He wants to be Daniel, not Dan. It’s a small thing, but he’s seen Steven Baron go by “Steve” his whole career. Once you’re given a name and you’re in an organization long enough, it sticks. So he will correct you. Nicely, but he will correct you, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a reporter, or another player, or another player’s mom. It’s Daniel, he will say.
You only get so many chances to remake yourself, so when one pops up, you have to take it. A new school, a new job, a new team. A place where you can say, it’s not Dan:
It’s not Dan, actually?
He wears his socks high now more often than not, his hat backwards and perched on top of his head like a cherry. When there’s a chill he swaps it for a Rainiers beanie, also worn pointing straight up, no slouch. He walks, as my dad says, like a banty rooster. He hangs on the top rail during every game, whether he’s DHing or not, offering high-fives and slaps on the back to every teammate. He will also troll those same teammates: someone hits a weak grounder in batting practice, and he shouts, “Boomstick, baby!” Leonys Martín takes reps at third base squealing “I’m Manny Machado!” before airmailing a throw over Vogey’s head. “Bro, you are no Manny Machado,” Vogelbach hollers before going to collect the ball. He loves picking on Martín, especially:
Happy Friday! Dan Vogelbach is trolling Leonys on instagram pic.twitter.com/bYlGS4il0P— Non-Funny Homer Tim (@eutimioc2) June 30, 2017
It’s the kind of stuff you can only get away with if you are also the guy on the top step after every run scored, the first to congratulate someone, the one who lugs out the Gatorade after a walkoff:
I will never get tired of watching Tyler O'Neill jump into a pile of his teammates at home plate pic.twitter.com/cQnbinypBD— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) June 30, 2017
Vogelbach wasn’t sure he wanted to participate in the Home Run Derby. Of all invited participants, he had the lowest slugging percentage, even while carrying the highest OBP and the second-best average. He had the fewest number of home runs, trailing five behind the next-lowest contestant and over ten behind his fellow PCL representatives, and his .151 ISO trails teammate Tyler O’Neill’s by a good fifty points. But Tyler O’Neill, after struggling to adjust to Triple-A pitching in the first part of the season, was not invited to be an All-Star, even though you know and I know and we all know he would be the most fun to watch in the HRD. But how can you have a derby and not have a representative from the home team? So Vogelbach was pressed into service, and because he is a good lad, and a Daniel not Dan, he agreed.
Let me admit this: all I wanted was for Vogelbach to not come in last. He had just crossed into double digits in the last game before the break, ten home runs somehow looking much more respectable than nine. In the first round, Danny Hayes hit nine home runs, which felt like a good, fair, Triple-A amount of home runs to hit. Christian Walker of the Reno Aces let a ton of pitches go by, because he’s not trying to mess up his swing, and despite being the heavy favorite to win (22 HRs before the break, second among all contestants), only managed to crank out six. Richie Shaffer, who was a Mariner for about a second over this off-season, went next, and his line drive swing deposited nine over the left field fence, clearing the party deck in a dramatic final. Renato Nuñez, the overall leader with 22 home runs, could only muster five, and things began to feel attainable for Vogelbach to move on to the next round. Then Bryce Brentz came up, and the 28-year-old, who has spent his entire career in the Red Sox organization and five years ago missed out on his spring training invite because of an accident while cleaning his gun, proceeded to mash 16 home runs—more than the previous two contestants combined—and each seemingly further than the last. The crowd roared, drunk on dingers, and my stomach knotted a little for Vogelbach, having to follow such a performance.
I needn’t have worried. Three pitches in, Vogelbach turned on one and deposited it just in front of the scoreboard, and from there the smile broke across his face. He would go on to rifle off 13 dingers, the next-highest total by a significant margin. He hit six more in the next round, exactly as many as he needed to advance, not using all of his time and never taking his time out. In the end, it came down to him and Brentz, and he couldn’t catch the elder statesman, who hit nine bombs, took a time out, and then hit nine more with his jack-knife swing. But second place in a derby you weren’t sure you wanted to be a part of?
Yes, Daniel. It was.