By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Sports Editor Seventeen year old Jeff Daley and his 15-year old brother Mark couldn’t be more different. Mark is taller, leaner, younger and more athletic. Jeff, though, is more experienced on the field, his two-year advantage in life experiences makes him wiser, and his exploits in the classroom rival anyone. Jeff is […]
By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Sports Editor
Seventeen year old Jeff Daley and his 15-year old brother Mark couldn’t be more different.
Mark is taller, leaner, younger and more athletic.
Jeff, though, is more experienced on the field, his two-year advantage in life experiences makes him wiser, and his exploits in the classroom rival anyone.
Jeff is the brain and Mark is the brawn.
That isn’t in any way a slight at Mark’s intellect or grades. He’s a bright kid.
But when both of your parents (Gayle and Todd) are successful lawyers, the sky is the limit when it comes to expectations.
And despite their difference in age, personalities and desires, baseball isn’t just a shared passion for both Daley’s, it’s something that has brought them together as both teammates and brothers.
He’s 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA and has registered three saves this season.
That means he’s played a major role in half (7) of the La Salle’s (14) victories this year.
Daley has walked seven batters in 2018 and fanned 21.
Over the past two years and for two different coaches, the senior is 7-2 with an ERA under 2.00.
His strikeout-to-walk ratio is above a 4-to-1 margin.
That is an above average ratio.
But what makes it even more impressive is the fact that Daley would be the first to tell you that he throws somewhere in the 75-MPH range, and he relies on his ability to be crafty and the hitting of spots for success.
Baseball can be an ironic and cruel sport at times. In one of the just two Daley losses, came on a night he was at his very best.
Jeff was locked in a 0-0 tie with Damien’s Zach Kirby, and in a game he went the first 7 2/3 innings.
Daley was replaced with two outs in the top of the eighth inning and with runners in scoring position.
The La Salle reliever, however, launched a wild pitch to the backstop and it handed Daley a setback, despite allowing just three hits and striking out seven.
But he bounced back, which has been a reflection or trademark of his life, both with his ability to overcome a serious hip injury just before starting his freshman year, as well as his desire and effort to meet the demands he faces in the classroom.
Daley is well above the 4.0 range and his class schedule looks something like this: AP Physics, AP Chemistry, AP Calculus and Honors English.
“My parents ingrained into all three of their boys how important grades and an education is to having a successful life,” Jeff Daley said. “We look up to our parents and excelling in the classroom is always something I’ve strived for.
I almost didn’t play my senior year, because my No. 1 focus is and was my education. I’m glad I decided to play, though, because the experience of playing with my friends one last time, and with my brother is something I’ll never forget. It’s really special and something I’ll miss, because it brought Mark and I together.”
First-year coach Eddie McKiernan was put in a tough spot when he was chosen to replace a very popular coach in Mike Parisi.
By all accounts, though, McKiernan put his new players at ease early on, and they respect him for that.
“Jeff does a good job of keeping his teammates focused and on track,” McKiernan said. “Jeff is a great competitor and throws a lot of quality strikes. He competes like a bulldog. You can tell he’s a good big brother to Mark.”
In conversations with this writer, Daley has acknowledged on a number of occasions how much he trusts and relies on the defense behind him, which puts the senior at ease.
It’s especially vital considering the fact that Daley will never blow a batter away with any of his three pitches.
As of today, Jeff Daley is set to attend Texas Christian University in the fall, but he still holds out hope a spot opens at one of the schools he’s dreamed of attending.
It doesn’t or won’t surprise those who know Daley that his intent is to become either a lawyer or dentist when choosing a career.
He’s already contributed and carries himself like a veteran, though, and that’s because he takes the game and his role very seriously.
He’s been nonstop baseball since about the age of seven.
Daley hits in the No. 3 slot in the Lancers’ lineup.
Mark is batting .333, and his 25 hits are tied for second most with Brennan Mace.
Daley’s 12 RBIs are third best, and he’s also collected four doubles and scored 10 runs.
He’s already taller than his older brother, and at just-under the 6-foot mark and nearly 170 pounds, Mark Daley is only going to get stronger and his game will obviously benefit because of it.
Towards the end of the 2017 season, Daley was brought up to the varsity level and early on, the freshman (at the time) earned a reputation as a guy who can run down any ball in the air.
He has gone the entire 2018 season thus far without committing an error in center and his ability to read a fly ball has been key to Daley becoming what many consider as one of the area’s premier outfielders.
“Mark and I weren’t close as we grew up, but since he rides with me to school and practice every day, it has changed our relationship,” Jeff Daley said “I give him a hard time, but it’s meant the world to me to watch my teammates not only give him a chance, they allowed Mark to earn their respect because of his work ethic and abilities, and I am very grateful for that. I’m very proud of the way in which he carries himself and his strong work ethic. I will miss him and my teammates after this season is over.”
As mentioned, Mark’s 3.3 GPA isn’t in his brother’s league, but then again, neither are 95% of high school student-athletes.
Mark said he’s realized by watching his big brother excel that school should be and will be a bigger focus as he matures over the next two years.
Both Daley’s have said they appreciate McKiernan’s approach and how the first-year coach listens and supports his players.
For his part, McKiernan appreciates and respect the Daley brothers for their contributions to the program.
“Mark is that young sophomore than brings energy and goes 100 percent,” McKiernan said. “This kid is a great outfielder. He will run through a wall and he gets great reads (on fly balls). Mark is the goofy one, so Jeff has to play big brother at times.”
How does Mark Daley see his role on the 2018 Lancers?
“I feel like my job in the No. 3 spot is to move runners over and also to drive in runs,” Mark Daley said. “I didn’t assume I’d get the job in center field, but once I did, I wanted to be the best center fielder that I can be. I want to do anything that helps my team win as many games as possible.”
Both Daley’s have said their teammates are good-natured smart asses, but when it’s time to work and be business-like, they can and do turn up the intensity.
It’s been a near-universal theme that La Salle’s best outings this season have come in games when the bench is emotionally into it from the first pitch to the final out.
In spite of the trash talk that goes on between brothers, especially those who compete in athletic endeavors, Jeff might be surprised to find out how much respect his middle brother has for him.
“Jeff does all these great things with his brain, and it’s one of the many reasons I admire him as a big brother. I also look up to (teammates) Ethan Patrick and Zane Lindeman and others. I know I can count on them to get their jobs done. I wish Jeff got more opportunities, because every time he’s on the mound, I can relax in knowing he’s going to get the job done,” Mark Daley said.
The crazy part of this story is, that as nicely as both Mark and Jeff Daley have acquitted themselves on and off the field, when it’s all said and done, their seventh-grade brother, Tyler, will likely be the best of the bunch.
But the focus is on the now. And that ‘now’ is the first round of the postseason, which begins this coming Friday.
La Salle heads into this Friday’s CIF-SS Division 3 playoff game at Charter Oak (14-10) on a four-game win streak, and in many ways, playing their best baseball.
The Lancers finished the regular season in second place in the Del Rey League, and did so with back-to-back sweeps over first-place Bishop Amat as well as Cathedral.
La Salle senior Ethan Patrick: “The Daley brothers are a huge part of our team. Jeff does an amazing job on the mound for us. You can always count on him to get outs and keep us in the ball game. Mark is one of the best center fielders in the area. You always can count on Mark to catch almost any ball that goes his way. Mark has also been a huge part in our offense. He does a great job of helping produce runs and coming up big in clutch situations. The Daley brothers are a big reason our team has found success.”
La Salle senior Zane Lindeman: “They’ve both been huge. Jeff has been huge at both starting and coming out of the pen. His start against Damien was one of the most dominant performances I’ve seen all year. And then he’s also been incredible out of the bullpen, especially in league games. Mark is already one of the best outfielders in the area, and he’s made plays that have left me speechless. For him to be a sophomore and to hit in the middle of the lineup and contribute is pretty incredible.”