An interview with Team Racks outfielder Daniel Kirkwood!
Major List Player
Who are you playing with in 2016?
Team Racks (Sonnys)
What positions do you play and what is your best position?
Anywhere in the OF.
I'd be remiss if I didn't say I like CF the best. All of us who think we are fast prefer CF, it's easier to track the ball, read the pitch, get better jumps and have more notoriety because you are the "centerfielder". I also like to be vocal and talk almost every pitch so I think I can help my corner guys during the game too.
Over the past few years I've played with some crazy fast guys who can run down anything under the sun like Joey Labriola, so if I were to give way and pick a corner I like RF over left. If it makes the team better, I'll play any position you want me in. Some guys can't adjust for some reason and can only play left well, so I like being versatile and playing all 3 positions very well. You also need a stronger arm in right and I like to show mine off more than I'd like to admit, but I'm working on that, but if you jog down the line on a base hit I'm still looking to throw you out at 1st every time.
Who is the best softball player you have ever seen play?
I've only had the opportunity to play in the conference for 4 years so far, so I missed out on a lot of legends. In my first interview I said Steven Lloyd. I think he's still one of the best and can play every position on the field, and personally I value versatility like him and Bryson Baker. Kyle Pearson has basically hit .800 2 years in a row, so he's going to be someone special if he continues this pace. Andrew Collins works harder than anyone and is on a mission to be the best outfielder on the planet. Harvey – well I grew up playing against him since I was little and our high schools were rivals, so what is there to say, he's just a beast. Purcell, Connell, Wegman, Helmer, there's so many great players its tough to limit my response so I'll stop at that for now.
Why do you like the game of softball?
I've met so many people through this game, I've now got friends living in all parts of the country I never would have had otherwise.
Also, I love competition. I want to be the very best at everything I do, and softball is the outlet baseball players now are given the chance to have a second try at, per se. I tore my UCL my senior year of High School and lost my chance to play college ball. I opted to avoid Tommy John Surgery and didn't throw overhand for 3 years, quit playing, and thought church league was all I could do to get my fix in when I was older. So once my arm healed over time and I found competitive softball existed I was instantly hooked and will continue working as hard as I can to keep playing.
Who is the best up and coming player in softball and why?
As alluded to above, Kyle Pearson is only 25 and absolutely mashes. If he can prove the doubters wrong that he can play defense and be an all around player, he could be the next face of the game.
What is your nickname in softball and how did you get it?
DK – pretty simple.
No other lasting nicknames.
What is your height and weight?
Where do you call home?
Currently living in Phoenix, AZ.
Born in Bethpage, NY and lived in Tampa, FL for 25 years.
What's your favorite way to spend an off weekend?
If I can play somewhere, that's where you'll find me. AZ doesn't really have an upper level presence so I'm not allowed to play many tournaments, even the open ones. Elliot does a great job putting on some events here in PHX in the off-season that let me get in a few games here and there. Other than that, I really enjoy sitting on the couch and doing nothing once in a while, watching football, playing golf, jumping in the pool and having fun with friends, hanging out with the gf and the dogs is always a good time. If I'm not traveling I'll go with the flow and let everyone else dictate what I do.
What do you do for a living?
I've been working as a recruiter for Kforce specializing in Healthcare IT positions for Kaiser Permanente. I relocated to PHX to help build out and train a new office last year and everything is going well so far.
How did you get your start in softball and how did you get to the upper level?
Intramurals at the University of Florida.
After college got asked to play E.
Played D the next year with Westshore Pizza.
Stayed with Westshore, played C the following year,
Stayed with Westshore, played B (Conference) in 2012.
Joined Demarini/Dirty in 2013 at A, so I got to play every level from A-E in 5 straight years.
What was the most surprising difference between Conference play and non-Conference play when you made the jump?
Everyone talks about the conference play itself and says the consistency throughout the lineup. What they don't talk about is the perception you get when you play in your hometown league with your old buddies or guys who know of you. You always get labeled as "that guy" who thinks they are better than everyone else. Don't let that bother you, just go out and have fun. Don't let someone else's jealousy ruin a good time. It's just softball, and I vow to keep that in perspective and never lose friends over softball.
Is there a player that you would compare your game to?
None. You can only ever be the 2nd best "someone else", but you can always be the best "you".
What would you say is your career highlight to this point? Maybe one play or game that sticks out to you in particular?
Winning the Offensive MVP in the D Worlds in 2010 was pretty cool.
Being placed on the Major List was a career goal of mine I can say happened.
Winning the Major is next on the list, so I'd say my favorite moment so far was where I hit a HR off Purcell in the MWS Winner Semis on ESPN3. We lost that game, but it was my first MWS and getting that close was good motivation and the text from my mom after the game saying how proud she was was even better.
In your career was there a single person (player/manager/coach) who had the most significant impact on your approach to the game? Why?
Too many to name. Bob Vasaturo from Westshore gave me the chance to play in the Conference. All my BP partners from Andrew Collins, Davis Bilardello, Kyndrich Doggett, Luis Reyna – they all helped mold my game and put 100% effort into every swing, every type of swing, every approach to the at-bat, and more. Andy Vitcak is my philosopher – he and I have had long conversations about thousands of possibilities and scenarios, making you mentally prepared for whatever can possibly happen. I try and listen to everyone I come across, there's always something more to learn.
What advice can you give a young player trying to break into the upper level?
1 negative action outweighs 10 positive ones. Always pick your teammates up and play 100%. Never take a play off, you don't know who's watching and what they are really watching for. Talent can take you so far, but team chemistry is important and no one wants a bad apple on their team.
What type of batting grip do you use and what ounce bat?
Standard grip 1 finger drop 1 finger overlap.
I swing a 28oz or 30oz depending on the feel in my hand.
I prefer short barrels and larger end loads.
What do you do in the offseason to prepare for the next softball season?
I lift heavier in the offseason but try to go 4-5 days a week year round and take BP once a week since the weather in Phoenix is never too cold. In January-March I'll start running 15 miles a week to get ready for the endurance of the season, particularly the HoF Dual.
What is your favorite sports team and your favorite sport other than softball?
Tampa Bay Bucs
College Football and Pro Football are the best to watch, particularly with Fantasy Football.
Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?
Nothing to speak of, I'll just keep basic routines going if they seem to work well.
What would be your "at bat" music selection?
I chose Rammstein's 'Feuer Frei' this year, but Disney played my choice from last year. Anything that has energy and gets me pumped up works, though.
What is the best improvement upper level softball could make?
I love that USSSA will be cutting bats this year. Composites allow for too much cheating. Get rid of the altered equipment and let's see who really works on their game to base hit the right way or can hit for power without mis-hitting 400ft homers.
Beyond that, limit the HR's across the Conference. You shouldn't have an entire major team hitting above .700 and another top A team with zero players above .700 – that's too big of a disparity for a league that's trying to track statistics, award players based on numbers alone and promote coverage on TV.
What is your favorite non-World tournament and why?
Florida's Superdraft in January, T4T in Palm Springs, CA in December, Boones in GA is always fun in Feb/March.
What is the best softball field/complex you have played at and why?
Disney and the Astros Spring Training complex for the fields. I love playing on the baseball diamonds and everything is manicured and in great shape. The atmosphere at the Smoky's Main field 3 at Sandy Springs is pretty cool on a Friday/Saturday night with everyone watching.
Where is the best place to eat on the road after a game?
Kobe's Steakhouse on the 192 in Orlando.
Chik-fil-A anywhere else for a quick stop.
What is the funniest thing you have ever seen on a softball field?
Anything to do with Mike Wrenn he's a dancing, crazy fool.
Frank Fracek has been a pleasure for the last 2 years as a teammate, he cracks me up too.
Tell us something about you that most would never know about you?
I can get along with just about anyone, but I can also piss off just about anyone. I have a really bad habit of constantly playing devil's advocate.
What was your favorite sports related gift you have ever given or received?
Any sponsor that has ever given me the opportunity to play, that's the best gift there is. Never under-appreciate how much these guys give to allow us to get on planes, cars, stay in hotels, equipment given, uniforms… I'd never be able to afford doing all that on my own so thank you to all of you that contribute to this game.