Brooklyn boasted some of the best high-school baseball talent in the city this spring, but one player stood above all the rest.
Poly Prep’s Daniel Bakst was an undeniable force this season, as dominant in the field as he was at the plate — so dominant that we’ve named Bakst this year’s Courier Life Brooklyn All-Area Player of the Year.
The third baseman has been playing for as long as he can remember and his familiarity with — not to mention his love of — the game, was clear every time he suited up in a Blue Devils jersey.
“I honestly can’t really describe it, how much I love it,” Bakst said. “I love the competitiveness. What drives me is playing baseball against the best competition in the nation. I love playing at the best level. That’s what really makes it a lot of fun.”
Bakst had plenty of fun on the diamond this year, leading Poly Prep to a New York State Association of Independent Schools title. It was the Blue Devils’ fourth championship in the last five seasons and a big-time bounceback after the squad fell early in the 2015 playoffs.
“It was a great experience,” Bakst said. “Coming back and having the kind of season that we had and playing consistently like we did, then capping it off with a championship, it was just really special to be a part of.”
The Gatorade New York State Player of the Year, hit .432 this season, with a team-high 33 runs batted in, 36 runs scored, and 12 doubles. He also boasted a .580 slugging percentage, consistently connecting on extra base hits.
Bakst, however, never felt he had to pack his stat sheet. He never felt pressure from his teammates or the need to prove himself against lofty preseason expectations. He’s been perfecting his game for years, and the numbers that Bakst put up in his final high-school season were simply a product of that work.
“I just tried to focus on what I was doing and be a good teammate that way,” Bakst said. “I think had a domino effect, and we had a lot of really good chemistry this year.”
Bakst never gets tired of playing baseball. He’s been in California for the past few weeks, playing nearly every day, and he thrives on the competition. He never has to find extra motivation to go out to the field. It’s there as soon as he wakes up.
“Just getting better and improving on my game is really what’s fun for me,” he said.
Bakst wasn’t trying to prove anything this season, but he still managed to garner national attention. The Baltimore Orioles picked him in the 27th round of the Major League Baseball draft. But he won’t be turning pro — instead he is heading to Stanford on an athletic scholarship, and he is anxious for the next step in his career.
He knows it won’t be easy, but loves a challenge.
“I just want to get better really,” he said. “It’s always the same — staying within myself. Stanford is a tremendous atmosphere they have there, tremendous players and coaches. So I’m just going to do whatever I can to help us win every game.”