Dan Hennigan played at Franklin Pierce University where he received various All-Conference, All-Region, and All-American nods.
After college, he signed with the Somerset Patriots. He was the first player born in the 90’s to receive a contract by the Atlantic League.
He later played for the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League before his contract was purchased by the Dodgers organization where he played SS before requiring his first of two labrum surgeries.
After recovering, he attempted to play with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association before eventually giving in to the injury and underwent his second surgery.
Hennigan was always more of a defensive specialist who was able to achieve good enough on-base percentages to stick around but never was a true threat at the plate. He decided that maybe not all of the tips and teachings that hitting coaches were telling him were completely accurate.
Dan decided to find out for himself, as he spent the next few years studying the swing, picking the brains of big league hitters, physics professors, kinesiologists, physical trainers, and elite athletic strength coaches. He began to gather an arsenal of different teachings and tactics so every hitter and every type of player could benefit.
Since then, Dan has had numerous speaking engagements for baseball facilities and college programs throughout the country.
Dan’s clients range across all career stages and include: professional athletes, college players from elite D1 programs, 9 year olds who just really love the game (and just so happen to impress Miggy), and everyone in between.
You know the “chop down” swing? “Knob to the ball” and “Squish the bug”? Well, I had it all mastered. I was part Bruce Lee part Terminix Bug Squasher. By the time I was eleven I was the poster child for the theory. Peep the form.
You’re talking to a Little League All-Star, chief. Do you see that arm definition?! Those 85 pound pitchers, with their fastballs that couldn’t break a window pane and their father-taught, wrist-snap, spin-balls that only appeared to have movement because of a thing called gravity? I owned that weak stuff. With my perfect mechanics and a decade of muscle memory to build upon before draft day, I felt like the sky was the limit!
But high school came and went. And while a little speed and some solid defense helped me make it to the collegiate level, my hitting was nothing more than singles at best. After years of weight lifting programs (I know it's surprising I’d need to work out after seeing the guns I was working with as a kid), physical and mental maturation, and thousands of hacks taken with each swing rooted in a linear principle and a tight downward hand path that optimally finished with me catching the ball a few feet in front of the plate, I’d become no more than a slap hitting pest.
Don't get me wrong, I loved my hitting coach. I still do. He's an amazing dude who lives, eats, and breathes baseball. I just couldn't help but feel that my mechanics looked different than the top hitters in the world.
At my best, I led team on-base percentages with low liners and the rare extra base hit. At my worst, I was a ground-out waiting to happen. Hard 90, harder bat-rack slam. Hard 90, harder water cooler beat down.
Quick hands on D, a little speed, and my mastered karate chop, managed to get me signed in the Atlantic League: the top indy ball league in the country. It’s a grab bag of World Series ring bearers, current big leaguers who opted out of contracts for a chance to resign later in the season with new teams, past “can’t miss” studs that just kept… missing, deserving young talent that got stuck with the wrong organization, freaks of nature who can’t figure it out upstairs, baseball geniuses that can’t stay healthy, and Donald Trump.
Injuries, affiliated signings, releases, and a losing streak induced, sphincter-clenching, front office desperation led to me batting lead off, straight out of college, on a team filled with AAA and big league hitters. Pitch selection, a chip on my shoulder the size of my massive arms in that first pic, and adrenaline resulted in me hitting right around .400 my first month. During this unconscious stretch of hitting, I refused to acknowledge the fact that each team was putting together a scouting report for me the way they had for EVERY OTHER HITTER IN THE LEAGUE. Sure enough, pitching adjustments were made. I recognized the shifts. I knew what they were doing. I started cheating to certain pitches and still couldn’t barrel up what I knew was coming. I backed away from the plate to help things out. I started earlier, committed earlier and could even hear some catchers set up inside on me. I was confused, embarrassed, absolutely livid, and worried about my future. I flat out wasn’t getting the results I wanted. And by results I mean the shallow liners that I expected to CRUSH just past the middle infielders. (Get a load of this "rocket" off a former St. Louis Cardinal's big league slider. Take note of the superior tar job and the pick off that I didn’t even know happened)…
During my second season of pro baseball, I mixed horrible inabilities to make adjustments with decisions that led to season altering elbow issues. This mixture brewed a nice little cocktail of horrendous baseball stats. As a player who only gets paychecks because of his on-base percentage, I actually went through a stage of desperation where I said, “screw it, I’m just gonna hack at everything”. So I did. Definitely didn’t work.
So, I began watching my teammates that were successful. They all had different stances, different heights, weights, they liked different types of pitches and locations, but after a full season of observing, listening, breaking down, and filming each and every successful hitter I played with, especially those that had reached the highest level, I learned they all had one thing in common.
What was most noteworthy about “those common things” they were doing was something that gave me a weird feeling in my stomach. By the time the practice round of hitting got to our catcher, I realized it was something I never worked on. I never practiced “those things”. My decade of muscle memory never focused on “those things”. Then I felt worse when I realized none of my youth, high school, or even top travel teammates were working on “those things”. I found myself getting frustrated when I thought about how many different baseball academies I attended, and even worked for, that had the same goofy little cookie-cutter phrases that were emphasized daily and beat into our young and malleable baseball minds. “Squish the bug!” “Chop down!” “Get on top!” “Catch the ball out front!”
I zoned back in on the pregame routine of the former Baltimore Orioles catcher who was hitting .320 while leading the Atlantic League in home runs. He stood in the cage, mashing baseballs with a point of contact that echoed around the entire facility and made stadium ground-crew members recoil as they walked by. I finally grew angry as I came to the realization that what he was doing, “those things” he was working on, just like the former Atlanta Brave who stepped out of the cage before him was working on, and “those things” the New York Yankee before him was doing, and “those things” the Houston Astro before him was doing, “those things” they were all doing; no coach in my area was teaching “those things”. But it couldn’t just be my area could it? Other guys around the country had to have been fed the same pile of safe-swinging mediocrity. I made a promise that I’d do everything possible so as many players as I could reach would never have to wish they could retrieve a wasted decade of hard work lost on the wrong mechanics. I made a promise that I’d show hitters “those things”.
My first step was to experiment. I took video of the most successful hitters in the league the last few weeks of that season. I would compare them all. Among the thousands of idiosyncrasies were some obvious and some hidden constants. I then began checking the most successful hitters in the Majors that year and comparing them. Some of what I thought were constants began to fade away, while others that I thought may have been unique little personal movements, turned out to be essential among the Hall of Famers. I began speaking with Penn State physics professors then heading to the kinesiology wing and picking their brains. Most of the time, they’d tell me to go away. The ones that actually gave me the time of day realized a paragraph into their explanations that I was using dictionary.com on my phone just to try and act like I knew what they were saying.
I’ve found that the slow, eyes closed, nod while saying, “…right”, keeps them from giving up on your little brain too quickly.
I was over my head but I had a basis. I had begun working my way down the rabbit hole.
3 years later, I’m no longer able to play the game that I love. Two labrum surgeries in that time period didn’t help. One with the Dodgers and one in the American Association, and now my body is unable to properly compete at the level I need it to. But in that time, I was able to utilize trial and error, matching video myself, experiencing the highest levels of pitching. Facing situations that my new clients can relate to and I can empathize with. I know what they feel like when they’re 2-2 against a good sinker-splitter closer who sits mid-9’s. I know what they feel like when they are seeing the ball well but still aren’t getting the results they want. I know which drills result in awesome cage work but never work live. I know what it’s like to have an absolutely money swing that day and a poor approach still led to an O'fer. In the past three years of time, I’ve had dozens of physics consultations and multiple probability discussions with statistics professors that want me out of their office. I’ve spent a lot of time in arm slings. I’ve learned meditation, visualization, and approach work. I’ve done thousands of drills with hundreds of clients. I’ve fist pumped and pounded my chest in the middle of busy restaurants after receiving text messages saying someone is getting called up to the next level, or someone just committed to their dream school, or even some little leaguer’s dad just watched his son have his first multi-homer game.
I’ve also, regretfully, avoided social media. The constant arguments and ego strokes among twitter guys that’ve never truly tried any of what they’re teaching; those who have never swung in real games against real pitchers with real talent, guys I could quickly disprove three or four tweets in to their feed, seemed so trivial. Though I did my sanity a favor, the consequence was me blocking access from players across the country. Players that are actively seeking good instruction and want to reach that next level, regardless of what achievements or success they’ve already attained. They want to be even better. So they search for better and do what is easiest. They gravitate to what they see online. They put their entire careers in the hands of these guys! And some of what I’m seeing is a shame.
I can now be true to my promise. I can now show all hitters “those things” and together we can work to get to the next level. Whatever that level may be.