Danny Newman becomes slugger for Wauconda


Wauconda senior Danny Newman leaves no stone unturned to become a better baseball player.

Newman has even unearthed a new element as a hitter, making the Black Hawk commit rethink his college plans.

“My whole recruitment was always about me as a pitcher,” he said. “But the last two years, I’ve put a ton of weight on and started hitting for a lot more power. Hopefully, my coach will see my stats, and maybe I can hit too.”

Indeed, Newman’s hitting numbers are hard to ignore. After Wauconda’s 13-3 Northern Lake County Conference win against Grant on Wednesday, the 6-foot,195-pound pitcher/first baseman was batting .433 with a 1.076 OPS, two homers and 27 RBIs in 20 games. On the mound, the left-hander has a 1.98 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.

Newman’s level of offensive production for the conference-leading Bulldogs (14-6, 7-2) is a stark change from his 2022 varsity debut, when he recalls being a “skinny kid” whose main avenues to the base paths were singles and walks. He started to show more power last season, when he hit the first three home runs of his career.

“Danny’s mindset is that he’s always trying to improve to be the very best he can be,” Wauconda coach Shawn Rudolph said. “He’s self-driven in all areas of his life. If there was a kid I want others to be like by the time they’re seniors, it would be Danny.”

Newman divides his development since 2022 into two periods, the first of which began that summer, when he transformed his body with weight training. His lifting emphasis has often centered on his lower half, which helps with both pitching and hitting. Some of his favorite exercises include reverse lunges and split squats, the latter of which he said he can max out at 425 pounds per leg.

“I would be a completely different player without having started training like I did,” he said.

Newman then turned to technology, specifically to address workload management. He uses the Pulse Throw app, which tracks the movement of his left arm via a strap he wears around his forearm.

“It monitors my total throws, but it knows the difference between high-effort and low-effort throws,” he said. “It also gives me a prescribed workload. You can make between 100 and 200 throws in a practice, but it’s a matter of keeping most of them low-effort. I haven’t had a sore arm the whole year.”

Wauconda's Danny Newman gets ready field during their boys baseball game against Lakes at Lakes High School in Lake Villa, Friday, April 19, 2024. (Michael Schmidt/for the Lake County News-Sun)
Wauconda first baseman Danny Newman gets ready for a pitch during a Northern Lake County Conference game against Lakes in Lake Villa on Friday, April 19, 2024. (Michael Schmidt / News-Sun)

Newman’s preparation allows him to clear his mind of physical concerns but also makes him an example for anyone in the Wauconda program to follow.

“When a guy puts on size like he has, it motivates me to work harder too,” Wauconda junior right fielder Ryan Fostiak said. “He’ll text me asking to go hit, and he’s always been great that way to push myself. His complete dedication to baseball is inspiring.”

Fostiak sees firsthand how much fun Newman has working on his swing, and a quick conversation with Newman makes clear how much he likes pitching too. He describes himself as a “movement/location” type of pitcher who enjoys the finer points of the craft. He is constantly tinkering with different ways to approach hitters.

“I have quite a few pitches, and I like pitching backward,” Newman said of getting ahead early in counts with an off-speed pitch. “That opens up a lot of other things I can do.”

Newman exhibited both strategy and execution in his last outing. He allowed one earned run and three hits while striking out eight on 104 pitches in a complete game as Wauconda won 11-2 against Grant on Tuesday, when he also went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. The windy conditions and a minor cut on his knuckle pushed him to dig deeper into his pitch-selection bag.

“I throw sort of a knuckle curve, but the cut made it hard to get command of that, so I switched more to a slider,” Newman said. “The wind helped my two-seamer a lot, and it worked right to left on righties, which got a lot of swing-and-miss and weak contact.”

Steve Reaven is a freelance reporter.

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