Swinging for the Majors – Local boys aims for the mlb
Dillon Lifrieri has loved baseball as long as he can remember. He dreamt the dreams of most little kids, to play in the Major Leagues just like the heroes he watched on TV and at the grand ballparks.
But at a tender age, Lifrieri’s childhood dreams hit an emotional roadblock. “When I was ten and in Little League I didn’t make the district team that played other towns,” recalls the now 19-year-old. “It was hurtful because all of my friends made it. I knew I had to work harder to make the team and I practiced a lot.” The practice paid off when Lifrieri made the district team with his buddies the following year.
As a teenager, Lifrieri, played baseball on the travel team and competed in tournaments around the country. He got to play a lot of baseball against some of the best young players in the U.S., learned how to deal with high pressure situations in front of big crowds, and received top flight coaching, experiences which served to enhance his development in the game.
During the spring seasons he competed for Wilton High School, winning two state titles with his team. He piled up numerous awards along the way, including All-State recognition as a junior while playing for coach Tim Eagan, hitting .426 with 24 RBIs in leading the Warriors to their second state title in three years in 2017. He was also an outstanding pitcher.
Lifrieri was a highly recruited player by colleges. He wound up committing to the University of South Carolina prior his junior year in high school. But the Gamecocks, who had won Division I NCAA national titles in 2010 and 2011, began to struggle on the field and the coaching staff was in turmoil. “I really wanted to play for coach Chad Holbrook but he left to coach the College of Charleston and I wound up de-committing to South Carolina.” That left Lifrieri searching for a new school. “I was at a Perfect Game USA tournament where the pitching coach of Arkansas saw me and I was on their radar. The next tournament I played in head coach Van Horn was there. The head coach doesn’t fly out to see you if he isn’t interested. I had a great game, a couple of hits and a stolen base.” Lifrieri was asked to visit the University of Arkansas, where he fell in love with the campus and the baseball program.
“Some people think Arkansas is in the middle of nowhere but Fayetteville is a real college town,” says Lifrieri. “Everybody is into the school’s sports teams—especially the baseball team. I knew it was a fit for me so I committed to Arkansas.” Baseball is big time at the University of Arkansas. At Baum Stadium, the team plays to crowds of up to 10,000. The Razorbacks made it to the championship game of the College World Series in 2018.
“Dillon is a great kid that has the chance to really help us, not only this year, but over the next few years,” says head coach Dan Van Horn. “Somebody like him being able to come from the Northeast and join us in the Southeast Conference means he’s a great player with a lot of potential. Dillon has a chance to play a lot of different positions.”
Lifrieri recalls his days at Wilton High School fondly. “I played with my friends and it was great, including the two state championships. The one we won during my freshman year was the best because I was young and the older guys took me under their wings and let me be myself. My junior year, we went into the state title game knowing we were going to win.”
A big New York Yankee fan whose has idolized Derek Jeter, Lifrieri hopes to be playing in front of even bigger crowds when his college days are over. “I want to play pro ball but it’s first things first, and that means playing for Arkansas. I watch a lot of video of Major League players like J.D. Martinez and Mike Trout, and see what they do with their swings. But I don’t try to copy anyone’s swing. I just have to be myself and have my own swing.”
So far, having his own very good swing, a steady glove in the outfield, and blazing speed have served Dillon Lifrieri well as he climbs the baseball ladder of success.