FORT WAYNE — At 16, most of us are thinking about getting a driver’s permit. For Australian Jarryd Dale, 21, it was about leaving home and traveling over 10,000 miles to begin his professional baseball career in the United States.
“Chris Kemp saw me play in Australia and a few travel tournaments when I came to Florida,” said Dale before a recent Fort Wayne TinCaps game. “Ever since I was 15, they had been looking at me, and I guess they liked me. I really liked them too, so it wasn’t a hard decision.”
In our profile last year, we chatted with Jarryd about growing up and playing in the Australian Baseball League at only 15 years old against major league prospects like Jeremy Guthrie, Virgil Vasquez, and Ronald Acuña when most talented players of that age are trying to make a high school varsity baseball team.
“Jon Deeble, the [Melbourne Aces] coach at the time, is a good friend of my dad, and he asked me to play for him,” said Dale on how he started in professional baseball. “They signed me to a development contract, and it was a good experience playing with much older players.
“At first, it was just getting me out there for a few good games, and at 16, I actually put up good numbers the next season, and it was against prospects going to America. I wasn’t really thinking about it much; I was just going out there and kept performing.”
Baseball is still very much a niche sport in Australia, well behind rugby, Australian rules football, tennis, and especially cricket. Dale’s father, Phil, was the first Australian to get a baseball scholarship to a four-year American university as a pitcher. He was later signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Reds before returning to Australia as a player and a coach.
Despite having stellar bat-to-ball skills, Phil Dale somehow got away from cricket.
“Well, he did play a little when he was young, but one of his buddies brought him over to baseball, and it just kind of stuck with him,” said Dale on how his father got into baseball.
“Cricket is huge in Australia, but I don’t think he ever even wanted me messing around with it,” laughed Dale as if he had a choice between the two sports. “But that gave me a lot of opportunities, and I am really happy with the decision now.”
Despite playing baseball at a very high level in Australia, it was an adjustment coming to the states.
“Yes, it was a culture shock coming over here at such a young age,” said Dale. “Being away from family, but with all the travel ball teams and playing with advanced players in Australia helped me as much as it could.
“I was able to know how to get the help that I needed. I put on a bunch of weight and got stronger.”
After signing at 16 and arriving at the Peoria Sports Complex at 17, he was 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds. He is now 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds.
“My speed has jumped up a lot every year,” said Dale, who trained with an Australian Rules Football club in the offseason before returning stateside in January. “When I first signed, I wasn’t as quick as I am now.
“The speed has picked up a lot after 2020 as I got into my man weight.”
Last year with the Storm, he hit .269/.330/.381 at multiple defensive positions after playing three years in the Arizona League.
“My Dad always focused on me being an athlete so I could find a way into the lineup every day. I played seven positions in Lake Elsinore last year, which really helped me because I wasn’t on the radar at that time as much as I am now.”
When the Padres included Euribiel Angeles in the trade for Sean Manaea, it opened up an opportunity for Dale to be the everyday shortstop in High-A, an opportunity that he has embraced.
“I want to be a full-time shortstop and be the best that I can be. To do that, I need to demonstrate that I can consistently make all the plays. It’s a fantastic opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.”
One thing that stands out about Dale is the athleticism that enabled him to play multiple positions last year, a trait that his manager in Fort Wayne, Brian Esposito, has also noticed.
“There is a ton of athleticism in there, along with some barrel,” said his manager in an earlier interview. “He’s really gravitated towards that position.
“He is just learning how to be intentional with his work of making sure that the arm holds up for the season. That’s preparation, arm care, being fundamentally sound in his throwing program, and making sure he takes his ground balls every day.”
After a slow start in April, he picked it up some in May with a .259/.376/.318 slash line and seems to be on the verge of tapping into more power.
“The big thing for me is just attacking that heart of the zone because that is where I do really well. I need to adjust to other pitches better and get better at learning what pitches I need to get better at fighting off and taking for singles.
“That is when I think my batting average will push up.”
As much as his father played a hugely influential role in his development as a player and getting him over to the United States, Jarryd is equally as appreciative of his mother.
“When I was playing baseball in Australia, my mom, Ingrid Dale, helped me so much. She pushed me more than anyone else to play every day and took me to every single game.
“As much as I owe my dad for any success that I have, my mom shares in that equation.”