Dario is a professional baseball player and Columbia University graduate. Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2012, he was a minor league all star in 2013 & 2015 and received an invitation to big league spring training in 2016. The outfielder played in the New York Mets organization in 2019.
What is the current role/passion/project you find yourself in and where can our readers find you?
Currently, I’m still pursuing my lifelong dream of playing baseball in the Major Leagues. I’m living with my girlfriend in our apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, where we’ve resided the last five years. During the offseason, I head up to Columbia University every day to train at their facilities. I’ve been very fortunate to have so many people that support my dream and help me improve each year. These include the strength and conditioning staff, the athletic training staff, and the baseball coaching staff.
This past 2019 season was a difficult one, as I tried to play through an injury and was released for the first time. I dealt with both issues, made some adjustments, and decided to continue playing. I couldn’t possibly go out that way, derailed by an injury with fuel undoubtedly still left in the tank. I think getting back on the field is so important to me because it signifies my relentless dedication to my goal. Of all the times I’ve faced adversity throughout my career in baseball, this one takes the cake. Being released and sitting facing the internal question of, “Do I want to keep doing this?” was very scary and confusing.
After taking a step back and thinking about the options, I realized that I couldn’t leave the game yet. I’m not ready. I am too close to my ultimate dream becoming a reality. I trust that my determination and relentlessness in working hard and trusting the process will ultimately be what makes this dream come true.
How did you come to be where you are now?
The last ten or so years of my life have been a whirlwind. From a young age, I was always playing sports, focusing on baseball & basketball. When I was twelve, my little league team played in the 2003 Little League World Series. When I got a taste of that fame, pressure, and playing in front of thousands of fans, I became addicted. At twelve, I decided that my life’s goal was to make the Major Leagues. I wanted to play the game I love on the grandest stage.
I attended Malden Catholic high school in Massachusetts, which had one of the most competitive athletic programs in the state. I knew that I would have to push myself academically and athletically to excel at such a prestigious institution. When I saw the physical maturity of the seniors, I knew I would have to work tirelessly to improve to that level. My freshman year is when I began to train physically, with plyometric training, conditioning, and weightlifting. My coach made our team go through a basic weightlifting regimen, including chest, back, core, and leg workouts to increase strength. Our plyometric training included speed and agility exercises, such as the ladder drills for footwork, and short sprints to increase speed. I understood that it was vital to find any way to separate myself from the pack. I made varsity that year, but, again, I knew that I had to work the entire summer and fall to earn a starting spot as a sophomore.
My sophomore year was when I hit my first growth spurt, going from 5’6” to 5’11”. I started to see the physical gains from the weight room translating to my performance on the field. This is when I began to accept invitations to showcase tournaments and select state and regional teams where there would be college coaches. For the next two springs and summers, my parents traveled with me around the country playing in front of hundreds of college coaches, with and against the best players. Most of the schools in the Northeast area of the United States were scouting me, especially the Ivy League schools. I chose to attend Columbia University in Manhattan, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
While at Columbia, I made an immediate impact on the field. With the structured schedule we had of weightlifting, conditioning, and practice, my game excelled. I was the Rookie of the Year and First Team All-Star in the Ivy League, as well as a Freshman All-American. I began to be noticed by pro scouts during the summer leagues I played in, being an All-Star there too. My junior season at Columbia, I was named the Ivy League Player of the Year and an Honorable Mention All-American. The Seattle Mariners selected me in the 15th round of the MLB Draft, beginning my professional baseball career.
I played for the Mariners organization from 2012-2018, enjoying great successes. My rookie year in Pulaski, VA, I won the league batting title, hitting .356. I moved through their system relatively quickly, being named to numerous All-Star teams and playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2015. In 2016, I was invited to Big League Spring Training, which was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Being in the locker room with guys like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz was something special. I learned from those guys and got a taste of the big league life.
Unfortunately, I never made it to the Major Leagues with the Mariners.I became a Minor League Free Agent after the 2018 season, and the New York Mets signed me right before Thanksgiving last year, giving me that next chapter in my career. This was the first time I would join a new organization with different coaches, coordinators, and players. I played for the AA Binghamton Rumble Ponies in the Eastern League until June when I was released by the team. I took time to address the lingering injury, and have been rehabbing it with physical therapy, eager to get back on the field and excel once again.
What are your goals/hopes/plans for the future?
My ultimate goal is to play baseball in the Major Leagues. From a very young age I have wanted to be a professional athlete. It’s been my dream since I was five years old to play professional baseball. At twelve, I was certain it would be my life’s mission to get to the highest level.
From as early as I can remember, every decision I’ve made was in order to help attain that goal. Even when it came to academics, I realized how important a role they would play. I never wanted a college to be unable to recruit me due to poor grades. I’m going to continue the physical therapy process while making minor mechanical adjustments to my swing, and hope to earn myself another opportunity very soon.
I’m very excited about my future. There’s that line that we all toe as humans: excitement, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. What will our future be like? I’ve never been more cognizant of that question before in my life. I’m confident, however, that with my relentless hard work and determination, as well as with my unbelievable support system, my future holds great things. I’ve been fortunate to make it this far and to “live the dream” so to speak, with a loving family and girlfriend helping me every step of the way. Whether I make my dream a reality not, I’m going to be satisfied because I left it all out on the field. I’m excited to see where my relationship goes from here. I plan to get married and have a family. I’m excited about that and becoming a dad in the future so I can instill in my future children the same core values that my parents taught me.
What does growth mean to you?
To me, growth is the ability to continue moving forward against all odds. Whenever we face adversity, we must learn from the negatives and continue pushing on. During the toughest times and most difficult experiences, we experience the most growth. As we’re going through the storm, it seems as if we’re finished. Once the dust settles, we must take what we learned from those difficult situations and persevere. Personally, the last three months seemed like the worst of my life. I felt lost, with no direction and no idea where to go from there. Time heals all wounds. I continued to lean on the people in my life I care about most to help me with the tough times. Little by little, I began to regain my confidence and drive again. I wrote out a new set of goals, along with the specific ways I would attain those goals. I took control of my future once again. I also realized that I am stronger today for what I experienced. Sometimes, it felt like I’d never be the same, but as I sit here now, I know I’ve grown. I’m tougher mentally and trust that I can handle all levels of adversity in the future.
What piece of advice or request do you have for our readers?
The most important piece of advice I can give is to follow your dreams wholeheartedly. It may sound cliché, but it’s true: you can do anything to set your mind to. I’ve learned that self-confidence and motivation are extremely powerful. I watched a Netflix documentary called “The Secret” that discusses the power of the Law of Attraction in 2017 and it really changed me. Positive thoughts are crucial to success. Of course the physical practice and honing your craft are vital, too, but one’s mentality is of equal importance.
Nobody can accomplish a goal by simply wanting it. It must become their purpose in life. My grandfather used to say to me, “if you want it, you need to eat, drink, and sleep it to attain that level of success.” That resonated with me from a young age. It’s easy to kind of want it, or do the bare minimum to get by, but the most successful people in any area are insatiable. They refuse to accept defeat. They will do whatever it takes to reach their ultimate goal. There lies the recipe for success.
There’s a plethora of inspirational quotes and books to read on success. The one quote that resonated with me was said by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” You must believe in yourself. We all have doubts and second guess ourselves. It’s human nature to be afraid of the unknown and to have the fear of failing. We must trust our process, work tirelessly towards our goal, and refuse to let self-doubt creep in.
How have you been helped along your journey?
I would never be where I am today without the help of countless people along my journey. My parents have always supported me. They told me from a young age that they would do anything in their power to support my dreams. Without their constant encouragement and financial support, I would never have been able to travel around the country playing in select tournaments in front of college coaches. My hard work and dedication was also instilled in me from a young age by my parents. They always preached that they would fully support me if I promised to go all in to accomplish my goal. They were huge advocates of me being able to accomplish anything I set my mind to.
A few coaches have made an extremely positive impact on my career as well. My little league coach, Charlie Bilton, worked us harder than anyone imaginable when we were twelve years old. We had six hour practices every day to maximize our potential, which ultimately led to us playing in the Little League World Series.
Next, my high school coach, Steve Freker, allowed me to be seen by hundreds of college coaches around the country. As a well-known coach in the area, he entered me into showcase tournaments and prospect camps. The more exposure I got throughout those years, the more confidence I built against the top talent in the country. He also taught me how important it was to separate myself physically at the high school level. This is when I started weightlifting and plyometric training.
Finally, my college coach, Brett Boretti, has made the largest impact on my career. I developed my hitting approach during my three year college career. We practiced very hard every day, especially offensively. I was able to hone in on my mechanics and my mental approach while in the batter’s box. I developed an incredible respect for Coach Boretti, which made me want to succeed to help the team win at all costs. Since I got drafted, I come back in the offseason and train around Columbia’s athletic facilities. Coach Boretti allows me to join the hitting groups and use the field whenever I want. It’s helped me to continue my development since I left college.
What do you do to take care of yourself?
I’ve always believed that developing a routine is crucial for consistent growth and success in one’s craft. I have a very rigorous training program, written by a former strength coach, that is tailored specifically to my strengths and weaknesses. This workout regimen has four phases, including weightlifting, conditioning, speed and agility, and mobility training. I train five to six times a week in this area.
Nutrition plays a huge role in development and performance as well. I never truly realized the importance of a healthy, well-balanced diet until a few years ago. Once I began eating clean, my energy levels rose. I felt refreshed all the time, my muscles were recovering faster, and my overall mood became more positive.
Lastly, developing and practicing mental skills is a major key to consistent results on the field. Baseball is known as a game of failure. The best hitters in the world fail seven out of ten times. It takes practice and experience to accept failing that much without it affecting your game. I’ve been fortunate to have mental skills coaches in the minor leagues who work with the players to develop techniques to be mentally tough. I use an app called “Headspace” every day that has helped me be more present in day to day life.
How do you overcome obstacles?
Even as a 28-year old professional baseball player, I have a hard time dealing with adversity and overcoming obstacles. At every point in my career, I’ve been faced with adversity. One thing I always do is write down my goals in a notebook. I try to write ten goals and exactly how I plan on achieving those goals. Simply wishing they come true won’t work. Once I write out the course of action, I read it over every night before bed. With a drawn out plan, I feel more comfortable and confident in my quest to overcome adversity.
Sometimes it’s tough to stay motivated. This year has been the most challenging of my life. I experienced true failure for the first time in my career. I went through a period of questioning every decision I made and what my future looked like. I didn’t know if I wanted to continue living this lifestyle as a twenty-eight year old with a Columbia degree but no work experience. My confidence, one of the most powerful assets I had my whole career, was shaken. I had been knocked back on my heels. It took a few weeks to really feel like myself again. I leaned on the people I love most (my family, friends, and girlfriend) to help me through these trying times. I realized that this was just another minor setback for a major comeback. I’ve dedicated my life to this dream. Baseball isn’t some hope and hobby. I allowed myself to feel the disappointment and sadness for the first few weeks, but I had to change my mindset afterwards. I needed to accept what had happened, devise a plan of action moving forward, and rediscover the confidence that had always made me so successful. That failure began to motivate me again. I wanted to work harder, train smarter, and make the adjustments necessary to overcome this. I’ve had to rediscover myself these past few months. But once I finally got through my funk, I realized that I’m coming for success with a vengeance that nobody has witnessed before.
Everyone will experience adversity throughout their lives. It will be very difficult and it will hurt. It’s normal to feel those emotions running through your mind and body. After that, you must refocus, recalibrate, and adjust your plan. Like I said before: in our most trying times and through our biggest failures comes the most growth. Trust the process! Trust your ability! Trust that the hours of hard work and dedication you’ve labored through will come to fruition.