Valparaiso University baseball coach Brian Schmack knew that Chase Dawson could play at the next level.
As a senior, the Chesterton native and Andrean graduate led the Crusaders with a .324 batting average, 39 runs, five triples and also tied for the team high with 55 hits during the 2019 season. Dawson signed with the Gary SouthShore RailCats on Tuesday and was set to make his professional debut later the same day.
“It’s awesome, and I’m really happy for Chase,” Schmack said. “He’s getting to do something he’s wanted to do since the day he got on campus as a freshman, and to see it come to life is pretty cool. I’m sure he’s excited and nervous and everything wrapped into one.”
The RailCats were scheduled to face the Winnipeg Goldeyes at U.S. Steel Yard on Tuesday, and Dawson was slated to play first base and bat eighth in the lineup. Schmack said he had a lot of confidence in his former player because he saw Dawson work on his game relentlessly and rise from a walk-on into one of the most consistent players in the program.
Every year, Dawson increased his batting average, and during his senior campaign he notched a career-high batting average and slugged .506, which ranked second on the team.
Dawson capped of his college career with a Second Team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection. During the 2018 summer season, he also led the Coastal Plain League in batting average (.395) and was named to the All-CPL First Team.
In addition to his success at Valparaiso, Dawson won back-to-back IHSAA Class 3A state championships in 2013 and 2014 with the 59ers and legendary coach Dave Pishkur. Schmack said Dawson’s experience in high-pressure moments and big games made him a coveted recruit.
“I think it speaks to his competitiveness,” Schmack said. “We like to recruit kids from winning programs because they know how to win, and they’re ultra-competitive. I think that’s what kept pushing Chase, and it shaped who he is. It’s no surprise that program is doing well, and Chase was a part of it.”
Schmack plans to watch Dawson in action frequently throughout the summer, but he hopes he isn’t able to for long. He believes Dawson, who stands 5-foot-10, may have been overlooked by higher level professional teams because of his size, and it’s only a matter of time until he proves them wrong.
“Everyone is often looking for the 6-3, 225-pound guy that can do this or that,” Schmack said. “But when it comes down to it they also just want baseball players, and Chase is a baseball player. Hopefully someone sees him play on a consistent basis and really appreciates who he is because he’s good enough to play with an affiliated (Major League Baseball) team.”