By STEVE KRAH
Dalton Combs has gotten a kick out of his many baseball experiences.
This fall and winter, the graduate of Adams Central High School and Huntington University has been crafting a little kick in his left-handed swing as he prepares for his second professional baseball season in the San Francisco Giants organization.
“It’s a different timing mechanism to keep my front side back,” says Combs, a Monroe, Ind., native who has been staying in central Indiana and training at RoundTripper Sports Academy in Westfield. “I’m learning how to use my hips and hands together and staying balanced throughout my swing.
“I’ve been in the weight room everyday working on strength and power.”
RoundTripper trainers have also helped him with improving his speed and agility as he gets ready to head to report to spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., on March 1.
“I want to keep developing as a player,” says Combs, 23.
Primarily an outfielder, Combs led Huntington with a .402 batting average and paced the Crossroads League with a .516 on-base percentage.
The senior rapped out 28 extra-base hits (eight home runs, one triple and 19 doubles) and was second in batting as well as runs scored per game (1.08) and hits per game (1.50) and ranked third in slugging (.654), total bases per game (2.44) and doubles per game (.40).
“I wouldn’t trade my journey for anything else,” says Combs. “I really enjoyed Huntington for four years. I learned advanced baseball techniques there.
“(Coach Mike Frame) was always pushing us to be the best we could.”
Combs cherishes the time he had with teammates and coaches.
“We had a great bond,” says Combs. “Everybody got a long well. That’s what I enjoyed most.”
Home games were played at scenic Forest Glen Park with its taller-than-most right field fence.
“My teammates joked with me that all I had to do was pull the ball for a home run,” says Combs. “But it seems I always hit home runs away (from Huntington).”
Combs, who hit .248, .386 and .355 in his first three seasons as a Forester, was selected in the 35th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Giants and played 23 games for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the Class-A Short-Season Northwest League. He hit .208 with one homer, two doubles and 11 runs batted in.
“I had a really good experience,” says Combs of his first season in pro ball. “The biggest thing I could take away is creating myself a routine so I can go and have the most success possible.”
A 2013 Adams Central graduate, Combs played four varsity baseball seasons for coach Dave Neuenschwander and was also coached by him as a football quarterback and defensive back.
“There was a work ethic he instilled in me,” says Combs. “He’d say, ‘you have a lot of talent, you’ve just got to keep working hard and doing your thing.’ He was always pushing me through the good times and the bad
“He taught us things — on and off the field — about being a good man and staying out of trouble. I really respect Coach Neuenschwander. I can call him a friend today. I appreciate what he did for me at Adams Central.”
The Flying Jets won baseball sectional titles in three of his four seasons (2010, 2011 and 2013) with one regional crown (2013).
Dalton, the son of Kurt and Marie Combs and younger brother of Kyleigh, got his baseball start at Monroe Youth League at Don Ray Memorial Park. At 12, his father coached a travel team — Indiana Aquablast — that went to Cooperstown, N.Y.
While in high school, Dalton played travel baseball for Fort Wayne Cubs, Summit Storm and USAthletic.
In the summers at Huntington, he was part of the New York College Baseball League’s Genesee (N.Y.) Rapids in 2014, Fort Wayne-based Summit City Sluggers in 2015 and Northwood League’s Kalamazoo Growlers in 2016.
Combs graduated from Huntington with a sport management degree and can see himself one day running a training facility. He enjoys working with kids and he has helped out at several camps and with Huntington and its trips to Nicaragua.
Dalton Combs, a graduate of Adams Central High School and Huntington University, is now a left-handed-hitting outfielder in the San Francisco Giants organization. (Salem-Keizer Volcanoes Photo)