July 21, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Daniel Spingola didn’t want much when he showed up in Danbury, Connecticut, in late June to play for the Danbury Westerners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
All he wanted was to see some live pitching and hopefully rediscover his swing.
He’s gotten that — and a whole lot more.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder is batting .305, fourth on the Westerners, has a .571 slugging percentage (second) and a .919 OPS — on-base percentage plus slugging — (second). He’s gotten 32 hits (fourth), including eight doubles (third) and six homers (third), has scored 23 runs scored (tied for second), and has stolen four bases in five tries.
Throw in his usual immaculate defense and Spingola earned the start in center field for the West Division All-Stars in today’s 19th annual NECBL All-Star Game being held at Recreation Field in Montpelier, Vt. (First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 and fans can tune in by logging on to www.necbl.com.
Of course, none of that was on his mind at the beginning of the summer.
“Most important was getting at-bats,” said Spingola, who will head into his sophomore year at Georgia Tech. “Any hitter needs at-bats to get better as time goes. So just seeing pitches, seeing off-speed, trying to find a good approach up there and try to make good contact is really all I was looking for. Just trying to please myself.
“I’m definitely pleased. I couldn’t NOT be happy with a .300 average,” he added. “But I’m happy with the way I’ve squared up balls and made good contact, just showing myself I can still do it.”
Successfully proving himself is nothing new for Spingola.
He did it when he made the Yellow Jackets as a walk-on — he is the second Georgia Tech walk-on to make his summer league’s all-star game, as second baseman Thomas Smith made the Valley League All-Star Game. Then, despite only appearing in 23 games and getting a mere 43 at-bats, he proved he could contribute. He batted .349, with four multi-hit games and was invaluable during Tech’s weekend series at Virginia in early March, filling in for injured Brandon Thomas and batting .455 (5-for-11) with three RBIs.
He has been the full-time center fielder for the Westerners and has been superb leading off, hitting not only for average but for power. Spingola headed into the All-Star break with six home runs, five of them coming in July with three of those in the last seven days. The week prior to the break saw him hit. 389, with a 1.000 slugging average, as five of his seven hits were for extra bases (he smacked two doubles in addition to his three round-trippers).
“I always used to think I had a little bit of power,” said Spingola, who didn’t homer in his freshman campaign but had a .419 slugging percentage, lashing three doubles. “It’s just getting the balls to square up and I’m getting a little stronger, too, so that’s always a good thing.”
Of course, the 19-year-old native of Roswell, Ga., has been rock solid defensively, as he’s committed just one error in 27 games, the majority of those in center field, while chalking up six assists.
“I’ve always loved to shag fly balls, so I think defense has kind of come natural to me,” he said. “I feel like if you’re not hitting, the least you can do is play good defense. That’s what I always try to do. I enjoy it.”
One of seven Danbury players at the game, Spingola plans to enjoy getting the opportunity to showcase his all-around game, as he’ll be participating in several events in the pre-game skills competition.
“There’s a 50-yard dash that I’ll be doing and a throwing competition from the outfield and I’ll be starting in the outfield, so I’m excited,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to expect when I got here [Friday]. I was pretty impressed with all the players that are here. Obviously I’m excited to see some of these big names and see how good everybody is and have a good time.”