WINDOM -- It’s fair to say that a certain percentage of today’s baseball players might be hard-pressed to communicate anything significant about the old-time ballplayers. Hall of Famers like Rogers Hornsby, Pie Traynor, Nap Lajoie or Rube Waddell, to name a few.
Heck, some of them probably never even heard of those guys.
But Danny Kneeland isn’t one of those. The veteran Windom Pirate is not only a significant player on his amateur baseball team, he’s also something of a baseball historian.
He especially enjoys learning about players who’ve preceded his time on earth. In fact, when Kneeland says the old Detroit Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb (whose career spanned 1905 to 1928) may indeed still be the greatest ballplayer ever, who are we to argue?
Suffice to say, the Pirates are fortunate to have a player of Kneeland’s caliber -- and not just because he can recite the names of old players.
His career with the team technically began when he was in the second grade, which was his first year as the Pirates’ bat boy. He started as a player after his junior year of high school, and 2019 marks his seventh season with the club.
The Windom Area High School graduate received some stellar baseball experience at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato where he was a three-year starter and team captain in his senior year. He played mostly catcher.
With the Pirates he’s something of a utility player, spending much of his time at catcher but also performing at other positions. His manager, Nick Kulseth, says Kneeland is valuable for all the positions he plays well, but the team’s leadoff hitter is also special for his hitting, for his intensity, and for the fact that he likes to “coach up” the younger guys.
Sports fans can learn a little more about Danny Kneeland, in his own words, in this week’s Drill episode online at www.dglobe.com. Here’s a sampling of our interview:
QUESTION: The Pirates participated in the amateur state tournament last year. What are you going to remember most from that season?
ANSWER: “Last year, going to state, that was an awesome experience. The last three years we really picked it up wins-wise. We had a lot of success, and to finally get over the hump last year was just an awesome feeling. And to beat Fairmont (in regions) in a really good series -- we scored two runs and they scored two runs the entire series -- so it was very intense and stressful. But there was just nothing like that feeling when you finally win.”
QUESTION: People say you’re an intense competitor. Correct?
ANSWER: “I would say I’m intense. I’m very competitive. I love winning. I have a pretty deep passion for the game of baseball. I love it, and when it crosses the lines you kind of become a different person -- and not in a bad way. You compete. You try to hustle. You try to play as hard as you can. I kind of have the philosophy that if your uniform isn’t dirty you probably haven’t done a lot in the game.”
QUESTION: Tell us the most unusual thing about you that people don’t know.
ANSWER: “One thing that most people probably don’t know about me is I’m a pretty avid student of history. I’m a history teacher, so I try to get my hands on as much history as I can. Especially with baseball. I love learning about the game and learning about past players. Most of my favorite players are either passed away now, or retired. But it’s because I studied them so much and I really kind of found an interest in guys like Ty Cobb or Yogi Berra, Rickey Henderson. They’re kind of like my top three.”