Daniels chooses Blue Jays over promising football career

 DUNEDIN, FLA. - MARCH 8 - Toronto Blue Jays prospect David (D.J.) Daniels takes a break during spring training at the Bobby Mattick Training Center.
Daniels was drafted in the sixth round, 192nd overall, in 2016.
March 8, 2017 (Erin Moore photo)

By: Erin Moore

Canadian Baseball Network

DUNEDIN, FLA. – When David (D.J.) Daniels heard his named called in the sixth round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, he immediately got a call from Mike Houston.

The James Madison University football coach encouraged him to attend college instead of signing a professional baseball contract.

After receiving offers from Boston College, Gardner-Webb University, and James Madison University, the dynamic quarterback and left-fielder was prepared to suit up for the JMU Dukes as a dual-sport athlete in football and baseball.

Houston was not surprised Daniels accepted the Jays’ offer. At 6-foot 3 and 205 pounds, Daniels had numerous big-league scouts gathered at David Fike High School in Wilson, N.C., to evaluate the prospect. 

“Close to my senior year I started doing pre-draft workouts for pro teams and stuff, so then I had to switch my mindset to baseball,” Daniels said Wednesday as he took a break from spring training at the Bobby Mattick Training Center.

Drafted 192nd overall he was overwhelmed when his name was officially announced. It bought him a reported $300,000 contract.

“A lot was going through my mind at first. I knew I was going to be in the top ten rounds somewhere,” he said. “Then (the Blue Jays) called me in the fifth round and said they would take me in the sixth round. I just couldn’t tell you, I was so excited.”

His parents encouraged him to sign with Toronto and continue to support him throughout spring training by calling every day to keep him motivated. Daniels said he is trying to succeed, for them.

After struggling his first season with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, Daniels hopes to bring a stronger offense next year and work his way up the organization’s minor-league ladder.

“I hit a lot in my off-season; my stats weren’t too good for the first year so (I’m) trying to get them up a little bit,” he said. “Work on consistency.”

Daniels still plans on attending college after his professional career comes to an end, part of which will be paid for by the Blue Jays as outlined in his contract, but for now JMU’s loss on the football field is Toronto’s gain in the outfield.