Mission Valley Mariners first baseman Keyan Dalbey admits his mind is cluttered with details as he stands in the batter’s box studying the opposing pitcher.
Focusing intently on his opposition’s mechanics, Dalbey is ever mindful of technical nuances of the pitcher’s delivery, his release point and the trajectory of where the pitcher will deliver the baseball.
Dalbey focuses on his mechanics and stance, attempting to sync himself perfectly with the pitcher’s rhythm and delivery, hoping to succeed for his M’s team whenever the situation calls.
The mentality and discipline are derived from countless hours spent on the tee and in batting cages, which is almost equivalent to the time the Polson valedictorian and future Montana State University student with emphasis on Civil Engineering, devotes in the classroom.
“I would take a lot of BP reps, and actually do a lot of stuff off of the tee by moving the tee around to different spots and different heights,” Dalbey said. “That would help me figure out what the strike zone should be. When I am on-deck, I am trying to time up to the pitcher.”
Dalbey developed the art of being a clutch hitter at an early age.
“I watched a lot of baseball (when I was little) where I would watch it on my computer and find the box scores,” Dalbey said. “You could see the pitch coming, and it was a little cartoonish. I was a Royals fan when I was younger, and I would always watch the Royals’ games.”
The discipline Dalbey has at the plate is the reason he’s become the Mission Valley Mariner’s go-to clutch hitter.
Baseball is considered a game of failure, but Dalbey doesn’t fail much.
During the season, Dalbey had an on-base streak of 16 consecutive times he reached base with either a walk or hit.
“To get on-base 16 out of 16 times is unbelievable,” Rausch said. “I attributed it to his desire to want to be better, and his focus at every single at-bat. He knows where the strike zone exists, and where he hit the ball. That is just confidence that you develop when the time comes. You are going to come up to the plate, and be that guy that says ‘I am going to do it.’”
Rausch admits being a clutch hitter is an intangible quality that isn’t coachable — you either have it, or you don’t.
Dalbey said it’s just building confidence at the plate.
“One way I get more confident (at the plate) is there is lots of repetition,” Dalbey said. “I’ll usually hit off the tee for about an hour. I’ll be hitting off the tee, generally, when there is a game during the week three to four days, but I might take a break one day a week.”
Through maturity, repetition and desire, Dalbey improved on his hitting mechanics, and the rest of his development as a baseball player just fell into place.
“I think it started to develop this year at the beginning (of the season), and he improved significantly versus where he was (as a hitter) last year,” Rausch said. “Last year, he was working on figuring out a consistent swing, and this year he got on-base 16 straight times through getting a hit or walk.”
Now that he can time pitchers better, Dalbey continues to develop as a hitter as the American Legion season has carried on with a significant improvement from last season, according to Rausch.
“This year is exciting,” Dalbey said. “Our team started super hot at the start of the season, and then we cooled off. I continue to focus more on hitting to all sides of the field this year now that I am a little older and a little stronger. I am now a pull hitter. I can hit the ball over people’s heads, and that is working for me more this year. I’ve learned to be very aggressive early in the count, and generally many pitchers don’t throw curve balls early, so I can focus on their fastballs.”
Student of the game
Dalbey, who has the middle name of Brett and was named after long-time Kansas City Royals’ Hall of Famer George Brett, admired another Royal growing up.
Dalbey recalls studying the tendencies of one his boyhood idols, former Royals’ standout hitter Billy Butler.
Admitting he only recalls watching Butler, who finished a nine-year career in the Major Leagues with the Yankees in 2016, he also finds himself mimicking another idol at the plate—Eric Hosmer.
“I idolized both Butler and Hosmer, but I was pretty young when Butler was playing with the Royals,” Dalbey said. “There is something I did without noticing (at the plate) like he did. When he was batting, he always wiggled his finger on the bat, and then took his finger off the bat. I didn’t consciously try to do it, it’s just a habit that I must have taken on.”
Dalbey, who according to Rausch, has developed significantly as a hitter from last year to this season, is part of the new wave of Mission Valley Mariners talent who are looking to get back to the American Legion prominence they had under a nearly 20-year tenure with former M’s coach Jamie Hanson.
The amount of work Dalbey devoted to developing his mechanics in baseball has to do with the work ethic that should serve him well as he prepares to transition into academic life at MSU. “He practices out there every single day, and even when we don’t have practice, he is working on his swing,” Rausch said. “When it comes down to crunch time, he is the most valuable player. If you say ‘hey, we need a big hit,’ he comes through with it.”
Rausch and his Mission Valley teammates have developed a trust in Dalbey when the game is on the line, and they know he will come through.
“I honestly trust in his work that he put in, and he goes out there for every at-bat with the same swing and the same approach every time, and he believes in it,” Rausch said. “Players that do that every single time and get a clutch hit are trusting in their ability, and trusting in their swing. (They) just go out there and get the job done, and they know they can do it.”
Rausch admits he isn’t aware of the psychological components at work that make him a clutch-hitter, but he knows Dalbey has developed into one.
“He does so much better under pressure with runners on, and he has to focus on his level of mechanics,” Rausch said. “He is a bit more relaxed, and that is what he has to do to get the job done right there.”
Back to the Future
Dalbey continues to focus on what will be his last summer playing American Legion ball before he moves on to his future at Montana State and becomes a civil engineer.
“There is a wide variety of things I could do with a civil engineering degree,” Dalbey said. “I could get contracted out with a company, and they would hire me to do something for them. Engineers do a lot of city planning, and they make maps for roads, water treatment and make sure the waste is getting disposed of correctly. With a civil engineer degree, there is just a wide variety of things I could be doing.”
Dalbey, who said he still will play baseball as a club-designated sport, isn’t sure about his future in the game beyond that as he now will transfer his energy playing in the sun to his career path.
“I am going to do some club baseball, but I am going to see how busy I am, and if I am too busy and can’t handle the time commitment of club baseball, I probably won’t be playing,” Dalbey admitted. “I would like to play baseball in college, but I know baseball scholarships generally aren’t that big, and I wouldn’t likely get a tuition waiver off baseball alone. I would like to have an academic and baseball scholarship to be a joint deal, but those are kind of hard to find.”
As Dalbey moves forward in his academic and baseball life, he continues to enjoy his time playing ball, which might be dwindling his last summer for a sport he has played since kindergarten.
“I like to think of myself as having a pretty good work ethicand that will go a long way in both academics and sports,” Dalbey said. “I will just focus on civil engineering (at MSU), and try to do well there.”
The Mission Valley Mariner’s are continueing to work to becoming the American Legion team they were in the early 2000s, and Dalbey, like many of the other current M’s are a big part of the rebuilding process for Polson returning the team to succes they enjoyed for several seasons.