The Next Steve Stanley?

Former Irish star Steve Stanley was an instrumental part of the success of the 2002 Irish baseball season. Coach Paul Mainieri speaks fondly of Stanley as both a person and as player. Mainieri knew how much Stanley meant to his team so he went searching for the next Steve Stanley in 2003—enter Danny Dressman. Dressman could be the next Steve Stanley for the Irish and that would be just fine with him.

Danny Dressman was born to play for the Irish. The son of two Notre Dame graduates; he's been an Irish fan all his life. "I've kind of been raised in Notre Dame. I always thought of it as kind of a dream to go there but realistically, I didn't think I had a chance to play there. They had been winning and they had one of the best winning percentages in the 90's so I didn't know if they would recruit me. I chose Notre Dame because it's a great school, it's in my family, their academics are just as outstanding as their athletics and I'm just glad I have a chance to go there."

Dressman caught the eye of Mainieri at Notre Dame's summer camp. "I came to camp my junior year. I went there as a gift from my Dad because I had a good season. I played pretty well. We had a hitting thing on the first day and Coach Mainieri was out there and was watching me hit. He said ‘I'm going to watch you play the rest of the week' and I did pretty well. The chips kind of fell for me and I committed a few weeks later."

Mainieri remembers seeing Dressman at the camp for the first time and he was excited about his future centerfielder. "Danny Dressman came to our summer camp which was right after we'd gotten back from the College World Series. I almost had to do a double-take. I knew Steve Stanley had just graduated but I thought I was watching Steve Stanley out there. He's a left-handed hitter and a left-handed thrower and he has so many of the same mannerisms that Steve Stanley has."

Mainieri says that Dressman really impressed him at the camp. "I really got attracted to the kid. I put a lot of pressure on him in camp with some of things I was saying to him and every time I challenged him he responded by doing some great things out there. He works hard and he listens and he really rose to every challenge I gave him. He's got a chance to be special."

Dressman certainly caught the eye of his future head coach but can he be the next Steve Stanley? "I don't know if he's Steve Stanley," said Mainieri. "There aren't too many of them out there. I think he gives us a chance. He's a kid that runs pretty well. He's got a chance to be a great centerfielder for us and a left-handed hitter that can make things happen out there. He had a great senior season so we'll see. We're going to give him a chance to win the centerfield job for us next year."

Dressman is flattered by the Stanley comparisons and hopes he can become a similar type of player. "It's an honor just to be compared to him. That's what I need to bring to the team. He got on base for the guys in the middle of the order and he made diving catches in the outfield. That's something I think I can do. If I can do it to the level that he did it, that's a bonus. I'm just going to work hard and try to live up to what he left behind."

Dressman had an excellent senior season in a very competitive league in California. He hit .402 with 42 RBI, 20 stolen bases, four home runs, 14 doubles and four triples. He was also 6-1 on the mound with 5 saves. He was awarded first team all-league, first team Central Coast Section and second team all-state.

The league Dressman plays in is one of the most competitive leagues in California. Dressman feels that level of play he competes in will certainly help him when he gets to college. "The league I play in is one of the toughest in the state. One of the guys in my league plays for the national team and he is an unbelievable pitcher. They all have unbelievable off-speed stuff. I think for my age I see off-speed pitches as well as anyone because I have good eyesight. Sometimes I think I hit curveballs better than fastballs. Every guy you see out here has three pitches so you can't just gear up on the fastball. I think playing in California and this league will definitely help me."

Four home runs in a season are not typical numbers for a high school leadoff hitter. Dressman hit cleanup for Archbishop Mitty high school in his final year and even Mainieri was surprised to see the power in his bat. "Believe it or not, he's got some pop in his bat. I saw him hit a ball out of Frank Eck Stadium. I know he hit more than a few home runs with his high school team. He's probably a singles and doubles hitter with some occasional power. He'll likely be a leadoff hitter for us but he does have some pop in his bat."

Home run hitters are definitely something the Irish need but Mainieri is looking for a leadoff hitter. Dressman thinks he's the man for the job. "I can hit the ball to all fields and in the gaps. I had four home runs this year. Those aren't great numbers but I can take the ball out of the park. I'm a gap-to-gap type of hitter I would say. I use my speed out there and I've gotten a lot of hits with two strikes this year. I get on base a lot and try to put pressure on the other team. Pretty much what a leadoff hitter should be."

The San Jose native considers himself a complete hitter but he knows that everyone can improve their game. "I need to hit the inside pitch better. I see the outside pitch real well. I've had trouble in the past with the inside fastball. I've been working real hard on that and keeping my hands inside the ball. Hitting is not easy so that's something I need to work on. I know in college that guys spot the ball pretty much where they want to so I'm working on hitting that pitch consistently."

Bunting is also something that a cleanup hitter isn't asked to do much but Mainieri's leadoff hitters will be asked do it often. Dressman feels he can get the job done. "I think I had five drag-bunt hits this year. On my team I batted in the cleanup spot so I really didn't get a chance to bunt a whole lot. I don't think I ever got thrown out on a drag-bunt. I think I'm pretty decent. I'm not as good as where I need to be but I can definitely lay down a drag-bunt and sacrifice."

Danny Dressman could very well be the next Steve Stanley. I haven't seen him play yet but he certainly has a very similar personality and we all know how much I like Steve Stanley. His proud father Chuck is a member of Irish Eyes and has been long before I started covering baseball. He says he wants my job but I think he should stick to raising fine young men—something he appears very good at. Top Stories