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Carrying on a family tradition
L-E catcher Dalton Reeves signs baseball NLI with Flying Fleet
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DALTON REEVES SIGNED a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and baseball-playing endeavors at Erskine College while the Lugoff-Elgin senior is flanked by his parents, Will and Robin Reeves. Standing, from left, are L-E head baseball coach Randy Stokes, Dalton’s paternal grandparents, John and Trudy Reeves, Dalton’s brother, Sawyer, sister, Ava,and L-E assistant athletic director Dr. Mike Armstrong. - photo by Tom Didato/C-I

Just a hunch … we’re guessing before Dalton Reeves took his first steps as a baby, he already had a bat, ball and glove in his cradle.

Just take a gander at this lineage. Dalton’s father, Will played baseball at Lugoff-Elgin High School --- as a catcher/pitcher --- with the Kershaw County Post 17 American Legion  team in the summers and then at Appalachian State University. Dalton’s uncle, the late Jay Reeves, also played at L-E --- as a pitcher/first baseman ---, for the P-17ers and then pitched at Presbyterian College. For good measure, the Reeves brothers also played tennis at L-E in the spring, along with baseball.

If that is not enough of a baseball heritage, John Reeves, Dalton’s grandfather, played both baseball and football at The Citadel.

Now would be a good time to tell you that Dalton Reeves signed to play lacrosse in college rather than going into the family “business.” Truth is, Dalton Reeves inked a National Letter of Intent to continuing playing baseball while pursuing his college degree at Erskine College.

“I think I was playing tee ball when I was about two or three, probably” said the L-E senior catcher of his first recollection of playing baseball with a laugh. “I love the game of baseball. I love everything about baseball. I play fantasy baseball. I’m always around it, pretty much, year ‘round.”

L-E head coach Randy Stokes said his team’s second-year starting catcher has a feel for the game and understands virtually every situation which can pop up during the Demons’ seven-inning contests. Those qualities are even more important when it comes to strapping on the catcher’s equipment.

“Dalton is a very, very, very smart baseball player,” said Stokes, who was an assistant coach on the Demons’ 1991 and 1992 AAA state championship teams. “He’s been around the game all his life. His dad was a big reason why we won the ‘92 state championship. It seems like a long time ago that Will was playing for us, now we have both Dalton and his younger brother, Sawyer, playing for us. It shows you how time flies.

“(The Reeves’) are a baseball family. They grew up with the game and they’ve played the game all their lives. I couldn’t be happier for Dalton and his family.”

As good a player as he is on the field, Reeves is also an outstanding student in the classroom. He will bring the complete package when he arrives in Due West. He plans to major in biology at Erskine.

“I went up there a couple weeks ago for an academic tour. I had never seen the academic part of campus and I really liked it. It was really homey. It was small, which is what I like,” he said of his official visit.

“I am going to major in biology and the biology building is the newest building on campus. The baseball facility is awesome. I love coach (Flying Fleet head coach Mark) Crocco; he’s great. I got to meet coach (Caulin) Cragle, the assistant coach, and he’s really cool, too.”

Standing a shade under 6-foot-4 and tipping the scales at nearly 190 pounds, it took Dalton Reeves a bit of time to adjust to his height. He hit a growth spurt between his sophomore and junior seasons at L-E and during the early stages of last spring, his first as the Demons’ starting catcher, Stokes brought Reeves along slowly; oftentimes using a designated hitter for  his junior catcher. 

In the second half of the 2018 season, Reeves got his chance on defense and offense. He made the most of his opportunities at the plate, batting at a .345 clip with 10 hits --- including a double --- in 29 at bats. Defensively, he did not commit an error while throwing out better than 32 percent of would-be base-stealers.

Stokes said now that Reeves has developed physically, those numbers should improve in 2019.

“Dalton has just started growing into his body here lately. He was not very strong last year. I think he would be the first person to tell you that he hit that growth spurt and the he did not catch up to the maturation of his body,” Stokes said. “Now, he’s become such a better player; just over the summer he became so much better.

“It’s crazy for some kids and how they bloom late. Dalton is one of those kids who’s a late bloomer. He’s still growing and getting stronger. In two years, after he gets in the weight program at Erskine, there’s no telling how high his ceiling will be.”

Nearly 6-foot-4 and still growing, Reeves is tall for a catcher and could be a prime candidate to be moved to first base, should the need arise at Erskine. If he has his druthers, Reeves will continue to be looking out onto the field of play from behind the plate.

“I don’t find it to be a problem,” he said of being one of the taller catchers in the state.

“I feel like (moving to first base) could happen, but I want to be a catcher. I’m going to college as a catcher, but if it happens, it happens. It will be up to the coaches.”

With more time in the weight room at Erskine, Stokes said he believes that Reeves could develop into what college coaches look for in a backstop.

“Dalton understands that college guys need to be able to hit the long ball.  That’s what they look for,” he said. “If you ask a scout where a team is going to get their power from, they are going to tell you from the corner guys, in the infield and the outfield, and the catcher. Those are the power guys in a lineup.

“Dalton’s going to have to go up there and hit some balls deep. He understands that. I think he is going to hit the ball with power before it’s all said and done.”

Asked for a self-evaluation on his present skills, Reeves said, “I have pretty good hands, receiving-wise. I’m a pretty good fundamental catcher. I feel like I can get a little stronger arm and my offense can definitely improve.”

Playing in this past weekend’s NaturChem Invitational in Lexington, Reeves showed his defensive prowess as he gunned down all five Lexington High runners who were trying to steal second base against the Demons. He also threw out a runner in a game with Dorman on Saturday.

Being a baseball-savvy young man, Dalton Reeves is looking forward to stepping up into a leadership role for a Demon squad which lost nine seniors to graduation last spring. 

“We want to bring home a state championship. We have to keep improving all season long in order to do that,” he said of the current campaign. 

“The seniors have to step up and be leaders for our team. I feel like I’m a leader. I’m behind the plate so I see all that’s going on out there. I have to communicate, be strong and let my guys know what’s going on.”

All those intangibles, both on and off the field, make Reeves the near-perfect signee for the NCAA Division II Flying Fleet.

“Erskine is getting a good kid from a good family, a good player, a good student and just a first-class individual, in my opinion. He would be a plus in anybody’s program just being the kind of kid that he is and his character,” Stokes said in his evaluation of Reeves as a player and person.

“Nobody’s going to outwork him. He knows the game and he is going to be prepared for the college game. His preparation is unbelievable in the way he goes about preparing himself for the season and, for each game. Erskine is getting a quality guy that they can depend on.”

As he stepped up from his chair following the signing ceremony which included members of his family, Dalton Reeves was sporting a broad smile. It grew wider when he was told that his father signed with Appalachian State in the living room of his house one night after school while joined by a few friends/teammates.

Was there any pressure on having to sign to play baseball in college, Dalton Reeves was asked? He just laughed before giving his answer.

“Part of me felt like I needed to,” he said, “but I really like Erskine. I’m carrying on a family tradition.”