Risk vs. reward: After watching last season, MSU’s Garner hits field

Daniel Garner was an All-American coming out of high school but felt college would improve his stock. (Mississippi State)

Daniel Garner was an All-American coming out of high school but felt college would improve his stock. (Mississippi State)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Daniel Garner did not hear his name called during the 2012 MLB Draft.

But it was not due to a lack of interest or talent.

Garner was a Louisville Slugger All-American at Sparkman (Ala.) High School, hitting over .400 each of his final two seasons there. But the six-foot, 214-pounder had already made up his mind to pursue college baseball.

“With the way the draft works now, it’s all about slot money,” Garner said. “I was in the sixth- to eighth-round category. I got a few calls but I just didn’t want to turn down this experience to come play in the SEC and get my education. I get to play with and against all these good players so I thought this was the best decision for me.”

Although the choice to turn down professional baseball was difficult, it was a calculated decision by Garner and his family.

“That’s still my goal and it’s a three-year process for me to get into pro baseball,” Garner said. “I knew I’d come here and develop and have a better opportunity. I’ll be more mature at the age of 21 versus being an 18-year old kid in the minor league system.”

There was also the dilemma of where Garner would go to college. Schools from around the SEC had already expressed interest following his sophomore campaign but Garner was able to narrow his choices down to Mississippi State and Alabama.

Impressed with facilities

“Coach (John) Cohen and Coach (Butch) Thompson really know their stuff,” Garner said. “You’ve got the Palmeiro Center open 24/7 and that’s the best baseball facility in the country and you can work on your game anytime.

“The fans here at Dudy Noble Field, the cathedral of college baseball, that’s what you want to play in front of.”

Garner arrived at MSU in the fall of 2012 and redshirted on last year’s club that finished as the national runner-up at the College World Series. Although he did not have an at bat as a true freshman, it was an experience for Garner to learn around nine players who are each making a living in professional baseball this spring.

“Last year while I was redshirting, I was able to sit and watch how it’s supposed to be played,” Garner said. “We had a great team and it was an awesome experience. Now I’m finally able to be out there on the field and being able to go out and compete every day is really awesome.”

A catcher by trade, Garner has seen all of his playing time come as a designated and pinch hitter so far as a redshirt freshman. He has appeared in 15 games, drawing nine starts, while hitting .303 with a pair of doubles and four runs batted in.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com