Being Told You Can’t, Doesn’t Mean You Stop Trying

“Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable!” This was the motto that Dan Ventricelli followed when he was young, and is the same motto, that he continues to follow today.

Daniel Ventricelli Jr., now in his third year at Marist College, attempted to walk on to the Marist College Baseball team his freshman year. Unfortunately for him, things didn’t go the way he wanted. When cuts were announced, Ventricelli found out that he would not be a part of the team. “It hurt inside,” said Ventricelli. “Being told you can’t play something that you enjoy, hurts, but that was the fuel I used to work harder.” And work harder was exactly what he did.

Having played baseball since he was a little kid, Ventricelli didn’t want to stop playing the game he loved. He knew that in order to try and make the team the following year, it would take a lot of effort and determination. Getting better and improving was something that Dan was committed to doing. “I literally went to the gym every day and played on a competitive summer ball team,” he said. “I ate healthy and was focused on the small things that I needed to improve on.”

Ventricelli first started playing organized baseball, when he was five years old. His father, Daniel Ventricelli Sr. and his mother, Karen Ventricelli, spoke about how it all began.

When Daniel was about four years old, he would spend hours throwing a bucket of tennis balls into a pitch-back in the driveway in front of our home. He loved the sport since he was able to throw a ball and swing a bat. That age was about one year old! He began playing t-ball at five years old and took it as seriously as if he were playing in the major leagues! He always made sure he had his wristbands and eye black on.

It was more than just a game for Ventricelli, it was a passion, something that he truly worshiped. “Dan has always been the first one on the field ready to play, and the last one to leave the field,” said Dan Sr.

As Dan grew older he became better and better. In fact, when he was six years old, the coaches decided to move him up to an eight and nine year old team. Coaches told his parents that, “He was too good to play with kids his own age.” Ventricelli was playing with kids, two years older than he was! “It was a great decision, because Daniel was playing at an advanced level, and he more than met the challenge,” said Daniel Sr. Dan wasn’t always the biggest kid on the field, but that didn’t really matter to him. One of his youth baseball coaches nicknamed him “mighty-mouse.”

In middle school, Dan Jr. was a starting pitcher in both seventh and eighth grade and received the coach’s award for his leadership skills.

During his four years of high school ball, Ventricelli played every position on the field, except for catcher. In the summer of his junior year, Ventricelli threw a no hitter. He was named captain of the Syosset High School Varsity team and was also awarded a baseball scholarship from the High School Booster Club in recognition of his commitment, leadership ability, and sportsmanship. Besides being a great baseball player, Dan Jr. also played on the Syosset High School football team. In his senior year, he was the starting quarterback for the team. He broke a 40 year old record and tied a Nassau County record for throwing 5 touchdowns in a playoff game. For his performance, Ventricelli was named the MSG Varsity Player of the Week for the tri-state area. Before his graduation, he was presented with the Departmental Academic Award, in Physical Education.

Besides all of his on the field heroics, Dan Jr. is also very well respected by his peers off the field. When talking to his parents, they could not say enough good things about him. “He’s not just a superb athlete but a terrific brother and son,” they stated. “He attends mass faithfully, works hard at everything he does, and his determination is inspiring.”

Dan not only loves playing the game of baseball, but enjoys going to Yankee games and watching the games on TV. When asked if he was inspired by any specific athlete, Ventricelli had this to say. “My biggest inspiration that I try to emulate is Derek Jeter.” According to his father, Dan Jr. wore numbers two and 42, in honor of his favorite players Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, during his days playing youth baseball.

When Dan returned to Marist in the fall of his sophomore year, he tried out for the team once again. This time he made the team. “His perseverance, determination and hard work paid off,” said his father Daniel Sr. “He made the team as a walk on, which is a long shot for a Division One baseball program.” It was so fulfilling for Ventricelli when he learned that would be a part of the team. He recognized that he probably wouldn’t get too much playing time being a walk on, but that wasn’t much of a big deal to him. He was now part of a team, a Division One baseball team. “I am the only one I had to prove anything to and that was what I really wanted to do,” said Dan Jr. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this.”

Dan appeared in three games for the Red Foxes last year, but on May 4th, 2013, Ventricelli did something that he will remember for the rest of his life. The matchup was Marist vs. St. Peter’s in a MAAC conference game. With Marist up by plenty, Dan was called upon to pinch-hit. ‘Vent’, as his teammates call him, promptly singled, to record his first ever collegiate hit. “I can’t lie, I was a little nervous my first at bat. The key for me is to block that out and have confidence in myself,” he said.

His college coaches and teammates respect what he brings to the table.  “Dan is a solid defensive outfielder and contact hitter that has shown some power this fall,” said Marist assistant coach Tyler Kavanaugh. Meanwhile, head coach Chris Tracz said, “Dan is a great a kid and pleasure to work with day in and day out.”

Marist starting pitcher, Rich Vrana, also likes what he has seen from the junior walk-on. “He’s a great guy, he’s one of the bulldogs we have on the team. He goes out every day and does whatever is needed of him. Whether he’s in the outfield or helping his team by playing second he never takes a rep off. Dan is the player that every team needs.”

Even with all the time and effort he has put into improving his baseball skills, Daniel has still been able to maintain his focus in the classroom, where he is majoring in communications. This previous spring, he made the Dean’s List. “He was able to handle a challenging baseball schedule as well as a full time academic calendar,” said his father. Furthermore, he had the opportunity to intern at Turner Broadcasting, in New York City, this past summer.

“I do aspire to make it to the next level,” said Dan Jr. “I’m going to take this game as long as it takes me. Until I get seriously hurt or someone drags me off the field, I won’t stop playing.”

Link: Dan’s Baseball Showcase Highlights- https://www.perfectgame.org/players/playerprofile.aspx?ID=274130

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