BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
The Elizabethton Cyclone baseball team has been in the hunt for a state baseball championship for the last three seasons and a big part of that has been the play of senior Matthew Dailey who has seven wins from the mound as well as playing solidly at first and third base.
With the success that the Cyclone baseball club has achieved, it was only fitting that Dailey be selected as one of the three finalists for Class AA Mr. Baseball in Tennessee along with Noah Gent of Pigeon Forge and Will Shelton of Alcoa.
The winner will be announced on Tuesday morning in Murfreesboro at New Vision Church as part of the Spring Fling state tournament week.
Dailey was honored at the school Thursday after by his family, coaches, and teammates for the honor.
Elizabethton’s Athletic Director, Forrest Holt, took time to acknowledge that it took a lot of people to create the opportunity for the Cyclone baseball player.
“Matthew has done great things as an individual but it’s because of your all’s support as well the coaching staff and the parents that he can be a finalist for Mr. Baseball,” Holt stated.
No one knows how deserving Dailey is of the honor than his baseball coach Ryan Presnell who added that Dailey brings many intangibles to the field.
“Matthew is one of the most solid players that I have ever seen in high school baseball at several different positions offensively and defensively,” Presnell said. “We fit him anywhere in the lineup from three all to the way down to the nine-hole once or twice his freshman year and every time we put him somewhere, we have gotten exactly the output we had been looking for.
“Defensively, he has always been solid,” continued Presnell. “We knew from the first time we saw the kid field a ground ball in sixth and seventh grade he was going to be something special.
He always had good form.
“Matthew always took coaching very well and had a great attitude. On the pitching mound, he has always been a force to be reckoned with since sixth and seventh grade so we expected all the growth and great things he has done this year and he has lived up to all our expectations and exceeded them in many ways.”
Presnell pointed out that the recognition for Dailey was something that couldn’t have been achieved without the work that the team has put into becoming a state contender for the past three years.
“It’s huge because I told the kids that not only are they recognizing Matthew but they are recognizing our ballclub as well,” Presnell said about the honor.
“If you are a .500 ballclub, its going to be hard to get somebody on Mr. Baseball so for them to recognize him not only says a lot about what he has done this year but what he has done in the last three or four years to help build this program into being able to be recognized for such a big honor.”
If his baseball skills are not enough, Dailey has led by example not by being a vocal leader but by the life he has lived out before not only his team but in the hallways of Elizabethton High School.
That trait has not gone unnoticed by Presnell and the rest of the coaching staff.
“Matthew is just a super kid,” stated Presnell. “The sweetest kid. He makes you so proud in so many ways on how he carries himself in the hallways—he’s always calm, cool, and collected. “You can tell he is dedicated to the life of being a servant leader by his recent enlistment in the Marine Corp. He’s just a standout kid in every facet of his life and so we are proud of him not only as a baseball player but as a human being, the man, the husband and father that he is going to be.”
There were a lot of smiles on the faces in attendance at Thursday’s gathering inside the Elizabethton Commons Area, but none brighter or larger than that of Dailey’s parents, Paul and Lora Dailey.
“It’s unbelievable to us,” said Paul. “We have been blown away but he deserves it. Matthew has been playing baseball since he was three-years-old. His heart and soul—he’s just an incredible young man, not only on the field, he’s just an incredible young man.
“He joined the Marine Corp Reserves about the same time we found out about this so he has about sent us over the edge. We are delighted—he really deserves this, he really does.”
Dailey’s father said that the Elizabethton coaching staff has had such a tremendous impact on helping his son grow and mature into a player and a man
“Matthew is a great athlete but this coaching staff has had a huge part in his growth,” Dailey continued. “We don’t have the words to tell you how impressed we are with the coaches at this school.
“They are instrumental in his growth, these kid’s growth—it’s been fantastic and I don’t say that lightly. These guys have our hearts as well. We love these coaches here and you will get me emotional over that because they are fantastic.”
The Dailey’s are feeling pretty optimistic about not only attending a banquet during Spring Fling but possibly seeing their son take the field in another state tournament game.
“Last year down there was unbelievable so we are looking forward to it and feeling very optimistic about it,” Paul added. “We are going to be there for his banquet on Tuesday so we might as well be playing while we are there.”