Transfer Makes Mark For Wake Forest Baseball
May 30, 2000
By Jay Reddick
Before Dan Conway had ever played a regular-season game at Wake Forest, his teammates voted him a co-captain. That tells you just about all you need to know about the junior catcher's value on the 2000 Deacon squad.
The hard-nosed Conway, from the suburbs of Albany, N.Y., had plenty of credentials when he transferred to Winston-Salem from Providence in the summer of 1999, but the fact that his teammates thought enough of the new guy to make him one of their leaders meant a lot to him.
"It took me a little while my first semester to get to know everybody, but especially being a catcher, you gotta do that stuff (leading your teammates)," Conway said. "When the team voted me a captain, I kind of put all that (nervousness) aside and said, OK, if Im going to be a captain, I'd better act like one."
Conway has done that, as he hit .333 and led the team in home runs (14) and RBIs (56) heading into the NCAA tournament.
Of course, being a captain means more than just leading with your bat. Conway isn't afraid to speak his mind when the situation warrants it.
"I maybe challenge some guys every once in a while, when they need to be challenged," Conway said. "I'm not a rah-rah guy, but I feel about myself that if something needs to be said, I'll say it. I'll pick you up. We're good enough friends that we can criticize each other and still get past it."
But maybe the biggest reason that Conway was elected captain is for his work ethic. He led a winning team at Providence, which won the Big East championship and advanced to an NCAA regional last year, and now he's doing the same for the Deacons.
"I feel I've brought a little bit of leadership by example," Conway said. "I try to provide some consistency in the lineup by playing every day. I try to work hard for everybody. Even if I'm not having a good day at the plate, which is often, I try to play well defensively to not let my teammates down.
"Even in practice, if you're struggling with ground balls or fly balls, I'll hit you balls until my hands bleed, just like anybody would throw balls in the dirt to me or take my throws at second."
That Conway is even playing Division I baseball at all right now is a tribute to his perseverance. He was an all-state selection as a senior at Bethlehem High School in Delmar, N.Y., but received scant attention from bigger NCAA schools. He found a situation at Providence he liked and decided to walk on there.
"They had a senior catching when I got there, so I knew I might only sit for one year before I got a chance to play. It worked out, and I got a scholarship my sophomore year."
It was in October of that sophomore season that Conway learned his days as a Friar were numbered. The baseball program was being discontinued so that the school could comply with Title IX regulations.
"We had to practice all winter and play all spring knowing there wouldn't be any next year, while all the time also searching for another school," Conway said. Despite the distractions, Conway hit .312 in 1999 and clubbed 10 home runs, and by May, he had made his next school choice.
"I can remember while sitting watching a game in the Big East tournament, I signed with Wake Forest," Conway said. "It was a long process, but coach (George) Greer was good to swoop in and save the situation."
The determination that Conway shows on the diamond used to manifest itself on other playing fields as well, but the talent wasn't as easily apparent. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder played on the varsity golf team in high school, and also played basketball in his junior year.
"I quickly realized, sitting on the bench that year, that basketball wasn't my calling as a suburban kid from outside Albany, so I didn't play my senior year," Conway said. "I've always loved baseball, anyway. I started real young, made all the all-star teams in Little League and Babe Ruth league, and when you're a kid who does that well at something, you just want to keep doing it."
Conway hopes to keep playing ball for years to come. He'll be eligible for the major-league draft this June, and teams are already starting to check him out. He admits that if the right offer comes along, another address change may be in order.
"It's a big-time possibility," Conway said. "I've had calls from as many as three teams in one day. It's exciting. If the right situation comes up June 4, I'll definitely play (pro ball). If not, I'll go back to the Cape Cod League or enter summer school, then come back. I'll be happy either way."
Even though he hadn't been a part of the last two ACC titles for Wake Forest, Conway was disappointed he couldn't help the team get back to that particular mountaintop.
"Of course (I was disappointed). Anytime you're defending champion you want to go back and have a good showing," Conway said. "We got caught off the top of our game. We can't let that happen at NCAAs."
As the team got ready to continue postseason play, Conway did all he could to prepare his teammates.
"We've just gotta play on our toes and play aggressive and not rest for an inning," Conway said. "With those aluminum bats, the ball comes off pretty fast and anything can happen."
No matter what does happen, Conway will take plenty of good memories away from his first year in old gold and black.
"I think the Carolina series was great, being able to sweep them at home. Sitting in the locker room after those games, I thought, 'That's the feeling you go after.' The Florida State series was big. And also when my teammates voted me MVP. That was real special."
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