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Know Your Prospects: Daniel Mahoney, RHP, Florida Marlins

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When Daniel Mahoney took the mound for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport Gulls during the summer of 2008, the serious fans got out of the line for hotdogs and popcorn and cemented themselves as close to the field’s barrier fence as possible.

In a league full of jocular boys (the NECBL is often many young players’ first exposure to wooden bats), Mahoney exuded a captivating maturity and electricity withheld only for those with serious aspirations.

With his gloved hand tucked tightly against his chest, Mahoney would straightforward charge from the left field bullpen. He’d reach the mound, mutter a few words to himself, and tuck in his necklace. And then he’d warmup. But his warmups weren’t warmups; they were serious battles. Steely eyed and focused, he’d never take his eye off the catcher’s mitt, not even for a second.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Buck O’Neil may have said it about hitters, but it’s true. You really can hear a difference.

It was the first time I saw this unfold when I thought to myself: This guy’s something special. He hadn’t even pitched to a single batter, but I felt some kind of instinctual revelation. And I was confused and puzzled and baffled. It shouldn’t be this easy to pick out a needle out of a haystack. But sometimes your gut is right.

Mahoney, a 6’4″ righthanded flamethrower, was named the NECBL’s top professional prospect at the end of the season. Originally groomed as a starter during his freshman year at the University of Connecticut in 2008, Mahoney was moved to the team’s bullpen in 2009, a direct product of the success he had in the NECBL. In 28 innings that year, he struck out 26, walked 10, and posted a modest ERA of 4.16.

During the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, Mahoney was selected by the Florida Marlins in the fourth round, 128th overall.

Mahoney’s first season was, admittedly, not a success. He was converted back into a starter and during his first professional stint with the Jamestown Jammers of the short-season New York-Penn League, he posted a 1-6 record with an ERA a tick over 8.00. In early August, Mahoney hit the team’s 60-day disabled list to undergo Tommy John surgery.

Over the past six months, Blogging About Baseball has received a lot of hits from people looking for information on Mahoney. For a fourth round pick, there’s really not much known about him. Luckily, I had the opportunity to interview Mahoney earlier this week as he begins the long road to recovery…

Blogging About Baseball: In 2008, you only made one relief appearance for the University of Connecticut. In 2009, however, you worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen. Did this transition come about from your time as closer for the Newport Gulls? Did you say something to your coach before the season began?

Daniel Mahoney: Yes, I went to our pitching coach and asked him if I could stay in the bullpen. I felt more comfortable there and thought that with the other guys we had back there we could shorten the games with a very strong bullpen.

Is there a different approach to starting and coming out of the bullpen? What are those differences for you?

Yes, starting and being part of the bullpen are very different; the bullpen you have to be ready to pitch everyday and starting you have a long rest in between appearances. Mentally, they are two different animals; you have to be able to come in at a moment’s notice and starting you know that you have to go out and give your team a solid 5-6 innings.

I prefer relieving more than starting. I think it fits my personality.

During your time with the Gulls, it appeared that you were a prototypical closer: two plus pitches, charisma, confidence. Is that a role you prized? Or do you feel you’re more suited to be a starter?

I loved being a closer. I think that you have to have a certain personality/swagger to be a closer and I think that with the Gulls I thrived in that role. I fell in love with being out there every night with the game on the line.

On that note, why don’t you tell everyone what you pitch.

Fastball: 91-95. Curve: 78-80. Change: 82-85.

When did you first notice scouts were watching you?

I was drafted out of high school [editor’s note: in 2007, by the New York Yankees in the 16th round, 514th overall] but I first noticed during my time in Newport. I kept getting questionnaires asking for lots of information. I also noticed the guns during some games.

Which teams had scouts in attendance at your games?

I have no idea.

Did you feel guilty when you didn’t make it into the game and scouts were there? I’ve heard that you were a pain in the ass to scout at UConn…

Wasn’t my fault. I didn’t make those decisions. You’d have to bring it up with Penders [editor’s note: Jim Penders is Connecticut’s head coach]…

What was that scouting process like? Did you interact with scouts or were they mostly hands-off? What did they tell you as your season progressed and the draft grew closer? So many of us are curious about the process, but will never experience it…

The scouting process is one that, as a player, you love to go through. There is a lot of paper work and there are a lot of phone calls wondering how everything is going…whether you are healthy or not. During the winter I had meetings with some of the teams that were following me. Those were just for the scouts to get to know me as a person. After that it is really just them watching you play and a lot more phones calls. Then it is a waiting game…

It’s hard for a lot of people to realize just how significant being taken in the 4th round is. You went from being an unknown commodity to the 128th player selected overall in the course of just two years. What do you attribute that drastic jump to? How amazing was that for you?

I think that it was a combination of my body maturing and just working hard. I always knew that I wanted to play baseball professionally and I was just lucky enough to be blessed with some raw talent. It was amazing to make that jump from the 16th round in 2007 to the fourth in 2009. I knew that I couldn’t pass up that opportunity twice.

When did you realize “I am about to become a professional baseball player?”

When I said goodbye to my family and friends and got on the plane to come down to Jupiter for minicamp.

How did Florida contact you and tell you that you were going to be drafted? Were you like the rest of us MiLB junkies and you found out through the conference call or did they contact you beforehand?

They called me, but I was watching the ticker online with my family and girlfriend.

What was it like when you heard “Florida selects Daniel Mahoney, righthanded pitcher out of the University of Connecticut?”

Relief that the wait was finally over and I could celebrate. The stress melted away.

How did you feel to be selected by the Florida Marlins? You’re from Massachusetts (as am I)…was there a part of you that had your fingers crossed for a selection by the Red Sox?

I was excited. The first thing that crossed my mind was how nice the weather is in Florida. Part of me wishes that the Red Sox took me, being from Boston, but I am very happy with the Marlins organization and I think that I am in an excellent spot to develop and move through the system.

Connecticut teammate Harold Brantley was also selected by Florida. Has that made your transition any easier?

We only saw each other for the minicamp and a few days after when he got moved up to Jamestown. He was in Jupiter with the GCL for most of the season and I was in New York until I got hurt.

What has the last year been like? With the Jamestown Jammers of the short season New York-Penn League, you got knocked around a bit before eventually succumbing to an injury. What was the injury and what went wrong?

My first year was very similar to my first year of college: lots of bumps. But I learned more in those couple months than I ever have. My pitching coach, Doc Watson and I got along well and I built a pretty good relationship with him. We worked together almost every day, whether it be film or in the bullpen.

I tore the UCL in my elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery.

What has the rehabilitation been like? What’s your training program?

Very tedious and boring. There has been a lot of small weights, five pounds or less…trying to strengthen my shoulder muscles and rehab my new tendon in my elbow. I have been focusing on getting my arm healthy and at the same time the rest of my body so that when I come back I don’t have anymore setbacks.

What was your “welcome to professional ball” moment?

That’s a hard one. It was definitely walking out of the clubhouse and having people ask for my autograph.

Describe what it was like when you finally took the mound as a professional baseball player.

Nerve-racking. I was so nervous and didn’t know what to expect.

Has your family been supportive in your decision to play professional baseball at such a young age?

Yes. They have been extremely supportive, especially when I got hurt. They were there for me…whatever I needed. They know that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

Are you going to miss your last college years, or does baseball come first-and-foremost to everything?

College was fun and I went back in my shortened offseason, but I am only going to be young for so long. Baseball might not always be there and I’m pretty sure that the University of Connecticut isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

What are you most looking forward to? What are you most nervous about?

I’m looking forward to getting back out and pitching after all of my rehab is done and I am healthy again. Not really nervous about anything right now, but I’m sure something will pop up.

For all the Marlin’s fans out there who have no idea who Dan Mahoney is, here’s a chance to introduce yourself:

Hi, I’m Dan Mahoney…

And last, but not least, if you weren’t playing baseball, what would you be doing? And who are your baseball idols?

Hopefully I’d still be in school, but I have no idea. I didn’t have any other plans. I am a big fan of Jonathan Papelbon, just the energy that he brings to the mound every night.


One Response

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  1. Kid from Boston has an idol in Papelbon – that makes sense. Good interview…I like how you didn’t hold back on asking about not getting into games at UConn.


    January 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm

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