COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Baseball analytics can help determine a player's impact on the field through the use of advanced statistics. These numbers ultimately create value for the player.
South Carolina catcher Dallas Beaver needs only one number to play the game he loves at the highest level -- 38. It’s the jersey number Beaver’s best friend wore until he died.
"It's the reason why I wear 38."
Beaver, a graduate transfer fo the Gamecocks, honors his best friend, Joe Skinner, each time he steps on the diamond.
"I put that jersey on -- practice jersey, normal jersey -- it gives me an appreciation,” Beavers said. “It gives me an appreciation to step on the field."
As a freshmen at Osceola High School in Kissimmee, Fla., Beaver and Skinner envisioned being teammates for many years.
The diamond duo signed together to play college baseball at Central Florida. It’s an opportunity that never came to pass. Skinner died from leukemia their senior year of high school.
"Every time I throw that jersey number on, I have to live up to his expectation of playing the game,” Beaver said, “which is playing hard and also having fun."
Beaver embraces the Skinner approach to this day.
"Whenever you play more relaxed, you're going to put a better product on the field," he said.
Beaver played three seasons at his dream school. He hit .316 with 12 home runs his senior year as a UCF Knight. After the 2019 campaign, Beaver entered the transfer portal to set a new path on the diamond.
"I entered the portal late at night,” Beaver recalled. “The next morning I got a phone call from him."
South Carolina head baseball coach Mark Kingston quickly dialed Beaver. The two had a prior connection back in Kingston's coaching days at South Florida. For Kingston, a second chance to land Beaver was a can't miss type of opportunity.
"I was like man, this is unbelievable,” Beaver said. “As soon as he said, South Carolina, you think of the tradition and winning. It just shot up my board. When I decided to leave, I didn't know if this would be an option. As soon as it was, I was all over it. I wanted to push myself and compete against the best."
Beaver now gets his chance to do so as he inspires his new teammates with Skinner's love of the game.
“Need to go out and enjoy it,” he said. “That’s when you will be playing your best baseball — showing the younger guys that will carry on that legacy.”