Choosing a college is a lot easier when you know what area you want to go to school in, and Chase McDaniel’s family ties led him to Minnesota.
“My whole family, my mom and dad’s side is from the area, and I go up there every year either Christmas or summertime,” McDaniel said. “I have a lot of family ties in that area, and I really wanted to go back to that area.”
So he and his father went to Minnesota a few weeks ago to visit a few schools in the area. And when he came back, his decision was made: Southwest Minnesota State.
“They have a really nice campus,” McDaniel said. “I liked everything about it. I was looking for a four-year school to really get the whole college experience. I didn’t want to have to deal with the whole recruiting process after two years of junior college.”
One factor in his decision was Mustangs coach Paul Blanchard.
“The time you have to play baseball is limited and doesn’t last forever, so I was thinking about after baseball and my career after baseball to become a baseball coach at the highest level,” McDaniel said. “The coach there speaks nationally on coaching, and once I started talking to him it kind of clicked.”
Blanchard will be the latest coach to have a positive influence on McDaniel, who has benefited from Pahrump Valley High School coach Brian Hayes and the coach of his team in Las Vegas, George Alonzo.
“When I was probably 10 I realized baseball was my favorite sport and what I wanted to focus on,” McDaniel said. “My parents blessed me with the opportunity to drive me and my brother three or four times a week to Vegas. They’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve been thankful for my parents. They have sacrificed so much time and money, and it feels good to see that pay off.
“When I was in middle school I would play basketball and a little bit of golf and soccer, but I just got to the age when I told my parents baseball was my true love and what I wanted to focus on.”
As a junior last spring, McDaniel led the Trojans in at-bats (113), hits (55) and batting average (.487), tied for the team lead in doubles (13) and runs (46) while hitting 2 triples, stealing 8 bases and only striking out 4 times. But McDaniel plays baseball all year, playing for the Trojans during the spring and for his team in Las Vegas the rest of the time.
“My coach in Vegas is very big on the mental side of the game, and he’s very old-fashioned,” McDaniel said. “He’ll chew some butt if he has to, and it kind of gets me ready, gives me some thick skin. What makes him so fascinating to me is he likes taking the kids who are rejects, who didn’t make all-stars, the not-so-good kids when they’re 11 years old, and he turns these kids into good players. He makes them out of nothing. He focuses on all of the little things and he just makes amazing ballplayers.”
And his high school coach noticed.
“Chase is one of those kids who changes your program,” Hayes said. “He excels in everything he does. He is a high-character kid from a great family. His baseball IQ is off the charts. He represents every one of our core values to the highest standards.
“We can trust him, he is resilient, he works hard on improving his game, he does his job on and off the field, he shows appreciation for others, and he is unselfish.”
“I’d say coach Hayes probably noticed it that all of the work I’ve put in by the time I was a freshman, my mental awareness of the game was a little more advanced because of how much I’d been playing,” McDaniel said.
There was also a pragmatic side to choosing Southwest Minnesota State over other schools in the area.
“My big goal was to play, not just make the team,” McDaniel said. “I looked at their roster when we were looking at schools, and I noticed they didn’t have many infielders.”
Southwest Minnesota State, located in Marshall, is a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, a 16-team league that competes in Division II of the NCAA and includes nine schools in Minnesota, three in South Dakota, two in North Dakota and one each in Nebraska and Iowa.
“I actually visited a couple of schools in that conference,” McDaniel said. “My dad kind of helped me look at schools, and we were kind of looking around in that conference. It’s a very competitive conference, too, and I just really liked how all the teams there are solid. It’s just really good competition.”
McDaniel was happy to find a college home before the high school baseball season started, and he noted how friendly people in the area seem to be. And cold weather doesn’t bother him, either.
“I kind of enjoy it, especially during Christmas time,” he said. “When there’s no snow, it doesn’t feel right.”
Blanchard told McDaniel the best way to go into coaching is the graduate assistant route, so choosing a major is not critical to his future. Combined with a school he feels he fits into, an area he knows and likes and a coach he already respects, McDaniel appears to be in a pretty good place.
“We are excited for him and his family and can’t wait to see what the future holds for him in Minnesota,” Hayes said.