Joseph Daneff helped lead the Creche Innovations Stars within a game of the Ban Johnson Collegiate League championship last season.
For Stars manager Kyle Clifton, the only thing better than one Daneff was two for the 2022 season.
“Being an athlete runs in their family and, when you hear you get the better Daneff, you’ll take that chance every day of the week,” Clifton said with a laugh, making sure Joseph was within earshot.
Joseph’s younger brother, Jake Daneff, joined the Stars’ roster this summer, marking the first time the brothers have played on the same team — but it won’t be the last.
After two years at Dodge City Community College, Joseph spent last season at Emporia State, where Jake will pitch and play infield next season after graduating from Park Hill High School last month.
The 2022 BJCL season serves as a trial run for life as teammates for the Daneff brothers.
“We’ve always dreamed about it,” Jake said. “When we were younger, we’d always want to be on the same team, but we never knew how tough it would be to make that happen.”
Born three years apart, this summer that dream finally came true.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Jake said. “In the Ban Johnson League, you know a bunch of different kids on every single team. You have a friend over there, so it’s always fun playing against them. Getting to play with (Joseph) in the league makes it even more fun. It’s great to see what it’s going to be like (at Emporia State).”
Joseph tried not to pressure Jake into making decisions about his future — for college or summer baseball — but he was understandably thrilled with both picks.
“I let him make his decision if he even wanted to play in Ban Johnson, but when he did there was no question,” Joseph said of Jake joining the Stars. “Actually, the Raiders were trying to get him, but he knew who his loyalty was to.”
Picking the Hornets was a tougher decision, but one Jake is pumped about.
“When I got the call from Emporia, it made both of us excited,” Jake said. “My decision wasn’t just made off of me playing with my brother, because he’s only going to be there for maybe a year or two more.”
Instead, Jake said the chance to play in the field and also pitch swayed him to join the Hornets, because he wasn’t ready to give up hitting yet, but Joseph’s presence was a big draw.
“He said it was me,” Joseph said. “Getting older brought us together more as brothers and best friends, but the competitiveness is still there. That’s not going anywhere.”
So far this season, Joseph is slashing .350/.460/.625 with team-highs for home runs (two), RBIs (11) and runs scored (17).
“He’s a pure baseball player,” Clifton said. “He just floats around the field. It’s a very impressive thing to watch, because not very many kids have that — the footwork, the hands and the all-around talent. When you can land one on your roster, it’s definitely a treat to have.”
Having two has been a blessing.
Jake leads the Stars with a .478 batting average. He also has three doubles, eight RBIs and 11 runs scored and also has a 1.75 ERA in four innings out of the bullpen this season.
Both appreciate the chance to watch one another shine from the same dugout.
“We’d always help each other with baseball,” Jake said. “We’d always be in the driveway playing with each other, but we never really had an I’m-way-better-than-you type deal or anything.”
That’s not to say there isn’t some brotherly ribbing going on in the dugout.
“I see them poking and prodding at each other every once in a while, so it’s fun to watch,” Clifton said.
Together, the Daneff brothers have helped power the Stars (8-4) into playoff contention with the hope of making the summer extra special by winning a championship.
“With him pitching for us, we definitely have a great shot at it,” Joseph said. “I haven’t won anything crazy like that. He has, but it would be my No. 1 (baseball achievement) because I’ve never won a championship like that.”