6/15/2006 – Daily News Record
Daily News Record Written By Joe Lemire Dennis Got Nickname Before Arriving The Moose received his nickname before he ever joined the Turks. While he was still home in a San Diego suburb, David Dennis listened to Harrisonburg’s first three Valley League baseball games via Internet radio and heard manager Bob Wease refer to him as "a moose" in one of those broadcasts. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Dennis fits the part but never expected the moniker to stick. Last week, however, he was meeting his fellow Turks when Brandon Harrigan – his teammate here and at Oklahoma City University when Dennis transfers for the coming school year – enter the locker room and yelled out, "Is that the Moose?" It’s a new nickname for Dennis, and he said he loves it, even if he has no basis for comparison. "I’ve been to the San Diego Zoo, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real moose," Dennis said Wednesday night after the Turks’ game against Winchester was rained out. He demonstrated his might for all to see Tuesday night. During batting practice that evening, Josh Dew and Dennis were betting each other whether they could hit the cars beyond the right field fence. In the bottom of the first in that evening’s game against Staunton, the right-handed hitting Dew hit an opposite-field home run that traveled an impressive distance but fell well short of any automobile. Due up next was Dennis, and as the giant strode to the plate, teammate Ryan Rachal raised the stakes by betting that he couldn’t hit his own homer to go back-to-back with Dew. "It was interesting – I was working on two bets there," Dennis said with a chuckle. With the informal wagers placed, the left-handed Dennis turned on the first pitch he saw, launching it down the right-field line a stunning distance. The ball hooked foul but smashed the side of a sport-utility vehicle parked well beyond the field of play, winning one bet but losing the other when he eventually flew out to center field. Though Wease’s estimate of the foul shot traveling "at least 475 feet" might be an exaggerated figure, what might be more impressive is Dennis’ confession that he didn’t hit the ball very well. "Actually, not really," Dennis said. "He threw the pitch I was anticipating. I got up there feeling that he was going to come back at me and try to get ahead in the count. I put a good swing on it, but not the one I wanted to." Dennis batted .337 with four home runs in 24 games for San Diego Community College this spring and will join fellow Turks Bobby Spain, Harrigan and Rachal at OCU this fall. The jovial Dennis is off to a good start making fast friends with both his wit and his bat. In his first five games in Harrisonburg, he hit .500 (9-for-18) with four RBIs, capped by a 4-for-5 performance in a win at Waynesboro Saturday. Overall, he’s leading the team with a .370 average – followed by Spain (.324) and Rachal (.313) – and six RBIs. "What he’s done is carried us for the last week," Wease said. "He’s done a super, super job. He plays good defense at first, and he’s batting in the cleanup hole. Every time he comes to the plate, you have the chance of the ball going out of the ballpark." Even when the scouting report on Dennis is circulated throughout the Valley, he’ll still likely see pitches to hit because he’s flanked in the lineup by the similarly powerful Dew and Clint Robinson. "I can’t even say how much it’ll help," Dennis said of gaining the new bats. "Until now, we still were getting players. We didn’t have holes in the lineup, but there were some weaker spots but now one through nine we’re solid." His bat ought to help change the complexion of this year’s Turks. Last year, Harrisonburg was tied for second-fewest home runs in the VBL with 12 – slightly more than one-third of the 34 hit by Covington and Luray; this year, the Turks already have four, and Dennis hasn’t even contributed one yet. The Turks may have lost their first six games, but Staunton manager Lance Mauck has already seen a huge improvement in the team, from the Turks’ 11-3 loss to the Braves in the season opener to Tuesday night’s 8-1 win. Namely, it’s been the addition of Dew, Dennis and Robinson in the heart of the order. "Their 3-4-5 hitters are here," Mauck said of the change. "That makes a big difference. They’re all tough outs." Harrisonburg has now won four in a row – scoring 35 runs in the four wins, compared to just 13 in the six losses – and the team’s confidence is growing in relation to the size of its players. "The talk around the clubhouse and the apartments is that we might not lose again this summer," Dennis said.