Liberty senior shortstop Dalton Britt carries the torch for Flames
The Liberty shortstop abides by a simple code, one that runs so contrary to conventional undergraduate mores that it seems almost quaint: Fun is a reward, not a right.
[caption id="attachment_3237" align="alignright" width="150"] TUESDAY ON ASN: Liberty at Maryland, 6 p.m. ET (click logo for local listings)[/caption]
“You just have to take the time to do the things you don’t want to do before you can do the things that you want to do,” the Flames’ senior noted. “A lot of guys don’t realize that. There are certain reasons why certain guys wear down toward the end of the year and why some guys don’t. Nutrition is such a big part of my game — I just try to get an edge with certain things that I can.”
Ergo, he doesn’t really party. Or drink. Britt nailed his undergraduate degree in strategic communications in three years and is working on a master’s now. It’s not that the North Carolina native is some total square. It’s just that he doesn’t measure his self-worth in terms of circles.
“Not all of us are gifted by God with freakish athletic ability,” said Britt whose Flames (16-14) host Big Ten visitors Maryland (14-14) Tuesday night on ASN. “Some guys are just born being able to throw 98 mph. Some guys are able to roll out of bed and just throw 98. I’m not one of those guys.”
What he is, though, is the rock and the strut. The soul and the spine. In fact, Britt goes into the Terrapins tussle having started 210 games at Liberty — just 25 shy of tying the school record for appearances (235, set by Trey Wimmer from 2009-14).
“I didn’t ever really think about it, to be honest with you, until last year,” said Britt, who went into last weekend’s series with Winthrop toting a .271 batting average over first three-and-a-half seasons. “I think my dad said something to me about it. I never really thought about it, I guess, because it’s just the way I’ve always played the game. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do.”
If you take a mental “off” night, don’t let your mind wander to Jupiter. Don’t allow one “cheat day” turn into two or three. Maintain your weight.
Sleep. Stretch. Stretch. Stretch.
“The biggest thing is just being responsible,” Britt said. “And being a grown up. (If) kids see us and reporters see us as grown-up and responsible, that’s what we have to be, regardless of whether we want to (be) or not. When you sign that letter, that’s what you sign up for. That’s something I’m passionate about it. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to live (this) for four years, so anything I can do to help the next (group) who are coming in, it’s definitely worth it.”
Britt credits his father, Trent, his mentor and sounding board, for drilling the idea of good habits over bad, on-field and off. Dad runs Next Level Training Center, a multipurpose, baseball/volleyball/fitness facility in Greenville, N.C., having raised his son an East Carolina University fan, purple to the core.
“I didn’t miss a home (ECU) football game from the time I was born to the time I left for college,” said the senior, who’s hitting .256 with seven doubles this spring after a .294 clip as a junior and .299 as a sophomore in 2014. “My dad and I had the same tailgating spot for 20-plus years. That’s where I always thought I was going.
“But when it came down to deciding, it just didn’t work out, it didn’t seem like the right fit. I was initially a little bitter about it at first — not just with them, but with everyone else. But I know, it’s a business — we don’t want to admit that, but in the end, it’s a business. (ECU) just didn’t work out.”
Dalton’s path did. Eventually. An old high-school friend at J.H. Rose, Caroline Douglas, was on the Liberty volleyball team and raved about the place.
Short on alternatives but long on hope, Britt took a visit to Liberty’s campus Lynchburg, Va.
“And I was blown away by what I saw,” he recalled. “And, four years later, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Britt takes representing the Flames — and his classwork — seriously. His ego, though, not so much. The senior makes it a point to lead Liberty’s team huddles and to help orchestrate the clubhouse’s more, um, elaborate in-house pranks.
“I guess my humor is ‘dumb humor,’” Britt chuckled. “I don’t want to have to think when I laugh. Like really dumb funny. Like Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, just stupid, kind of dumb … making dumb videos, stuff like that.
“That’s kind of who I am … I’m never going to cover that up. I don’t think I could anyway. I would freak out if I had to keep that inside. I don’t think I could do it.”
Given a choice (and decorum), Britt prefers to keep it real. It’s one of the things he’s gleaned from talking to Cleveland Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, a native of Newport, N.C., who’s trained at Next Level during the off-season.
“You can just tell by the sound of his bat that he’s different than most guys,” Britt noted. “It’s fascinating. And you just pick up on stuff.
“Like the story where he was at a camp — I can’t remember if it was his pro day or something else — and the scout starts telling him, ‘Guys, after we break the huddle, I want everyone to go their positions.’ Everyone breaks the huddle and everyone’s running to short or (their position). The scout turns around and Lonnie’s standing at home plate with his bat. He said, ‘Lonnie, I told you to go to your position.’ (Chisenhall) said, ‘I am. I’m a hitter, and that’s all that matters.’”
Britt laughed. He’s a hitter, too. And a gamer, which is why Tuesday looms so large in the datebook. The Terps open the week with an unofficial Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) total of .5545, ranked 62nd nationally out of 300 Division I programs; Liberty opens at .5189 and ranked 116th. The Flames reached the NCAA Tournament during Britt’s freshman and sophomore seasons, winning the Big South tourney in 2013 and knocking off Clemson en route to an appearance in the regional final.
You want fun? Fun is ending your baseball chapter the way it started, silverware in hand.
“I mean, we want to get to Omaha (for the College World Series),” Britt said. “Everything’s rolling here. With recruiting and facilities, we don’t have excuses any more for falling short every single year. We’re going to get there soon, and I want to be on the first team that does it.”
Above: Britt takes representing the Flames — and his classwork — seriously. (Courtesy Liberty University Photography)