When Daniel Stange reminisces on the start of his baseball career, he doesn't have to look too far from home.
"I grew up local, five miles away at Elsinore High School. I was a Storm fan growing up; they started up with the Angels," said Stange. "I remember Darin Erstad and Joe Urso coming up through the system; taking batting lessons with Urso in the cages was pretty awesome."
Daniel knows what home field advantage feels like, especially at The Diamond. As a 16 year old growing up in the team's backyard, Stange worked in the Storm ticket office and then was a batboy for the team while attending his junior and senior years at Elsinore High School.
While working for the Storm, Daniel was able to get a look at what really goes on in the baseball world and used that opportunity to build his career as a professional pitcher.
"During my senior year in high school the Storm pitching coach was Mike Harkey, who is now the New York Yankees bullpen pitching coach," remembers Stange. "I did a couple lessons with Mike and the staff watched me during my high school game here. He helped me out and gave me some pointers down in the bullpen."
High school can teach you a lot and Daniel was able to use that time as a valuable learning step to shape his future.
"My experience in high school was a little bit different. Coming up my first three years I thought I was the best player and I really wasn't. It was here that I had a coach that woke me up and told me I wasn't," said Daniel. "My senior year was better and that changed me a lot. Growing through Elsinore and the maturity process was a huge eye opener."
After high school, Daniel played collegiately at the University of California, Riverside where he would pitch for three years for the Highlanders. Daniel credits his college coaches for teaching him more than just the physical side of the game.
"The three years I was there at UCR was such a good experience I learned about the mental aspect," said Stange. "Not just blowing fastballs by people but what gets the batter out and how to get them out. The mental approach that I learned, most guys don't even teach you in the professional level. So my college experience was really big for me."
After helping UCR to a 38-21 record, a Big West Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA postseason, Daniel was selected 207th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft. He then signed with the team and worked his way through Arizona's system for seven seasons.
"Luckily my first pitching coach was Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and Mel Sr. helped a lot as well. They taught me their philosophy and it was nice to grow through their system, especially the first year," said Stange.
In 2012 after spring training, Daniel was assigned to Reno, Arizona's Triple-A affiliate, and appeared in three games with the Aces before being released by the Diamondbacks. Shortly after being let go he got a phone call from the San Diego Padres, who signed Daniel to a free agent contract in May and sent him to San Antonio (AA).
Stange enjoyed a solid 2012; posting a 3.35 earned run average in 46 appearances and 53.2 innings pitched. He finished in the top five in holds for the Texas League with 11.
This off-season, Daniel has worked hard on his mechanics and feels like he will continue to improve as a reliable reliever.
"I have been relieving for a long time, my college coach said I was a better reliever than a starter so I stayed with that," says Daniel.
Stange enjoys his role as a reliever, modeling his game and approach after the legend, closer Mariano Rivera.
"The long career he has had, so much success and the way he goes about his business. Just throwing one pitch of the cutter and doing it in the professional matter he does, he's just a great person to look up to," said Stange.
The future is bright for this Lake Elsinore product and he will never forget where it all started.
"Being around the Storm was a great experience, the little bit I thought I knew I got to see a different aspect of what they really do," said Daniel about his home team. "Watching the routine of what the professional life is like was very beneficial. Luckily I got to see it at a young high school age so it definitely helped out."
Daniel, after his success in San Antonio last season, has been invited to spring training with the San Diego Padres. He will be in Peoria, Arizona on February 12 when the pitchers and catchers report.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.