There aren’t many .714 hitters who will pop out of the dugout and run behind the backstop and across the street in pursuit of a foul ball.
There aren’t many .714 hitters, period.
But that’s Max Dineen.
The Pennsville senior is a baseball player both talented enough to sport that astounding average a third of the way through the regular season and team-oriented enough to join the line of reserves who chase down the foul balls that escape the backstop.
“Once in a lifetime player,” Pennsville coach Matt Karr said of Dineen.
Through Tuesday night, Dineen was 20 for 28 this season, even after going 0 for 2 with an intentional walk in Pennsville’s 3-2 loss to visiting Hammonton in a Tri-County Conference crossover game that afternoon.
Dineen still made his presence felt on a damp, 45-degree day, according to his coach. He served as unofficial batting coach, led the cheers in the dugout and took his turn in retrieving foul balls.
“He’s not having his best day, but he’s in the dugout, hollering and cheering,” Karr said. “Guys come back, and he’s talking to them about what he saw, what they can do the next time.
“Then he’s out there chasing fouls balls with the rest of the guys. I’m blessed to have a player like him.”
Karr calls Dineen “a true five-tool player,” meaning the Eagles outfielder can run, field, throw and hit for both average and power.
The statistics back that up. Dineen was not just batting .714 through Tuesday. He had 16 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, as the Eagles went 7-2 in their first nine games to land at the No. 17 spot in the Top 25 rankings.
Dineen was not slapping singles. He was driving the ball into the gaps or over the fence.
“I’ve been in the weight room a lot,” Dineen said. “My doubles are turning into home runs this year. This past summer I wasn’t in the best of shape, and this winter I really turned it on, lost 10 to 15 pounds of fat, turned it into muscle, back to 185 pounds.”
With 80 percent of his 20 hits going for extra bases, Dineen has a slugging percentage of 1.857. He also has walked 10 times, giving him an on-base percentage of .789.
That adds up to an astounding OPS of 2.646.
“He’s an amazing player,” said Hammonton junior righthander Steve Restuccio, a Maryland recruit who fired a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts in windy conditions on Tuesday. “I was able to mix it up, keep him off balance. But I know any one of his swings could have been a home run.”
Dineen has signed with Virginia Tech, but he also has drawn interest from major-league scouts.
He could be selected in the draft in early June, which would force him to decide whether to attend Virginia Tech or become a professional.
“I want to go to Virginia Tech,” Dineen said. “But if the money’s there and I talk to my parents about it and that’s the way I want to go, that’s the way I’ll go.
“I’ve got a couple [scouts] coming. I’m trying not to let it get to me, just taking it day by day.”
Dineen batted .444 with 28 RBIs as a sophomore for a Pennsville team that won the Group 1 state title. He even earned the save on the mound in the championship game.
Last season, Dineen took his game to another level, batting .580 with 51 hits, 51 RBIs, 11 doubles, a school-record eight triples and seven home runs.
But this season has been off the charts. Dineen is chasing the South Jersey record for batting average in a season set by Gloucester Catholic’s John Yowler, who hit .676 in 1980.
“He’s barreling up everything,” Karr said.
Dineen and his fellow seniors, catcher Ryan Gray, pitcher/first baseman Daulton Montagna, infielder Dustin Garrison and outfielder Ben Young, are determined to lead Pennsville back to the state championship.
“All the seniors, we’re all trying to grind it out,” Dineen said. “We’ve got some young guys, and I’ve told them, ‘Listen, winning a state championship is one of the greatest feelings you’ll ever have in your life.’
“We’ve pounded it in their heads from day one. ‘We win a state championship, it will be the best bus ride home you’ve ever had.’ ”
Karr said Dineen sets an example for his teammates with his work ethic, approach to practice and game-day demeanor.
On Tuesday, Dineen served as the Eagles’ designated hitter. That meant extra time in the dugout. That also meant a chance to chase some foul balls.
“I know kids look up to me,” Dineen said. “I know we have [junior varsity] kids looking up to me and kids here looking up to me, and if I put a good example out there, they’re going to follow it.
“I saw guys chasing foul balls, so I said I’ve got to get out there and chase them a little bit. I wanted to keep my legs warm, too.”