It’s said in baseball, with regards to the pitch, that it’s all about the spin. When it comes to Pine View Panther Dakota Donavan, and his pitching, it’s about something entirely different.
Knowing he would be pouring a tremendous amount of effort into his final season for Pine View, he set his pace early academically. “This year I will be able to take things a bit easier,” shares Donavan, “I made sure to get all my more difficult classes out of the way early.”
To say that the 6’6” senior is intimidating on and off the mound wouldn’t be a stretch. The young man is tall and can be perceived as downright menacing. That is of course if you’ve never spoken to the man. Spend an afternoon with Dakota and you realize that the Panther has a big heart and recognizes all those that have played a roll in his success. “I know there are a lot of people that have helped me get to where I am today,” says Dakota, “I am very grateful and thankful for their support.”
Recruiting and the next level in sports can be a challenge to accept and handle for young athletes. Voices in your head expressing which school you should attend, letters filling the mailbox from schools expressing interest, and in some cases, voicemails from coaches looking to meet. It’s stressful enough to think about, much less live through. Dakota learned to handle it all in stride.
“It was exciting going through the entire process. I was getting asked early what I was thinking college wise, asking about school majors and all of these scary life long commitments,” remembers Dakota, “but in the end it’s a really fun process.”
So just how early did this process begin for Dakota? “Letters started coming in the mail just before I became a freshman,” he states. “When it first started happening I really didn’t understand the full extent of what it meant. I had not even started playing high school ball yet. It was cool though because it was all the teams you play as when you’re playing video games and the teams that you watch on T.V., so to know that they are noticing you, it’s humbling.”
“Once I became a sophomore and the letters kept coming in it got really exciting. That was when it all started to sink in.”
As a parent of a college bound athlete you face equally difficult decisions. How much help is too much? When and where to step in and the advice to lend presents its own set of challenges. For Stephanie Donavan, Dakota’s mother, watching her son go through the recruiting process was no different yet one the Donavan family was happy to experience. “It’s very exciting to know that he would have his education paid for. Narrowing down where he wanted to go and trying to help him make some decisions that would affect the rest of his life was a pretty big deal. We wanted it to be his decision, but when they are so young sometimes they don’t know the questions to ask and the things to really consider. I think he took his time, maybe even a little bit longer than a lot of kids, but I think he made the right decision for himself in the end. It just took a little time to get there.”
How fast can he pitch? I mean, just about everyone into baseball here in Region 9 and in the state has heard about his pitching right? Listen to any game Devin Dixon calls, to hear his reaction to Dakota’s fastball on the radio, or better yet, attend a Pine View game and you can hear that ball fly by. But just how fast is it? Jerico, Dakota’s father shares, “The fastest one I’ve recorded was 92[mph] but people I know and really trust, the no nonsense kind of people, have seen him throw up to 94[mph].”
Dakota is the kind of player that eats, sleeps and breathes his sport. When someone spends as much time on his or her craft as Dakota willingly chooses, it is difficult not to recognize the fruits of that effort. Yet when Spring Season begins, Dakota finds a way to turn up the heat. “As soon as school is done at 3:00 pm I am going till about 10:00pm. Our team practice is about three to three and a half hours, then I stay to condition a little bit more. After that I go to the gym. I will do that five days a week and then on the weekend it’s throwing and lifting.” As for how mom handles him being gone so much, Dakota just smiles and says, “Mom get’s a little frustrated because I am not really home much.”
“It’s the only thing we ever argue about,” says Stephanie, “he has to give me at least one day a week.”
Already thinking ahead as to what his future may have in store Dakota wastes no time and has already been giving that some serious thought.
“The number one goal is to try to play major league baseball. If I could choose anywhere to play professionally I’d say somewhere on the west coast.”
“I want to be sure I have another plan in place though and use my time at Oregon State wisely. I want to go into business when I get to college. I’ll get my generals out of the way early then look at something specific that I know I will enjoy.” Take all that Dakota is, a strong and incredibly talented athlete; with an intense commitment to his sport, such height and strength, and you have a brooding presence. Yet there is much more to the man than this. “He is such a good kid. He has this peer tutor class at school,” shares Stephanie, “and he works with the special needs students incessantly. Whenever he can get out of class he goes and works with them. He loves it. I think that is the one thing he gets the most enjoyment out of, helping others and developing those relationships.”
Speaking about his work with his peer tutor class, Dakota displays incredible character. “I like it so much because they are the most pure people. I really get to be myself when I am with them. Seeing their excitement when they take another step in schooling, it’s great. Some of them struggle with speech but watching their progress and seeing all that, it is really a special thing. Knowing I get to be a part of that is really cool.”
Dakota is a great young man. He knows how to work hard, and understands the importance of serving others to make a positive impact. This being his final year representing Panther baseball, in his pursuit of a repeat title, Dakota hopes his peers remember him for an entirely different reason. “I hope after I graduate that people remember that I was a good person, that I was helpful and caring towards others. So many have helped me along the way and I am grateful for that.”
It’s all about the character of the man. • HSSI