Jumbos garner MLB attention

Senior Ryan Daues is pictured at bat during Tufts' 24-6 win over Mass. Maritime on March 27, 2019. Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily

Junior Peter DeMaria and senior Ryan Daues have attracted attention from scouts in many Major League Baseball organizations. These major league aspirations are monumental for a program that has only had three players drafted to play professional baseball in its history. 

In September, these two Jumbo student-athletes attended a professional workout with several scouts in attendance. DeMaria and Daues, both impacted by the NESCAC’s decision to cancel all athletics this spring, finally got their chance to shine.

“Both of us going into college were definitely hopeful that we could get pro attention, and it’s really cool to see it play out this way over the years,” DeMaria said.

The chance to prove oneself in front of major league teams is a dream for many college players, no doubt, and Daues and DeMaria are living it. However, with Tufts competing at the Div. III level, professional attention is not always expected. 

“I didn’t really have any expectation of this, coming into a Div. III school,” Daues said. “What I did have was the will to grow and become the best player I can. What has come from it is an added plus.”

Nonetheless, Daues and DeMaria are turning heads of many scouts, and it’s easy to understand why. 

DeMaria, a first baseman from Chatham, N.J., came onto the scene strong in his rookie season with the Jumbos in 2019. He boasted a scorching .361 batting average, driving in 40 runs and blasting two home runs in a campaign that earned DeMaria NESCAC Rookie of the Year and First Team honors. A 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound cog in the middle of a lineup that claimed the NESCAC baseball title in 2019, DeMaria looks to build on his success on the field at Tufts.

“I try not to focus on [the attention] I’ve been getting and just improve on the weaknesses I think I have,” DeMaria said. “I want to come to practice every day and make myself a better player and teammate.”

An infielder out of Palos Verdes, Calif., Daues had his 2019 season cut short due to injury. But in his 12 appearances early in the 2019 season, Daues boasted an impressive .333 batting average, driving in 15 runs in only 45 at-bats. Both the injury in 2019 and the cancellation of the 2020 season have thrown Daues tough loops in his college career, but he has been taking it in stride.

“If I was able to take the time off that I had to stay consistent in my process and get better, I knew it would help me take a step past the guys that weren’t working,” Daues said. “It was always a chance to get better.”

Daues’ optimism and resilience has him slated to be a key bat in the Tufts lineup and a sure glove on the infield for the Jumbos as they hope to be able to play in spring 2021. 

There is no doubt from Daues nor DeMaria that this upcoming spring will be of utmost importance for their status as draft prospects. Both players have small statistical sample sizes from their college careers, and their performances come March are what scouts will assess when weighing their interests.

With Daues missing the majority of his sophomore campaign due to an injury, and both players losing out on their season due to COVID-19 last year, their output in 2021 will be front and center for teams to see. But neither the NESCAC nor Tufts has made a decision about the status of the spring season, due to the pandemic.

“Getting a full season of numbers and success, not only as a player but as a team, can really go a long way for us getting serious looks,” Daues said. “Numbers are important for measurables, so hopefully a full season can really benefit the both of us.”

Not only are DeMaria and Daues talented baseball players, but they are also players that fit in the system that head coach John Casey has been building in his 38-year tenure at Tufts.

“They accept their role and are great teammates,” Casey said about DeMaria and Daues. “In the end, it’s about all of us here and not just one or two guys, and they embrace that.”

Casey praised Daues’ and DeMaria’s skills at the plate.

“Daues is a gap-to-gap, high-average hitter, while Peter shows off impressive power,” Casey said. “Scouts look for skills that stand out, and both Peter and Ryan do so with the bat.” 

DeMaria and Daues are not the only players from the Tufts baseball program to receive interest from professional baseball teams. However, Casey explained that they are being taken more seriously as prospects.

“What’s happened with Ryan and Peter is that scouts are really following up on them,” Casey said. “They performed well at their pro day and teams are showing a lot of interest.” 

While there is no doubt favorability for college prospects who play at the Div. I level, players who compete in Div. III are not always looked over by professional baseball teams. For instance, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Chapman University right-hander Nick Garcia in the third round of this year’s Major League Baseball Draft, one of the highest drafted Div. III players in recent memory.

With more professional teams growing their scouting roots in the college game, there is hope that future Jumbo baseball stars will have the opportunity to play the game at the highest level as well.