Black Bears’ Amaral leading NYPL in stolen bases

MORGANTOWN — The lightly hit ball down the first base line was all the green light Daniel Amaral needed.

By the time the ball was ruled foul just short of reaching first base, Williamsport catcher Rafael Marchan was leaping into the air to get out of Amaral’s way.

The West Virginia Black Bears outfielder had already made his way to home plate with a slide.

“Daniel’s got some wheels on him,” Black Bears manager Kieran Mattison said.

And then some.

The Pirates’ 14th-round pick in the 2018 draft, out of UCLA, Amaral hasn’t wasted time making an impact. His 11 stolen bases are tops in the New York-Penn League.

“When Daniel was on base, you always had to be aware of him,” said Black Bears third baseman Mike Gretler, who played against Amaral for three seasons at Oregon State. “He’s really a good all-around talent. He’s a great center fielder and a great base runner. He can do a lot of things to help a team win.”

There is a story behind Amaral’s passion for running and his passion for the game that were both handed down to him by his father, Rich, who played 10 seasons in the major leagues with Seattle and Baltimore.

As a 31-year-old rookie, Rich Amaral finished fifth in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting, when he hit .290 and stole 19 bases with the Mariners.

“Dad could run,” Daniel Amaral said. “He spent 18 years in professional baseball and his running was a big reason why.”

Daniel, too, took up running as a youngster, when he had a professional trainer work with him on the art of base running.

“We worked a lot on getting a good first step and a lot of the mechanics that go into running,” he said. “It was all designed to try and make me as quick as I could be.”

In a game that is dominated by power hitting, Amaral hopes he can use his legs to find a path to the major leagues.

He stole 14 bases — out of 18 attempts — this past season with the UCLA Bruins. He’s been caught stealing only once with the Black Bears.

“The game is so much about power now,” Amaral said. “That’s what drives the sport. You still have guys like Billy Hamilton (of Cincinnati) who can make a difference with his legs. There is still room for speed in the game.”

And there is plenty of room for the mind games that can go along with stealing bases.

This is the game Amaral admits he likes to play.

“Stealing second isn’t much of a mind game,” he said. “If you can get a good jump, you’ve got a pretty good shot at taking second. It’s either you can take it or you can’t.”

It’s swiping second without taking much of a lead or taking a big lead with no intention of running that Amaral enjoys.

“Getting in a pitcher’s head is the goal,” he said.

Gamble on a passed ball that gets only a few inches away from the catcher, “I don’t really like to do that,” Amaral said. “I try not to gamble. I want to be sure of what I’m doing out there.”

Then, stealing third base is icing on the cake.

“Stealing third is a craft,” he said. “It’s kind of like you against their pitcher, their catcher and their middle infielders. You’ve got to beat them all to take third. It’s a real craft.”

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