Playing baseball for a living is a dream come true for David Dahl
He’s a ballplayer, has been ever since he can remember.
“I grew up thinking about it all the time,” David Dahl says with a slight grin.
He loves the game. Playing every day? Well, that’s about the best thing a guy can do. And getting paid to play? Shoot, can it get any better?
“He lives for it,” said Brian Breeze, his coach at Oak Mountain (Ala.) High School. “That’s his passion.”
Dahl, the top draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in June, is a little more than halfway through his first professional season. Like every player at the Rookie level, he’s learning every day what it takes to make it through the various levels on the way to their dream destination — Coors Field.
Dahl has played in 38 of 43 games. His last day off was July 24, when he came down with the flu just before the game.
And he loves it.
“It’s not bad,” he said of only getting one day off every now and then.
Before the sick day, he was last out of the lineup on July 12 at Missoula. The day before, he had a rare hitless game, going 0 for 4. His batting average was still a solid .312, but after a 1-for-5 game on July 13 that dropped his average to .305, he went on a tear.
A 3-for-4 effort with three RBI and two runs scored, including his second home run of the season, followed in a 7-4 win at Billings, giving him a .326 average.
The day after he returned from the flu, he went 3 for 4, drove in one run and scored three in a 12-11, 10-inning loss to Billings.
And there were those two magical games when he hit in front of Todd Helton, going 4 for 9 with a couple of RBI in two wins.
He ended July on a 13-game hitting streak. He extended that streak to 16 games Friday with a triple and single and is now hitting .371, the third-highest average in the Pioneer League.
He didn’t turn 18 until April 1, and is the second-youngest player on the team — pitcher Zach Jemiola was born five days after Dahl. Yet he handles being the club’s first-round draft pick, and the 10th overall selection, like it’s no big deal.
“They were confident enough to draft me and I’m confident in my abilities,” he said. “I try to come out here and give it 100 percent, try to have fun and do whatever I can to help my team win.”
For an 18-year-old kid, he shows amazing patience at the plate. Dahl has walked 13 times and struck out 23, an average of one strikeout every 7.4 plate appearances.
In center field, he makes it look effortless, tracking down balls in the gaps, making lunging, diving catches on the warning track and displaying a strong, accurate arm.
The only knock on Dahl is that he doesn’t hit for a lot of power, although he hit nine out of Coors Field during a pre-draft workout. He’s hit four in Rookie ball, but Dahl, at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, isn’t really built for power.
He’ll fill out his frame and get stronger as he gets older, and the Rockies’ front office believes he’ll be a five-tool player, hitting for average and power, with that speed, defensive prowess and strong arm.
“When we draft players ... we’re not looking for what he’s going to be in Grand Junction, Colorado,” said Zach Wilson, the Rockies’ assistant director of player development.
“We’re looking at what he’s going to be five years down the road playing at Coors Field. He certainly has the tool set and the intangibles to develop not only into a great hitter, but also put up some power numbers.”
He is, though, built for speed.
Dahl has nine doubles and six triples, when he really turns on that speed on balls hit in the gaps or down the right-field line. Throw in a handful of infield and bunt singles, and Dahl, who hits left-handed, has all kinds of ways he can get on base.
“The biggest thing between David and the average kid is when they hit it in the outfield, most of them take a banana turn and set up shop at first,” Breeze said.
“He’s immediately thinking double, double, double all the time. In back-to-back seasons (in high school) he had 20 doubles in about 80 at-bats. He almost had more doubles than singles; that’s him.”
The only other question about Dahl seems to be, will he finish the season at the Rookie level?
Wilson obviously can’t say, but Dahl is being watched closely. Player development personnel rotate through the minor leagues regularly, and he and Walker Monfort, a player development assistant, are in Grand Junction this week.
“The player will tell you when he’s ready to move,” Wilson said. “We can only come in here and evaluate so much and watch so much and talk to the kid so much. How he is on and off the field, and from an ability standpoint and maturity standpoint, he’ll tell you when he’s ready to move up.”
What Wilson wants to see from Dahl is that he continues to play ball with the obvious love he has for the game.
“There are no expectations on David. We don’t have any expectations for him other than he goes out and plays baseball and does it to the best of his ability, take it seriously and certainly listen and trust us that we have what’s in his best interest,” Wilson said.
Dahl knows where he plays isn’t his decision. He’s having a great time in Grand Junction, has made good friends on the team, especially with so many players the same age.
They hang out together, go to movies and have an ongoing battle for video game domination on Madden.
“My goal is to get up there as fast as possible,” he said of one day playing at Coors Field. “Whatever happens, happens. I don’t have any control over it. I just come out here and play hard every day.”