In 2006, Dillon Dingler was playing 7U travel baseball with his local Little League team in northeast Ohio.
That same year, then-junior pitcher and current volunteer coach Dan DeLucia, the only three-time captain in the history of the Ohio State baseball program, was beginning his first year as captain.
After being named captain for the 2019 season, the now-Ohio State sophomore catcher Dingler is on track to become the second player to accomplish the feat of being named captain three times.
His fearless performance as a freshman made him a captain, junior right fielder and fellow captain Dominic Canzone said.
“Just the fact that he can go out as a freshman and produce the way he did and be vocal like the way he did,” Canzone said. “He wasn’t scared of the moment at all.”
Dingler posted a .244 batting average in 53 games a season ago. Adding 31 runs scored and 17 RBIs, Dingler was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team at the end of the season.
In 29 of his 44 starts in 2018, Dingler had to start in center field, an unnatural position for him. This selflessness is a quality that did not go unnoticed, DeLucia said.
“You have to make sacrifices and do things for other guys, and that’s why he is a captain as a sophomore,” DeLucia said. “He is a guy that is willing to do other things others aren’t necessarily willing to do for his team.”
Although they play different positions and are separated by over a decade, Dingler and DeLucia are not so different.
“I see a lot of similarities [between us]. He comes to the park every day just wanting to get better,” DeLucia said. “He’s the type of guy other guys want to be around.”
Head coach Greg Beals emphasized Dingler’s natural ability to earn respect from his teammates.
During the first day of conditioning last season Beals noticed how the team was breathing heavily from their drills. He noted, however, that Dingler was “walking back with a bowed-up chest.”
“Just his presence is so strong, and it’s easy to be drawn to it,” Beals said. “He has developed leadership from his example and how he goes about his work more than anything.”
This leadership, Dingler said, was developed under his head coach Bill Gamble at Jackson High School in Massillon, Ohio.
“He kind of had me step into that role, too,” Dingler said. “As I was getting older, he told me to lead by example and be more vocal as well.”
For an Ohio State team that will be leaning on a young pitching staff, leadership behind the plate is invaluable. The position of catcher is one of the most important positions in the sport, DeLucia said.
However, Dingler, who played in the opening game for the Buckeyes against Seton Hall, has since been sidelined with a fractured hamate bone. Beals said his timetable to return is uncertain.
DeLucia noted that Dingler always provides a good example for the other players, attacking every play with a steady mindset.
“Some of the greatest baseball players ever have just that even-keel mindset and mannerisms, and that’s what he brings every day,” DeLucia said.
Dingler enjoys watching catchers in the MLB in order to gather information, admiring how smooth and diligent the big-leaguers are. Yadier Molina, catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, is a player he especially admires.
“I like watching what he does behind the plate and how he helps his team,” Dingler said.
But before he tries to realize his dream of playing professionally, Dingler is living out his dream of putting on the scarlet and gray.
“Just knowing that I had always wanted to come here and had always been a huge Ohio State fan and actually getting the opportunity to represent Ohio State and being able to put on the jersey was a tremendous honor,” Dingler said.