Name: Hagen Danner
School: Huntington Beach, Calif.
Hagen Danner wanted to play it safe this past spring when his pitching arm started bothering him, so the 6-2, 195-pound then-junior right-hander found another way to help Huntington Beach, moving behind the plate.
“My arm didn’t feel too well after a couple of starts. At that point, I felt like I didn’t need to throw too much,” Danner said. “I wanted to make sure I was healthy for my senior year.”
He only threw 31 innings, going 3-3 with a 2.97 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 31 innings. At the plate, he excelled, hitting .423 with six homers and 29 RBI, but the season was a disappointment because the Oilers were 20-11 and were eliminated in the second round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
“We didn’t play very good as a team, so it was very frustrating,” Danner said. “We should have been a lot better than we were. The year before when we won the CIF, there was a lot more chemistry.”
Though a lot of high school pitchers play other positions when they’re not on the mound, Danner is unique in that he’s also seen as a potential prospect as a catcher, a position he’s concentrating on this summer.
“I have a lot of people ask me what I prefer or which I’m better at and I have no idea,” Danner said. “I’ll let other people tell me which one I’m better at. We’ll know more after this next year. I’m trying to catch more than pitch right now because I’m trying to save my arm a bit. Catching and pitching at the same time is never too good.”
While the two positions don’t mesh physically, being a pitcher helps him decide what pitches to call behind the plate.
“As a catcher, I go off what kind of pitch would I throw in a certain situation,” he said. “If the pitcher shakes it off, he shakes it off. It makes it easier to know what kind of pitch a hitter can’t hit, what kind of pitch will get a guy out, to make it easier on a pitcher.”
He’s been on the national radar for a long time. He helped lead Ocean View to the championship of the 2011 Little League World Series, throwing a 0.00 ERA in 8.1 innings and hitting a homer in the team’s 2-1 championship game defeat of Japan. He was already getting big-time offers as an eighth grader and committed to UCLA before he entered high school.
After playing sparingly as a freshmen, he had a 1.03 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 61 innings as a sophomore. He’s confident in three pitches and has a consistent motion on the mound.
“I would rather be known as a pitcher than a thrower,” Danner said. “I make sure I can throw strikes with all of my pitches. … The last time I threw my best pitch was my fastball and my change-up was coming along pretty well. The curve ball has always been there for me. I’m trying to add a cutter-type pitch.”
He’s played alongside Huntington Beach pitcher-first baseman Nick Pratto since the two were in youth baseball. The two have made the USA Baseball U18 National Team Trials, scheduled for next month in Houston.
“We’ve been on the same team since we were seven or eight,” Danner said. “I used to be a lot taller than him. He was a little guy, a chunky little guy. He grew a lot since he was 13 or 14, maybe five inches. Now, we’re about the same height and almost the same weight. We’ve always both had the same type of game. He’s always been able to pick it and swing it and I’ve always caught and pitched.”
Danner is frequently reminded about his exploits as a Little Leaguer.
“When the Little League World Series is going on, I’ll watch it every now and then,” Danner said. “It’s fun because they’re crashing the ball over the fence, which is fun to see. They play so hard out there.”