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Baseball  . 

Dalton Reeves Enjoys Every Step of Long Journey

by Brad Muller

Dalton Reeves isn’t shy about expressing his faith. South Carolina’s senior catcher/designated hitter went from a lightly recruited high school player to a major contributor for the Gamecocks after two previous stops at smaller collegiate programs. While success didn’t come quickly at each level, he notes that his faith has helped guide him in every step of the journey.

“That’s my foundation, whether I’m going through something or I’m feeling like I’m on the highest mountain,” said Reeves, whose walk-out song at home games is “Where I belong” by the Christian group Building 429. “Jesus is always there for me. He brings me safety and security in my life. He got me to where I am. When I got here, I wanted to do something to show my faith on the biggest stage of college baseball. I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about how they like that I bring Him praise on the baseball field.”

Reeves was not a top prospect coming out of Lugoff Elgin (SC) High School, and began his collegiate career at Erskine College, a NCAA Division II program in Due West, South Carolina.

“Erskine was my only offer coming out of high school,” Reeves said. “I was a bit of a late bloomer. I didn’t really grow until my junior year. I didn’t have an offer until the fall of my senior year.

“They had a freshman team and then the (varsity) team that played other colleges. I played on the development team a little bit, and then I made the big team, but then COVID hit, and we all went home. When we came back the next year, I got some playing time and became a starter about a quarter through the season.”

He hit .352 with six home runs and 28 RBI in his lone full season with the Flying Fleet in 2021 and was named Conference Carolinas Player of the Year. Believing he could play at a higher level; Reeves tested the transfer portal in the hope of playing at a Division I program. Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, made him an offer, and Reeves made the most of his opportunity with the Blue Hose after belting 18 home runs with 85 RBI in his two seasons there while earning Big South All-Conference second team honors in 2022. After earning his degree in business administration and management, Reeves still had one more year eligibility and needed to find a school with a graduate program that matched his interests.

“I wanted to continue progressing, and I always dreamed of playing for the Gamecocks,” said Reeves, who is working on his master’s in mental performance with aspirations of working in baseball as a coach or on the administrative side. “I knew I had the potential to get there, and PC didn’t have the graduate programs I needed. I loved being at PC, and (Blue Hose) Coach (Elton) Pollock really helped shape and mold me into the player I am now. After moving on from there, I knew I could play at a higher level. I just needed a shot, so I jumped into the graduate portal.

“A few days later (South Carolina assistant coach) Monte Lee reached out to me, and I went on a visit. It was a no-brainer. I had been Gamecock fan my whole life.”

The Gamecocks were blessed with a lot of talent and depth at catcher, starting with All-American Cole Messina returning. Reeves knew he would have to not only adjust to playing at the SEC level, but also be patient, and have faith.

“I just had to keep faith in Jesus and know that He had a plan,” Reeves said.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had. Coach always says that you can’t let the pressure of the moment outweigh the pleasure.”
Dalton Reeves  . 

Reeves had just one at bat in his first five weeks of the season, but on March 26 he was inserted into the starting lineup when the Gamecocks played his former team, Presbyterian, at Founders Park. He made the most of the opportunity, belting two home runs in South Carolina’s 19-14 victory. He would be a regular in the lineup, usually as a DH while also spelling Messina behind the plate occasionally the rest of the season. Heading into this weekend’s NCAA Regional, Reeves is hitting .304 with 34 RBI and ranks third on the team with 11 home runs.

“I wasn’t ready at first, so I accepted my role and did what I could,” Reeves said. “I tried to be a good teammate and did whatever the team needed me to do. I really grew through that period of my life and found out a lot about myself. When I got that first start, I felt like I was more prepared because I spent that time not playing and recognized how great of an opportunity it was when I got the chance to play. When I got in there, I was like a kid. I was having fun. Luckily, I was able to take advantage of the opportunity that God put in front of me. I kind of just ran with it ever since.”

Having fun playing sports was never a problem as Reeves comes from a competitive family, which includes younger brother Sawyer, who plays baseball at The Citadel, and younger sister Ava, who plays volleyball at Anderson University.

“We were competitive with everything, whether we’re playing whiffle ball outside, seeing who can eat the fastest, or racing down the road with go-carts,” Reeves said with a laugh.
Finding success at every level hasn’t been easy, but Reeves has learned the virtue of patience and hard work to go along with his faith.

“The development at each step along the way has been crazy,” Reeves said. “I can’t say enough about the staff at every place I’ve been. They’ve all done a fantastic job in developing their players. The biggest difference is the amount of good, quality arms that are on every team.

“There are pitchers at the D-2 level that throw really hard, but there may only be two or three on a staff that have really good stuff. At PC, maybe it’s six to eight guys with really good stuff. The velocity ticks up a little bit, and you see some elite secondary stuff. Then you come to the SEC, and everybody throws gas, and everybody has elite secondary stuff. I can’t say enough about our staff, with King (Head Coach Mark Kinston), Monte, and (assistant coach) Joey (Holcomb) and the countless hours they’ve spent with me to help me make that adjustment. I was struggling in the fall, but got through it, and I can’t thank them enough.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had. Coach always says that you can’t let the pressure of the moment outweigh the pleasure. It’s essentially a kid’s game, and you can’t let the pressure get to you too much. Hopefully, we can make a push to Omaha.”

South Carolina will play James Madison at 2 p.m. on Friday in the Raleigh Regional.