By Carson Harper
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
Maryvale’s star catcher, Dalton Harper, has made quite the name for himself over his career with the Flyers. In just three seasons with Maryvale, Harper has set the school record in career homeruns at seven, along with the season record at five in 2021. He is also currently second all-time in doubles (20) and is just four runs batted in away from the school record (65).
As a seventh grader, he was called up to the varsity team at only 12 years old. He was soon named the starting catcher and helped lead Maryvale to a Section VI Championship in 2018. Harper batted a respectable .294 with 15 hits in 20 games and 12 RBIs. Come playoffs, the young backstop was ready for the challenge. In the Class A2 Championship, and Section VI Championship, Harper had two key RBIs in both games against Lewiston-Porter and Williamsville East respectively.
“He’s a program-changing player,” Maryvale’s head coach Ryan Mohr said.
“He was our sectional championship catcher as a seventh grader and that speaks to the type of player he’s been in our program,” Mohr said.
With Mohr at the helm, Maryvale has been 74-41 since 2016 and there is no doubt that the program has become associated with winning. Since Harper has joined the Flyers, they have gone 43-29 with a sectional title back in 2018, essentially building a winning culture on the north side of Cheektowaga.
“I try to just stay loose and compete,” Harper said. A simple mentality, yet effective for the junior slugger. Harper describes himself as an aggressive and competitive ball player who is always sure to pick up any tips and suggestions as possible.
Harper has surrounded himself with a plethora of baseball knowledge for most of his baseball career. His hitting instructor, Jeremy Nowak, is a former 13th round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. Mohr was a standout at The College at Brockport and is a part of the Maryvale Athletic Wall of Fame.
For three years, Harper was a part of the Motor City Hit Dogs program that was ranked 2nd overall nationally according to Perfect Game. He has also played for national teams such as USA Prime National and Team Elite.
Now in his junior season, Harper is just 4 RBIs away from the all-time Maryvale record. Anthony Hernandez set the record of 65 in 2017.
With all this experience, Harper has taken knowledge from each experience and used it to better himself, along with building confidence along the way.
“My keys to success are to stay loose and trust myself as an athlete, because that will get the job done,” Harper said.
There is a lot for Harper to trust within himself. While talent is important, it is his work ethic that his hitting instructor felt is what sets him apart from his peers.
“He’s got the ability to take things, even if the statistics don’t show he did well, he understands how he feels. If he does have a rough game, he is the first one going back to the drawing board to figure it out,” Nowak said.
Both Nowak and Mohr were quick to point out the work ethic of the young catcher.
“He wants to be the best there ever has been at Maryvale, and that’s what makes him so good. His determination to always want to get better regardless of how well he’s already done,” Mohr said.
“His work ethic overall and understanding of his own body all combines to the success he’s already had,” Nowak said.
In the offseason, Harper trains six days a week working on a repeatable, consistent swing and being as quick and smooth as possible behind the plate defensively along with weight room training.
Harper trains at Hot Corner Athletics in Lockport, NY in the offseason. Training with Ronnie Bernick, Sam Cumbo and John de Marte, he has learned how to put himself in the best position to compete at a high level every day. This consists of a low fat, high protein diet and learning how to use his body efficiently while avoiding strenuous habits.
“The training has made me a more consistent player and even when my body does not feel the best, I am still able to put myself in a position to compete at my highest level,” Harper said.
While this approach has worked for Harper, Mohr says that his approach to the game benefits the entire team.
“Dalton is definitely our best leader. He pushes guys to get better and he knows when he needs to be better too, which makes him such a great leader. He leads by example,” Mohr said.
Being a staple of the Maryvale program for three years now, Mohr says Harper has always been respected by teammates and coaches regardless of his age.
However, with success comes publicity. It is not uncommon to see fans show up to Maryvale High School to catch a game in hopes to see a homerun or fantastic play behind the plate by Harper. Modified and junior varsity players hang around the Flyer dugout hoping to pick up a pointer from him as well.
Harper hopes to play Division I baseball in college and aspires to play at the professional level.
At just 13 years of age, Harper played in front of a national audience for the 13u Perfect Game Select Fest in Norman, Oklahoma in 2019. Televised by CBS Sports, this one game series showcased the best players in the nation at their respective positions. Harper was also one of the final four nominees for the Perfect Game Player of the Year in 2019.
“It was an amazing experience. It was fun being around the best players in the country and competing against them. It was nice to get some recognition for my hard work,” Harper said.
While the success has certainly been plentiful in his young career, Nowak says that Harper is on his way to big things.
“If he keeps developing the way he has been and stays healthy, the sky is the limit. Next year, I can definitely see him being an MLB draft prospect and he’s already got big schools interested in him now,” Nowak said.
Harper has caught the eye of some collegiate coaches in conferences such as the SEC, ACC, AAC, Sun Belt, West Coast, WAC and MAAC.
Harper has gotten off to a hot start this season. 6 games into his junior campaign, he is batting .500, with eight hits and six RBIs. He has helped lead the Flyers to a 5-1 overall record and a 2-0 league record as Maryvale looks for their first division title since 2015.
For Dalton’s career and season statistics, click the link to MaxPreps for more information.
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