Lots of college coaches looked at Dave Tatoian. The hard throwing Pennridge sophomore had a Division I arm.
But did those coaches really see him?
In 2013, Tatoian was a promising pitcher on a Pennridge team that reached the PIAA state semifinals.
“I was pitching a lot and doing really well. Then I had my arm injury in 10th grade where I had to get Tommy John surgery,” Tatoian recalled. “I lost a little steam in the college recruiting process.”
“I saw Dave as a sophomore. He was known, at the time, as a pitcher who could swing the bat a little bit. Sometimes when you have Tommy John, people give up on you,” said Gwynedd Mercy head coach Paul Murphy. “I think some of the same people looking at him and were enamored at the velocity didn’t necessarily look and see the total player that Dave was. Dave was one of those guys who did everything right.”
Tatoian went to Gwynedd Mercy and made first team All-Conference as a freshman second baseman, batting .345 and ranking third in the CSAC with 36 RBIs.
“I really liked the size of the school and how comfortable I was there,” Tatoian remembered.
Tatoian exploded as a sophomore. His nine homers, 56 RBIs, 13 doubles and .695 slugging percentage all ranked first or second in the CSAC. The American Baseball Coaches Association named him an All-American.
“I read a couple of articles by pro guys about putting the ball in the air more and that made a lot of sense to me. I worked hard over the winter, really hard actually, on hitting the ball up in the air,” Tatoian offered. “My sophomore year was the best year where I did that. They were carrying.”
“There is something to be said for putting on some size,” Murphy feels, “but I think it was more his confidence at playing at the college level. His approach was always fantastic but he refined that approach. Dave will take a walk with the best of them. He is not going to get himself out.”
Scouting Gwynedd Mercy became a little more straightforward: Don’t pitch to Tatoian. He still bombed seven homers and slugged .661 in 2018.
“It took a little more focus because guys weren’t going to come right after me with their fastballs. They were going to work a little more around me with offspeed,” Tatoian said. “It was looking for your one good pitch per at-bat, be it a fastball or a hanging curveball, and making sure you capitalized on that one pitch. Some other guys maybe got two or three good pitches per at-bat. I was more worried about getting one good one.”
“When you’re an All-American, you get on the map pretty quickly,” Murphy noted. “I don’t think he started his junior year as hot as in previous years. You have to accept a walk and when you get a 2-0, or 3-1 count, know that you’re not going to get that fastball. It took a little bit of adapting and once Dave got to that point, he got on fire again.”
This April 11, in a 7-5 loss to Ursinus, Tatoian slugged his 21st career homer to set the Griffins’ career record. Two days later, he set the GMU career doubles record. “It’s a mixture of being patient and not swinging at something they want you to,” Tatoian explained, “but also being aggressive enough to identify your pitch when it is coming and make sure that you hit it.”
Nine days after setting the doubles record, Tatoian went into a “slump”: going 0-for-5 in a doubleheader. It was the only time all year he had consecutive hitless games.
“We had a lot of rainouts early in the season. Once we get out and play consistently,” Tatoian credited, “I feel like I hit better.”
D3Baseball.com honored Tatoian with another All-American nod on Memorial Day weekend. Tatoian already earned the initial Atlantic East Conference Player of the Year award in a spring where he led or ranked second in the conference in doubles, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
Tatoian leaves as “the most prolific offense player ever to come through Gwynedd Mercy,” Murphy said. Yet Tatoian is most proud of the Griffins’ winning the inaugural Atlantic East championship. “My class was a big class who played some good baseball,” Tatoian said.
“We finally put it all together this year.”
Tatoian had it put together from the day he arrived on campus. “He was the ultimate team player,” Murphy praised. “His numbers could have been even better than they were if he had been a little more selfish, so to speak. He is as hard nosed and as strong of a baseball guy as they come.”