Daniel set to begin his pro career

Clayton Daniel enjoyed a legendary baseball career playing for Guntersville High School and Jacksonville State. He receives his chance to fulfill his professional dreams beginning next week with the Chicago Cubs’ affiliate in the Arizona League. He is the son of Ricky and Karen Daniel.

The Chicago Cubs selected 18 pitchers, 11 outfielders, 10 infielders and three catchers in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. One of those infielders was Guntersville and Jacksonville State legend Clayton Daniel.

The Cubs chose Daniel on Wednesday in the 31st round with the 938th pick of the draft.

The Kansas City Royals took Daniel’s JSU teammate, junior left-handed pitcher Derrick Adams, in the 27th round.

It marked the first time since 2012 the Gamecocks had multiple players selected in the MLB Draft.

Daniel, a second baseman, and Adams are the 64th and 65th Gamecocks drafted by a Major League club since 1971. They’re the 19th and 20th players selected under head coach Jim Case.

Daniel is the first Gamecock chosen by the Cubs since Randy Belyeu in the 28th round in 1991.

“I saw my name on the draft tracker,” Daniel said. “I was keeping up with it by that. I saw my name pop up and I was shocked at first, kind of at a loss for words.

“Alex [McClure], the [Alabama] area scout for the Cubs who offered me, called me right after that and said they just picked me. I was excited.”

Daniel said he was “10 or 12 years old” when he began to dream of playing professionally. He became a varsity starter as a seventh-grader for Guntersville and started four years at JSU.

“My ultimate dream is to play in the big leagues,” he said. “God has blessed me with the opportunity of a lifetime to go and fulfill that dream, and hopefully I will take advantage of it the best I can.”

Daniel was monitoring the draft at home in Guntersville with his mother, Karen, and brothers, Chris and Conner, both of whom played college baseball. His father, Ricky, was driving home from work when McClure called Daniel with the fantastic news.

Daniel’s sister, Candice, is a junior and plays softball for Guntersville.

“The Cubs had called me about a month ago saying they liked me and had turned my name into the draft board,” Daniel said.

“I’m leaving Sunday for Arizona, where they send guys they’ve just drafted. After that, I don’t know where I’ll be.

“I don’t know anything right now about the contract. I’ll find out about that when I get there.”

Daniel will play for the Mesa Cubs in the Arizona League, a rookie-level league in the Minors. He expects to play second base. Chicago drafted only one other second baseman, Virginia’s Andy Weber.

“I can play anywhere I’m asked to,” Daniel said. “If they ask me to play catcher, I will. If they ask me to go to the outfield, I will. It doesn’t really matter to me.

“I’m truly grateful for the Cubs organization for drafting me and believing in me that I could get there and do the job. I’m truly grateful for the opportunity they’ve provided me with.”

The Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and are currently in second place in the National League Central Division.

“The Cubs are a very good ballclub,” Daniel said. “I’m just ready to get out there and get after it with them.”

Daniel is the first Guntersville player drafted during the tenure of Kenny Chaffin, who became head coach in 2002.

“I am so proud of Clayton Daniel and his family,” Chaffin said. “What a great accomplishment for such a great person.

“This guy never stops working. I’ve never seen anything like him. So many great stories on him.

“I’ll never forget after we won the [Class 4A] State championship in 2012. He pitched well over 100 pitches, we didn’t get in that morning until like 3 a.m. and late that afternoon he was back on the field taking groundballs.

“The guy never stops. A highly driven competitor blessed with enormous baseball talent and high character. That’s about as good as I can describe Clayton Daniel.

“It’s a great day for Clayton, JSU and the Guntersville Wildcats.”

Daniel, a four-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection, was named to the All-OVC second team in 2018 for the second consecutive season.

He achieved All-OVC first-team status after his sophomore year in 2016. Daniel made the All-OVC Freshman Team in 2015.

Daniel established himself as the standard by which current and future Gamecocks will be measured in several statistical categories.

He departs JSU as the school’s and Ohio Valley Conference’s career hits leader with 330. He broke the JSU and OVC record of 323 hits set by former Gamecock Bert Smith from 2006-10.

Daniel is also the JSU and OVC career leader with 69 doubles.

He ranks seventh on Jacksonville State’s career RBI list with 156. He played in 226 career games and started in 225 of them. He finished with 108 career walks.

Daniel also claimed ownership of JSU’s all-time career at-bats mark with 955, moving ahead of Smith’s mark of 947.

During his senior year, Daniel batted .325 with 52 runs, 83 hits, 22 doubles, one triple, two homers, 28 RBIs, 28 walks and only 10 strikeouts in 255 at-bats.

“Going into your freshman year you always have goals you want to accomplish, little goals,” Daniel said. “One might be that you want to be a starter.

“Once you get into the season you want to make the all-conference newcomers team. After you get that, you say I want to be an All-American.

“You keep setting new goals and you always try to achieve them, because you become a better player by doing that.

“After my sophomore year, I set the goal of most hits because that’s when I really realized I might have a shot. Going into my senior year, I knew I really had a good shot at doing that.

“I’m pretty excited about what I’ve been able to accomplish, and I hope to accomplish even more on the professional level.”

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