Sappelt settles down at home, stirs it up on field
By Tom Archdeacon
Staff Writer Updated 12:45 AM Thursday, April 9, 2009
Dayton Dragons fans are going to love him, but he’s not going to love them back.
Well, at least not a certain segment ... in a certain way.
We’re talking about the young women of Dayton who like athletes, not to mention the groupies, flirts and come-hither hearts — all who like to see a ballplayer not only make a catch, but become one, too.
“Sorry, I was known to be a ladies man, but no more,” David Sappelt said with a grin. “I’m married. I ... aah ... what do they call it? ... I eloped.”
As he said his pals back at Coastal Carolina University put it: “Wow, Sap ... Not you.”
Sappelt laughed: “That’s what happens when you go to the college library. Yep, one of the few times you could have caught me there and I meet her.”
Three years — lots of baseball games and only a few library stops later — Sappelt and Amna Anjum are married.
When the Dragons open their season tonight, April 9, at Fifth Third Field, the 22-year-old Sappelt will be their starting center fielder, their leadoff hitter and the guy, said manager Todd Benzinger, whose give-no-quarter personality the whole team could take on.
At 5-foot-9, Sappelt is short on size, but towering when it comes to personality.
At close to 200 pounds, he’s sturdy, has some swagger and some of that down-in-the-dirt Pete Rose style.
And there’s also that willingness to tutor his teammates in love — of the game.
“To be honest, I want to be a leader of this team,” he said. “I’ve always been vocal, but last year was my first in pro ball and I didn’t want to stand out too much until I earned some respect. Now I see guys look to me and I want to lead them and say, ‘All right, let’s go out there and whup some tail.’ ”
Short and dangerous
Although he’s only been around Sappelt a couple of weeks, Benzinger already has noticed one thing: “Every day he seems to play the game like he has something to prove. Like he’s saying, ‘Don’t you dare label me because I’ll show you otherwise.’ ”
In other words, don’t be fooled by his size.
“I got some old-timers — guys like Rickey Henderson, Kirby Puckett even Hammerin’ Hank (Aaron) — I like to compare myself to,” Sappelt said.
“I look at my size and say it’s a plus. My strike zone is smaller. I’ve got an advantage because my arms aren’t long. I can stay short on the ball and keep my swing compact.
“Hey, everybody can’t be Adam Dunn.”
And yet like the former Reds slugger, he was a multisport prep star who especially excelled in football. He lived in Buffalo until he was 13 and his family moved to Graham, N.C. After three years at Coastal Carolina University, he was surprised when he was drafted by the Reds in the ninth round of the 2008 draft.
“I hadn’t heard from them all year, but in one of our last games against Georgia Tech, I hit two home runs and (Reds scout) Steve Kring was there.”
Playing 62 games of rookie league ball in Billings, Mont., last year, he hit .299, the third best average among the Reds’ minor-leaguers.
“Every at-bat with him is a battle and the pitcher better find a way to keep him off the base paths,” Benzinger said. “He’s very disruptive. He’s always bluffing to go to second or he’s actually stealing, taking the extra base, trying to make something happen.
“In the field, he’s always moving guys around, captaining the situation. A lot of times — especially when the guy is likeable like he is — the team take’s on the personality of a guy who is outgoing and sets himself apart.”
Off the field — as a married man of less than one month — Sappelt is also following his own drumbeat.
“I used to be one of the guys out there living the life, but after games now, I’ll be going back and hanging out at the hotel or at home,” he said. “I’ll get online and surf the Web. From bar hoppin’ to Web hoppin’ — that’s me now.”
He lives with teammates Cody Puckett and Curtis Patch in an apartment here, but calls Amna daily. She stayed in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where she has a marketing job with Marriott International.
She’ll visit when possible and after the season they plan to hold a big wedding celebration and go on a honeymoon.
“Before I left for spring training, we just said our vows and made it official,” he said.
“So what day was that? When’s your anniversary?” he was asked.
Sappelt thought for a second, then made his first bluff: “Why it was ... aaah ... March ... wait ... That’s a good question ... Let me think when spring training was ... aaah ... It’s slipped my mind ... I think it was March ... aaah ...”
Ten seconds turned to 20, then 30 and finally he dug in: “Oooh, this could be bad. Wait ... it was ... it was March 10th.”
Benzinger was right. The guy does make things happen.
Just when it looked as if he’d made the first big error of the season, David Sappelt made a save-the-day, diving catch.