In the second game of his professional baseball career, the ball continued to find Danny Diekroeger.
The State College third baseman committed three errors in the final three innings and finished with four errors in an 11-inning loss to Batavia at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Diekroeger thought he’d be comfortable at third after playing the position in the past. But soon after the rough performance, he said he was ready for the challenge at third.
He spent his sophomore and junior seasons at Stanford at second base before switching to first base this past season for the Cardinal.
“Growing up, I was always at the middle infield or third base, so it feels like I’m back home a little bit,” Diekroeger said five days after his four-error night. “It did take a couple days to get back into the rhythm of things, but I’m definitely happy to be playing back where I think I belong.”
Diekroeger has put in hours of work throughout the season to improve defensively, just as he did to break into the lineup at Stanford, and he’s shown flashes of brilliance at the hot corner since his four-error performance June 19. Diekroeger now has 10 errors this season, committing all 10 at third base. He’s also played nine games at second base, playing flawless defense at a position he’s also continued to learn after being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 10th round in June.
In his senior season at Stanford, Diekroeger started 60 games at first base and one at second base. His experience at third base boiled down to the final three innings of one game in March.
But that’s his position for the Spikes.
“Any time you have some ability and you add good work ethic to it, you develop,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said before State College’s game Friday night. “And that’s what we’ve seen with Danny over at third.”
He’s also continued to see time at second base, where he’s focused on his footwork in fielding ground balls and turning double plays. Marmol said Diekroeger’s carried all that pregame work into games, and his ability to play second gives him a chance to give other players a day off as he did for second baseman Darren Seferina on Friday night.
It’s where Diekroeger played primarily at Stanford until moving to first to fill a need in a talented infield.
Diekroeger saw limited time as a freshman because he said he was a “below average” defender who wasn’t ready for the college game. In the offseason, he and teammates fighting for time spent time nearly every day getting extra ground balls.
But he found himself on the bench and considered quitting during his sophomore season. When injuries left the infield depleted, Diekroeger stepped in and started 12 of the final 15 games at second base, finishing the season with a .354 batting average.
“I was literally the last infielder and they put me at second base and I did really well,” Diekroeger said. “And after that, I really fell in love with the game and sort of going into summer ball, I made it my goal to become as good as I could be and be a big leaguer and develop along the way.”
Diekroeger, who hit .313 and started all 61 games this past season at Stanford, points to his development with the glove as crucial to becoming a pro prospect.
“Fielding is probably the biggest thing that allowed me to get here because I could always hit a little bit,” Diekroeger said. “But when I was able to start playing in the infield is when it really opened up the opportunity for me to play a lot.”
Diekroeger has made strides since committing four errors in his second game and six errors in his first five games at third.
The improvement starts with his pregame routine each day.
Throughout the season, he’s worked closely with Marmol to get better defensively. They focused on ensuring he was in position to get a good first step and react quickly in addition to getting his feet set to fire to first.
Those hours before games have made a difference for Diekroeger.
“It’s all about the work before the games,” Marmol said. “What the fan come here and see the test. There’s a lot of studying taking place before that test. These guys are out here hours before the game doing their routine in the cage, prepping themselves defensively and making adjustments both offensively and defensively in order to carry it out into the game.”
It’s shown as Diekroeger has smothered balls pulled down the line on diving backhands and handled tricky shorthops in addition to making strong throws across the diamond.
Diekroeger knows he has a long way to go, but he’s starting to feel comfortable at third.
“I got a lot of work to do still,” Diekroeger said, “but I really enjoy playing over there.”