Houston Astros send Tahoma grad to Tri-Cities affiliate

Work ethic and desire have never been a problem for Danny Meier. The issue with him was size – the thing that college and professional baseball scouts long for when assessing a kid’s future potential. And when Meier graduated from Tahoma High in 2004 – all 6 feet and roughly 170 pounds of him — it was something he lacked. So much, in fact, that few schools, other than a couple local community colleges, even gave him a second look.

Portland University’s Danny Meier

Portland University’s Danny Meier

Work ethic and desire have never been a problem for Danny Meier.

The issue with him was size – the thing that college and professional baseball scouts long for when assessing a kid’s future potential.

And when Meier graduated from Tahoma High in 2004 – all 6 feet and roughly 170 pounds of him — it was something he lacked. So much, in fact, that few schools, other than a couple local community colleges, even gave him a second look.

“I always knew I had the potential,” said Meier, who graduated in May from Portland University with a degree in finance. “But I wasn’t somebody anyone looked at out of high school because I hadn’t matured into my body.”

Gail Meier, Danny’s dad, agrees.

“When he was a senior, he didn’t have his physical size and had a hard time being noticed by colleges,” Gail said. “That’s all he needed. I could see it coming.”

Suffice to say, the last four years have treated the former Tahoma baseball and tennis star rather well. So well, in fact, that Meier, now at a strapping 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, became a 24th round draft choice of the Houston Astros on June 6, the second day of Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft. Meier, the 722nd overall pick in the draft, left for the Tri-City ValleyCats, Houston’s short-season Single-A affiliate in Troy New York, in mid-June.

Playing baseball professionally is a dream Meier has been chasing his entire life.

“I’ve always wanted to do this. I just never knew I’d have the chance,” said the 22-year-old Meier, a right-handed slugger who was drafted as an outfielder, but also pitched and played some infield for Portland.

It was a dream he was willing to put in the extra work in the weightroom to achieve. Matter of fact, it wasn’t until the wiry and strong Meier put in the time that professional scouts, in turn, gave him their time, as well.

“I’ve been following Danny since his sophomore year (at Portland University),” said scout Paul Gale, who signed Meier. “He’s been on the radar for quite a while. He’s a good athlete with an above-average arm. But the biggest thing that separates him is he’s got some raw power.”

That power ultimately didn’t blossom until Meier’s sophomore season at Portland, a year after he devoted himself to weight training. Couple that with a finely-timed growth spurt and Meier was able to zoom quickly up the prospect ladder.

“It was the first time I ever started lifting heavy,” said Meier, who likely will play right field for the ValleyCats, thanks to a golden right arm that allowed him to pump fastballs easily into the low 90s during his few outings on the mound with the Pilots. “I put on 20 pounds (between my freshman and sophomore seasons in college), came back in the spring, and all of a sudden, I had power.

“I put in hours in the weightroom … and it was pretty intense training, too.”

Tahoma baseball coach Russ Hayden saw physical maturity unfold.

“If you look at him now, he’s a physical specimen,” Hayden said. “He’s lean and mean.”

Quick payoff

The work paid immediate dividends during Meier’s sophomore season at Portland, when he batted .305 and tied for the team lead in home runs with nine.

“His power really developed,” Portland University coach Chris Sparry said. “Once he allowed himself to hit the ball to the opposite-field gap, his offensive game really improved.”

The turning point, Sparry noted, came with Meier’s growth spurt.

“I told him once after that first year that I thought we had gotten a better player than I originally had hoped for,” the coach said. “You know, from that day forward, he seemed to be motivated to raise his game to new heights.”

Motivation — whether on the baseball diamond or on the tennis court, another one of Meier’s passions — was never lacking. Nor was athletic ability, which was plenty evident during his senior year at Tahoma, when a bout with tendonitis forced Meier, a righty, to play left-handed for the fall tennis season.

But Meier’s passion, his first love, always has been on the diamond, a sport that can humble even the best players. Meier learned how difficult it can be during a slump-filled junior season at Portland, when he hit just .233 with two home runs and 19 RBIs. Entering the year, Meier anticipated being selected in the draft.

“I was in a slump for most of the year and that’s when I was supposed to be at my best,” admitted Meier, a down-to-earth sort with an unmatched work ethic. “There was too much pressure.”

Meier turned that pressure around like a high-octane, belt-high fastball this past spring, hitting .284 with a team-leading 15 home runs, 46 RBIs and .574 slugging percentage. Those 15 long balls tied for the West Coast Conference lead and gave Meier 26 for his Portland career, putting him in fifth place on the school’s all-time list.

It was all a matter of confidence, Meier said.

“Without confidence, you may as well not play,” he said. “It will tear you down. Baseball can be the best game in the world, as well as the worst.”

For Meier these days, it’s undoubtedly the best.

And he has plenty of self-motivation to thank for that.

“I always figured that the hard work would pay off in the end,” he said. “And I think that’s what happened.”


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