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North Smithfield's Dandeneau to take his baseball talents to UConn

November 23, 2013

North Smithfield native C.J. Dandeneau, standing far right, has accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Connecticut. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Life is much calmer, less harried, nowadays for C.J. Dandeneau.

For weeks, he admitted being stressed out about which school to choose for his higher education, but no more. On Wednesday, Nov. 13, he signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Connecticut at Storrs; it will be there that he not only will labor in his eventual academic field of choice, but also represent the Huskies' baseball program on a scholarship.

The six-foot, 185-pound La Salle Academy senior, who resides in town, assembled quite a junior campaign for himself this past spring. A versatile prospect – he not only pitches but also can play center field or the corner infield spots – earned second-team All-State laurels for the Division I Rams.

Here's why: In 18 regular-season tilts, he manufactured a .340 batting average (18-for-53), courtesy of four doubles, two triples, 14 RBI and a dozen runs scored, all the while drawing 13 walks. In the process, he posted respective – and solid – .478 on-base and .490 slugging percentages.

Dandeneau was just as successful on the hill, where he mustered a 4-1 mark with a spectacular 1.04 ERA in eight appearances (including a half-dozen starts). He also recorded three shutouts and a save in those 40 1/3 innings of work, compiling 64 whiffs while yielding just 27 hits, 13 walks and 14 runs (a mere six earned).

“I signed with UConn because it was great academically, but also in baseball,” stated Dandeneau, who is pondering majors in business, education or kiniesiology. “Some of the smaller schools I was interested in didn't present as many options in the majors I was looking at.

“I had an overnight visit with the team in late September, and they were still playing 'fall ball,'” he added. “I was there with some other recruits, and we saw an intra-squad game; it was awesome! The atmosphere was great, and I was really impressed by the chemistry between the players. The guys and coaches were great to talk to. They made me feel welcome.

“It felt like they were all one, like they were not only teammates but friends, too. They were all competing for the same goal … During the recruiting process, both myself and my parents thought I'd thrive better in a smaller environment, with smaller class sizes, a smaller campus, but once I saw UConn, I loved it.

“The people there were very welcoming, and everyone looked to be having a good time. They were very friendly, and that's when it became clear to me. I mean, the practice fields and facilities were unbelievable!”

La Salle doesn't rank its students (i.e. class rank via GPA), but does have a system similar to the one utilized at the collegiate level – that is, summa and magna cum laude. He admits he's earned first honors “a couple of times, but mostly second honors. I have a B-plus grade average at 3.4,” he noted.

When asked why he opted to attend La Salle and not his hometown North Smithfield High, he claimed, “La Salle wanted to give me a better opportunity to move up the ladder, but I still have a ton of friends at (NSHS). That's a great school, too.”

He indicated he played basketball as a Ram freshman and sophomore, but decided to concentrate only on baseball after that.

Over the past couple of summers, he has played for Boston-based Team Nokona, an independent All-Star travel squad that attends College Showcase tournaments, where managers and coaches hope to spot individuals they feel can help their programs.

Dandeneau said he feels one of the reasons some schools expressed interest was his fastball – his favorite pitch. He's been clocked at 89 mph, though he also throws a slider, curve and change-up.

“We've been to Florida, Virginia, the Carolinas and other states, and I received a lot of experience playing for them,” he offered. “I wanted to have more time to get stronger in my chosen sport, and that's because I wanted to be more competitive at the next level. I chose UConn because I really liked (Manager) Jim Penders and his staff.

“He didn't call me that day, but I talked to the coach in charge of recruiting after I signed, and he was very excited. He even told me he couldn't wait for me to get on campus and start training with the team.”

Dandeneau explained he'll spent this winter lifting weights to get stronger for his senior season with the Rams, but also will attend Cressey Performance of Hudson, Mass. That's a facility with “the best of the best teaching you how to lift properly, and I'll also learn more about pitching. I'll go once a week, but a coach is writing me a regimen to follow so I can train myself.

“This feels really good; now I know where I'm going, and I can get back to focusing on my studies,” he added. “Now I won't have to worry about making a decision. I'm really excited about going (to Storrs), but first I want to have a great spring.”

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