. He credits his volunteer pitching Coach at Hendrick Hudson Ed Lent for encouraging him to keep putting the work in and to keep reaching for his dreams. Senior year for Briggi was a very different story. No Summer league team that was a conglomeration of other neighboring High School All Stars, as was the case a generation ago with many who came up through American Legion Baseball, no New York Based Travel team that an Outfit like Perfect Game organizes Area Code and All Star showcases for – No, Briggi just worked on the things that could help move him from a young man who as a junior threw just over a handful of innings to the unquestioned Ace of a Hendrick Hudson pitching for club team Cortlandt National of the Westchester/Putnam Baseball Association (“I really was not that prolific a player”) more recreational than truly competitive before going out his senior season .

Still, the “Hen Hud” Sailors 2010-11 team that played in a five team League in Westchester County, although technically Briggi is from a town called Croton, NY, just south of Montrose, where Hendrick Hudson High School sits on the very tip of Westchester. The great thing about baseball, not unlike the scene in Hoosiers where Gene Hackman breaks out the tape measure and shows his team that the basket in the Arena in which they are about to play a game has the same dimensions as the tiny one in their Indiana based gym, so too the distance from the mound to the plate is the mound Sixty feet Six Inches whether you are throwing a side session with a teammate to improve as motivation for a Senior Season, or if you are playing for one of the All Star teams that have College and Pro Scouts travel in droves too, deeming you either a professional prospect, a Collegiate Prospect, or neither (which is BY FAR the largest group in terms of sheer numbers AND percentages in which most High School Baseball players fall). Heck, that is true of Most Varsity Baseball players who play in Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach Florida, and it is MOST DEFINITELY true of a High School Ball Player from the Northeast, as Briggi himself said. That is not to say that it – being Lower Hudson / Westchester Prep baseball - is not Competitive, and it most certainly does not imply that Briggi Is not competitive. Nothing could be further from the truth. He probably has the most competitive drive – I am not sure from where it comes – of any high school or collegiate athlete I have ever spoken with.

For the 2010-11 season, Briggi’s senior season at Hendrick Hudson, Daniel amassed eight starts and two relief appearances. His statistics totaling 54 Innings Pitched, with a 2.80 ERA, a 5-3 Won Loss Record, 1 save, 53 strikeouts to 21 Walks, and having given up 47 hits. The Math is not that hard, but that amounts to just less than a strikeout per inning pitched (0.98) And a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 1.26. For those who don’t know, WHIP is exactly what it sounds like, a favorite of Sabermetricians. For those who buy into its importance, it measures a pitcher’s ability to prevent batters from reaching base. Some believe that it is WHIP and not ERA that is a truer measurement of a pitcher’s direct effectiveness of his ability to get a batter out. By his own account, Briggi was a late bloomer when it came to his prowess in baseball. Still, he had a dominant senior season as Hendrick Hudson’s #1, and while he will not say it, everyone I have spoken with who either covers, coaches or scouts Westchester County baseball credit the emergence of Briggi for the successful season that Hendrick Hudson Had in the spring of 2011. So his senior season, a 10-12 Campaign which including multiple pitchers duels down the stretch, first with Peekskill http://patch.com/new-york/peekskill/baseball-hen-hud-edges- peekskill , a pitchers duel striking out nine in seven innings in the play in game http://www.msgvarsity.com/westchester/hen-hud-sneaks-past-saunders-1.525188 over the higher seeded Saunders followed by a tough-luck loss in three innings of relief to the higher seeded Yonkers in a game where a pitcher without a win on the season got Hendrick Hudson through four with the game still in question, and Briggi (after throwing complete games in Consecutive Wins versus Peekskill and Saunders with Yonkers being his third outing in six games, pitching off adrenaline alone, went the final 3 in a game that he told me he remembers “vividly” and “astonishingly well” as he recounted the tough loss batter by batter in a 6-5 decision versus Yonkers.)

Briggi’s efforts did not go unnoticed, as he was named All League (the #2 pitcher was out with a torn rotator cuff) pitching both the play in game and the deciding three innings of the season ender to Yonkers on about 21 hours rest, but who is counting? Even then his nature was such that in looking back on his personal success and the team’s upset of Saunders before bowing out to the much more highly rated Yonkers High team, Briggi when receiving his award for All League http://patch.com/new- york/peekskill/season-in-review-hen-hud-baseball – not surprisingly deferred praise to teammates and a volunteer pitching coach named Ed Lent , but his 5 and 3 record with a save carried his team. After throwing complete games in Consecutive Wins versus Peekskill and Saunders with Yonkers being his third outing in six games, there is really no questioning that. So the schedule on Maxpreps is not accurate, and has a lot of NAs where there are decisions and scheduled games simply not listed. Between my two cousins’ who both Coach at Westchester County Schools in different sections (Blind Brook and Pleasantville) using their Coaching Code to access info for me that is not open to the average MSGVarsity website visitor and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association or nysphsaa the New York equivalent of florida's http://www.fhsaa.org/ I was able to check, and verify the stats that Briggi supplied. Briggi DH’d in games that he did not toe the rubber in, but he pitched in nearly half of the contests (10 of 22 to be exact). For what its worth, he hit a very respectable .330 as DH but pitching is where he thought he would impact his team the most for the positive, and he was right. He pitched and took the victory in season opener hosting Yorktown, was the tough luck loser in a gem pitching versus conference rival Panas High School at home http://www.msgvarsity.com/westchester/game-tape-hen-hud-vs-panas-baseball-1.475633 (video courtesy of MSGVarsity), particularly impressive because Panas had an offensive juggernaut that scored double digits on at least five occasions and AVERAGED more than seven Runs Per Game (in seven inning games). Of Briggi’s ten appearances, 8 of which he figured in the decision of, the rest of his senior season broke down something like this. In addition to the end of the season (three appearances in six days) and the beginning that was just recounted, he threw two games against conference nemesis Lakeland for a No Decision and a Loss, a dominating win at Putnam Valley, throw in a save against Wallkill somewhere in the season (confirmed it took place and his stat line, could not get an exact date) he then won the Peekskill game where each team’s pitcher was so dominant that it merited chronicling in the Peekskill-Cortlandt Patch, an article linked to earlier but worth mentioning is what sports writer Mike Sabini chronicled at the time, as he simply states in a stand alone paragraph in summation of one after another heaping effusive praise of Danny’s tenacity, “That’s because Briggi doesn’t give in to anybody.”, followed that up with an upset in the Play in Game for the start of The Postseason in but yet another pitcher’s duel, this time striking out nine in seven innings at Saunders High you had this exchange from the two Coaches that sounded more like a mutual admiration society but was in fact commenting on the pitching performance of each ace in what was the most important game of Briggi’s career through high school . "Both pitchers were incredible," said Hen Hud coach Paul Natale. "Their pitcher was great, he hit the corners, he placed his pitches well... It was a great job. And our guy Danny has been special all year. He's been consistent all year and today he came out and pitched his best game all year. I'm really proud of him."Both these guys had great days and great years," Saunders coach Josh Cuozzo said. "You could tell that their pitcher (Briggi) knew what he was doing. Kudos to him. We had a plan today and he knew what he needed to do and he did it; unfortunately we just don't have a win to show for it. That's how it goes sometimes."

The reward for that? A game less the very next day in which Briggi still pitched. It was a staff game as mentioned above, but with the #2 out with a torn rotator the young man who did start did his job in getting through four while keeping Hendrick Hudson in the game, and Briggi pitched two plus taking the mound in fifth, and getting through the fifth and sixth on fumes before a tough luck seventh in which Yonkers walked off with the victory, and hearing Briggi describe a game he remembers “vividly” as he relived it batter through excruciating batter telling the tough luck of the seventh, and when asked how he was able to go considering it was his third time pitching in six days he simply says, “I wanted to win. Coach felt I gave the team the best chance to advance.”

On to Miami. Upon first hearing Briggi walked on this season, I remembered his name from a couple of seasons ago. Frankly, that is what peaked my interest. I then kept hearing how good he looked and that there was a real possibility that he could help this Miami team. So during fall Camp for everybody else, I reached out to Danny saying that while I was hearing a lot of good things about his performance this fall, I wondered if he wanted to have his name and profile out there OR would he prefer to keep his nose to the ground since it was a roster spot. For those who do not follow the trials and tribulations of an athlete attempting to walk on (a horrible and not at all apt euphemism for competing for a roster spot) to a Competitive Sport, it is usually required by a University from a bygone era when many players were from parts unknown or perhaps the most common is a varsity football coach who opts not to use a scholarship and hope that a disgruntled soccer player with an uncommon ability to kick the ball long and straight shows up on his campus and decides to try out for his team. So in 2012 Briggi, who had played a year with the Miami Club Baseball team to get a feel for just what a tall task it would be to attempt to realize his dream, attempted to walk on and was the last player cut from the team that season. Last year, you might remember, the team had a numbers problem in that it had more players who were committed to the baseball team than they had roster spots available, and ultimately some kids who had signed Letters of Intent to either Join the team in 2012 or 2013 were told with various degrees of subtlety that there was not room on the Miami Roster for him any more, and again Briggi was among the last cut, including guys who had previously been on the roster. Looking back now that he has comfortably earned a roster spot and the #38 for the spring, the 6 ft 190 pound Briggi laughs when he thinks aloud at a lighter moment in our interview. ‘So in 2012 I went out for the team, and J.D. (Arteaga, our pitching coach) says after putting me through a thorough workout: “I was impressed with your this, work on this this and this and we would like to see you back again next year.” Laughing about it now, that he never took it at anything other than its face but it might have been what he says to every player who tries out. Briggi is the rare player who listened to Arteaga, knew that his fastball – which was what he retired nearly everybody with in High School – was serviceable at best and would not be an “out pitch” in ACC play, and he would need to develop secondary and tertiary pitches. Ironically, and I say that only because I was not aware of its existence until the first year I was made aware of Briggi and told he was a pitcher for our Club team, there is a very competitive Club Baseball League that plays with students from The University of Miami, many of whom are former star athletes in high school who have opted NOT to attempt to pursue athletics at its highest level – In this case Division One ACC Baseball (which along with the SEC most would say is the most competitive College baseball in America) and a lot of the players are of talent levels that are not that far removed from those who play for the Varsity.

The University of Miami Baseball Club http://miamiclubbaseball.com/ plays in a six team league that includes The University of Miami Club Team, as well as its counterparts from The University Of Central Florida, The University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida International University, and Florida Tech. This year they also have Stetson on their roster. So as the work horse for the Miami Club Team last year, Briggi went 5 &3 with 60.33 Innings Pitched. He had an ERA of 2.36 (per 9 Innings), averaged 10.6 Strike Outs per Nine Inning Pitched with a WHIP of 1.24, almost Identical to what he had in his stellar senior campaign. According to Briggi, the level of competition from club to club varies, but some clubs have guys who just don’t have the time commitment that it takes to play a varsity sport AND pursue a degree, others are sometimes ex-minor leaguers, the point is by and large these kids can play. Another person that Briggi credits in getting him from where he was to where he is, now a proud member of the University Of Miami Varsity Baseball Team, is the Club team Coach Mike North.

Having been the last player cut twice, it is easy to see why – even when the numbers started to appear as if Briggi had a REAL CHANCE to not only make this team but to be a difference maker – he was reluctant at any coverage of his attempt to make the baseball roster at all. “I almost did not go out this season.” Briggi told me only hours after his making the team had been confirmed. “I had stayed in touch with J.D., and he told me I should come out one more time but ONLY if it was right for me personally, and so I decided to.” This time was different, though, with his status either that of a preferred or an invited walk on (semantics) while attempting to make the club. It became clear to many who were watching this fall that not only were the numbers shaking up in a way that Briggi might make the club, but he had a real chance of not just getting a uniform, but being a contributor. That is one of the reasons he ASKED and for our part at Canestime we granted his request not to start any threads on the baseball board about him until his status was either as a guy who had made the team or as a glutton for punishment, three times coming out, three times being told no, was clarified. The deeper into the fall he got, the more it seemed that he was not being kept around because he has the right attitude and would make a great addition to any clubhouse (while all that is 100% true), he was being kept around because there is a chance he can contribute to this team this Spring, A week ago yesterday, it was confirmed to him by the Coaches that he had indeed made the team, and while they have not made a lot of noise about it, his name was quietly added to the roster you will find at Hurricanesports.com.

On Thursday afternoon. So what news do you have that Competes with Briggi’s when he sees friends and family home for Thanksgiving? When I asked Danny what Role he could best help this team in, as initially the thought was Batting Practice Pitcher, and over the fall it has gone from that to Righty Righty Specialist to possibly even a middle relief or set up guy, he answers diplomatically. “Whatever capacity they ask me to pitch in I'll pitch in.” When asked what he thinks COULD be his out pitch at this level he answers on the record, “It sounds weird for me to be even saying this, but one thing I have going for me is that Right Now there is NO BOOK ON ME with any team, any coach, or any player in the ACC. Let me just leave it at I know it will need to be my secondary pitches if I am to have success at helping this team, and I believe to my core that I can.” A note on Danny: Getting to know him over the last few weeks has helped me put to rest a stereotype that I have long wanted put to bed. In dealing with me, he has been BEYOND patient, cooperative, cordial, respectful, and polite right up to BUT NOT QUITE to a fault. He gets that as the 36th man on a 36 man roster the last thing his Coaches want is his bringing attention to himself. But that attention came as many of the Die Hard Miami Baseball fans were pulling for this young man who for the third straight year put himself in the most vulnerable of positions on one of the biggest stages in NCAA baseball. And it has paid off. But do not let that politeness fool you. He is as fierce and as committed to his craft as they come. And he wants to be a productive teammate for the 2014-15 Hurricanes, and after Fall Ball the Coaching Staff like him enough to have him on their roster for the spring.

University of Miami Baseball is loaded this year, and a member of the 2014-15 Hurricanes is fulfilling a dream while giving those who might not otherwise have an interest a reason to root for the baseball team again.

COMMITMENT. A simple word. As the current group of ESPN300 Seniors make verbal commitments and – with more regularity and without judgment – de-commitments of four and five star Football and Basketball stars to Division One Universities (on the backs of who the two sports shoulder the ENTIRE BUDGET at many if not at all major Division One Universities --that would be High School Seniors set to graduate high school in Spring of 2015) scroll their names at the bottom of the television screen as one of the major four sports -- which along with a few others are ALSO the major four sports played collegiately -- trying to watch a game or a match: be it College Baseball, Hockey, or either of the Big Two (NCAA Football and NCAA basketball), It’s easy to get excited – or if you are a bit more jaded to feel a little bit of contempt – as the scroll on the Television would not be running in the latest of what frankly is metadata if services like this one did not have such an unmitigated appetite for -- news as to who the next player to star in Football or Basketball are the two biggest culprits, but every day regardless of season the list on the scroll reads something like: “NCAAF - NCAAB - RECRUITS - NFL - NFL DRAFT - NBA – MLB – NHL - CWS -LLWS – AUTO RACING = WOMEN – MLS –SOCCER - BREAKING NEWS - HEADLINES …” and the more one learns about the story behind how the newest member of the University of Miami 2014-2015 Baseball Team got from where he was to where he is now, the more one thinks, They do not know the meaning of the word.


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