DUNEDIN, Fla.- L.B. (Little Brad) Dantzler was once a batboy for Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.
Dantzler, 24, was born in Winter Haven, Fla., a town that happened to be the spring home of the Cleveland Indians.
A 14th round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013, the first baseman was the batboy for an Indians team that included a gold glove studded infield and a future hall of famer.
“I was watching a documentary about the top double play combos in MLB history and it was him (Alomar) and Omar (Vizquel),” said Dantzler on Friday at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. “That was around the time I was batboy for them and they were doing their thing.”
Fast-forward 13 years and the infielder finds himself competing for a position with the organization that brought Alomar to the top of the baseball world for two consecutive years.
The former batboy still thinks about the hot spring days in Winter Haven where the shortstop, who had left the Blue Jays by then, prepared for the season ahead.
“I remember it vividly,” he said. “If you go to my room at my house I have all kinds of signed bats and balls. That was back in one of the top eras for the Indians franchise.”
Memories of Alomar taking swings at Chain of Lakes Park will forever stay with Dantzler, but guidance eventually came in a more practical form.
“Denny Doyle played for the Red Sox in the early 70’s, he bounced around and played for a couple of teams. I started hitting with him when I was in seventh grade and worked with him through high school,” said the 24-year-old. “I still call him from time to time just to talk baseball, talk about my swing.
“He has been a big mentor.”
A third baseman for much of his youth, the 2013 Northwestern League MVP was forced to transition to first base due to a hand injury in his senior year.
“Initially it was tough, you can ask my coach at South Carolina and even in Vancouver. I struggled defensively, I wasn’t as smooth as I had been in the past,” said Dantzer. “Just working on my footwork around the base, and just learning.
“Its coming along well, I feel like I made strides this spring so far, and hopefully (I will) continue that.”
Last year, Dantzler collected 64 RBIs with a batting average of .245 and a .352 on base percentage.
The University of South Carolina product, while improving his defensive play at first base, has also focused on refining his approach at the plate.
“Quick hands is my philosophy. When you get a pitch to hit, so much of hitting is about approach.
“We talk here all the time how mechanics get guys in trouble more than they help them,” said Dantzler. “You get in the game and you don’t have time to think about your bat being at a certain angle; it’s you and the pitcher and you have to be ready to hit.”