07/12/07 — Gerrell signs with FDTC

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Gerrell signs with FDTC

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 12, 2007 1:49 PM

PRINCETON -- Daniel Gerrell silently stared at the paperwork and the gray, pinstriped baseball jersey folded before him.

The recent Princeton High graduate picked up the pen and scribbled his signature on the dotted line. Gerrell grinned proudly as the camera flashed and immortalized a day that turned from fantasy to reality.

Once the ink dried on the national letter-of-intent, Gerrell picked up the baseball caps and inspected the logo. He'll play next fall at Florence-Darlington (S.C.) Technical College, a fourth-year Division I junior college program.

"Lenoir was one of my choices, but I think this is a better choice ... better fit for me," said the soft-spoken Gerrell, the son of Timmy and Karen Gerrell of Princeton.

Gerrell's recruitment keeps the Johnston County pipeline open for fourth-year FDTC head coach Curtis Hudson. A native of Florence, Hudson spent eight-plus seasons coaching at South Johnston and acknowledged that the talent in North Carolina sometimes slip through the cracks.

Keeping the recruiting base open helps Hudson compensate for losing quality players to Division I programs that flood South Carolina. He got his first look at Gerrell in the 2006 State Games of North Carolina.

"There are a lot of good players in South Carolina, but the pool is a little bigger here," saud Hudson. "Here, a lot of kids get overlooked because there are so many good players. I feel good about recruiting in this state and I'm trying to keep the Johnston County connection going.

"I'd like to get into Wayne County a little bit."

FDTC put 30 freshmen on the diamond last season and posted 26 wins.

"Some weekends we played like champs and some weekends we played like chumps with that many freshmen," laughed Hudson, whose 2006 team won the Region X title. "It was a big learning curve. They were learning on the job and it was tough for them. My goal, and it may never happen, is to build one of the best programs in the country."

Last spring, FDTC had three freshman catchers who split time behind the plate and in the field. Hudson said the team leveled off offensively at times, but remained exceptionally good behind the plate. Gerrell can give the team much-needed consistency in both aspects, but understands his footwork and speed must improve.

"He can swing it and has good size," said Hudson. "I'm a traditionalist and I feel the number one job of a catcher is to catch the ball. If you catch and never miss a ball the whole game, you're going to play.

"It's a lost art."

As a senior, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound catcher batted .396 this spring and collected a team-leading 41 RBI. Gerrell helped the Bulldogs seize their third consecutive Class 1-A Carolina Conference championship and top it off with a N.C. High School Athletic Association state crown.

Gerrell earned all-Carolina Conference honors for the third consecutive season, and earned a spot on the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 1-A All-State squad.

"When I'm batting, I just try to relax and put the ball in play somewhere," said Gerrell, a four-year varsity starter. "I didn't really see many good pitches this year to hit, so I just had to be patient. I know coach Hudson is expecting a lot out of me."

Gerrell said that Hudson and Princeton head coach Bruce Proctor share the same philosophy. Each requires 100-percent hustle from his players and each likes to set the tempo from the opening pitch.

Hudson hasn't made any promises. A 45-game schedule in the fall will give him and his coaching ample opportunity to evaluate each player. They'll compare notes over Christmas and inform the team of their decisions before spring practice begins in January.

"When I was watching the baseball draft, Dave Winfield and Darryl Strawberry said something very interesting," said Hudson. "First-round draft picks out of high school and college know they were a great player on that level, but what they've got to realize (in the pros), is they're not very good right now.

"At our first meeting, the players will be told that and I hope they understand I don't mean that in a negative way. You've got to go to work and prove yourself all over again."

Gerrell is eager to start.