Cartersville's Luke Daniel and Ben Dittmer added their names Monday to a list of baseball players from the high school's senior class to sign on with a collegiate team at the next level.
Daniel chose to ink with Tennessee Temple -- a Chattanooga school where his brother plays -- while Dittmer latched on with two-year school Calhoun, which is in Decatur, Ala.
"I just liked it a lot when I went down there. I liked the area where it's at, and I'm gonna get a chance to play baseball for the first two years I'm down there, get my education and move on from there, so I like that," Dittmer said. "I'm gonna get the two-year engineering degree at Calhoun, then transfer it out and finish it at some other school, hopefully."
Daniel had inside knowledge of his future home and seemed intrigued by the new Crusaders coach.
"They got a new coach, coach [Greg] Bartley, and he's a real good guy, I like him a lot," Daniel explained of the allure of Tennessee Temple, where he will again play with former Purple Hurricane Josh Daniel. "Also, I like Chattanooga, it's a good town. I'll be getting a chance to stay off campus -- which will be real nice, I'll have my own bathroom and everything -- 'cause me and my brother are gonna get a townhouse. It's also a big draw considering I'll be able to play, come in as a freshman and just step up and play early."
Cartersville coach Stuart Chester acknowledged the pleasure Luke Daniel will feel from being able to play with his brother.
"Luke's gonna have the joy of playing with Josh, his brother, who's at the same school -- blessings in disguise. Once Josh graduated, it was like it was their last game together, but little did we know they'd end up playing college ball together," Chester said. "As far as [parents] Lee and Regina [Daniel] are concerned, you can't ask for no more than that."
Luke Daniel, a Canes right fielder, hit .381 with 40 runs, 38 RBIs, 37 hits, 22 walks, eight doubles and six home runs, making the 7-AAA All-Region First Team as well as The Daily Tribune News' All-County Team. He hopes to continue doing things at Tennessee Temple that he considers his strengths.
"I've never really considered myself a power hitter, but I hope to always hit for average -- just hit for a lot of doubles. And then I like keeping the running game in check when I'm in the outfield, so that's a big thing and just help the team any way I can."
Chester knows how his former player will help the Crusaders.
"Well being a very good left-handed hitter, that's a plus in itself but all the intangibles with Luke -- just the game preparation and what he does at practice and how he motivates -- you don't ever have to worry about Luke as far as being prepared and ready to play. I think that kind of taught some of the younger guys ... what we gotta have every year to keep a tradition going," the Cartersville skipper said. "He's so aggressive at the plate. Unlike some of the guys that sit there and wait till they get two strikes on 'em, he is so aggressive he's gonna swing at it. He's got such good hand-eye coordination. All those walks that he drew were probably 3-2 counts where he's fouled four or five off and then drew a walk. He had some of the best at-bats and didn't put the ball in play."
Dittmer, like Daniel, helped the Canes tradition remain strong as both were part of Elite Eight teams their junior and senior seasons as well as the team's sixth and seventh straight region championships.
"He's meant a lot to this program. Ben Dittmers are what championships are made of -- just being able to step out there and being a pitcher to compete like he does," Chester shared. "He's very, very intelligent and he seems kind of laid-back but once he steps on the rubber, the competitiveness comes out and it's second to none. With Ben, when he steps on the mound, it seems like we always play great defense because ... he kind of sets the tempo for everybody.
"He's sitting there and [has] almost a 4.0 GPA, almost 1,900 on the SAT. He's excelled and won in the classroom and he's carried that over to the baseball field. He'll be very sorely missed."
Dittmer, who went 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA and 54 Ks, said he plans to get bigger and stronger and to "throw harder and master my off-speed [pitches] and just be able to throw what I want, when I want to throw it and locate it and, overall, get people out and manage the game."
Chester pointed to Dittmer's command as one of his great assets.
"Location and staying ahead in the count, that's huge. I don't care if you throw it 95 [miles per hour] or 65, if you don't get ahead in the count, you're gonna get hurt. ... Just being the type of person he is on the mound, competing, he never would give in. I don't care if he threw it 85 or 75, he's not gonna give in to a batter, and he's gonna battle him," Chester continued. "You combine that with being able to locate three pitches and that makes for a good combination."
"I expect Ben to go to Calhoun, and I really end up seeing him going probably to Georgia Tech or somewhere after a year or two. He's wanting to go into the engineering field and that'll be the path he'll go, and coaches die for players like that, [who have] talent and great grades," he added. "Luke, I expect him to go up there and start as a freshman. And I expect both colleges to sign more kids out of our program because of those two."