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Tournaments | Story | 5/25/2019

6-4-3 DP: Bigger than baseball

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Drew Miller (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – When 6-4-3 DP Athletics was established in 2007 by founder Danny Pralgo, he knew the great baseball players in the greater Atlanta area, the place he called a “baseball mecca”, needed another option.

Right away, 6-4-3 DP started two teams in its inaugural year at the 9u level and the 16u level. It was on these teams where Pralgo created his tried and true standard of fundamentals and life lessons through the game of baseball that have endured today.

For Pralgo and Co., it wasn’t about winning at all costs, but creating a place of positive energy where kids can do what they love to do on the diamond. As a result, the teams in the beginning stages of the 6-4-3 DP program took its fair share of lumps.

“Those two teams really did the greatest thing for us,” Pralgo said. “How those kids and parents handled themselves with how they were willing to learn the game of baseball even though we were losing a lot early on, they were understanding how to handle a fundamental ground ball. Understanding how important bunting is and understanding what a good out means… A lot of the little things of learning how to handle failure and what a team player is.”

While the focus on these intricacies of baseball defined 6-4-3 from the beginning, there was also some unconventional methods that paved the way for future success.

“The first ever team we ran back at 9 years old, I made every kid swing both lefty and righty,” Pralgo said. “So that they learned how to switch hit. That whole fall we didn’t worry about winning and losing. It was to see who could do it. Out of that first 9-year-old group, seven of them became switch hitters in high school. Right now we still have a few of those guys who are left who are switch hitters in college.”

And so the rough patches when the program first began made the process all that much sweeter to its current stage. So far, 6-4-3 DP has produced a staggering 433 college commitments and 29 drafted players and counting. There’s a bevy of 6-4-3 DP teams competing at the 2019 Southeast Memorial Day Classic this weekend. However, those success stories are just the tip of the iceberg for Pralgo.

Just as much as he wants to celebrate the player in his program who was drafted, he also wants to recognize the scrappy player who helps his team win and makes it to the next level, even if it’s not at the Division I level.

“Nobody has preferential treatment,” Pralgo said. “I think that’s very important. We have a lot of guys who go SEC, ACC and get drafted out of high school, but that’s not more important than our Division III academic kid who signs. Or our junior college kid who gets an opportunity. Or the kid that gets to the NAIA or Division II. It’s just as important to each kid and family. That’s what everyone understands out here is it’s about every kid and every family.”

And just like Pralgo makes sure every player on the team is honored, even those who pass up a baseball opportunity to go somewhere else academically, he also makes sure that the under-appreciated segments of the Marietta area are reached through the 6-4-3 Foundation.

The 6-4-3 Foundation is a charitable independent entity where the players help reach the community through service projects and initiatives.

“When we got on this stage, it’s got to be more than baseball,” Pralgo said. “It’s got to be bigger than baseball.

“That’s why we started that 6-4-3 Foundation here so that we can do something for kids in need and for the fire department and the police department and for the hunger… Whether it’s raising money for childhood cancer, if it’s the Adopt-A-Soldier, we’ve got so many stories.”

It all revolves back to Pralgo’s aforementioned mantra of teaching life lessons that kids can hold onto for years to come. Sometimes the greatest perspective shift on the field is caused by something that occurs completely outside the lines.

“[The 6-4-3 Foundation] makes them appreciate life,” Pralgo said. “It makes them realize how lucky they are for the opportunities that they have. But then, don’t not look at the people who don’t have those. Let’s go help them and let’s go try to provide and then open up some opportunities for them. It humbles a kid. It truly makes them then become set up for being the next group of people later on to do the same stuff.”

Pralgo undoubtedly is a believer of continual learning. That’s why he coaches the game with an enthusiasm down the third base line where he walks up to the rest of the team between batters and explains a learning moment from the previous at bat that can be applied to everyone.

There’s a certain aura on the field that spreads to all the players in the 6-4-3 DP program.

“We have to make it where [the baseball field] is everybody’s favorite place,” Pralgo said. “I believe in tough love. I believe in working their tails off and teaching a lot, but they’ve got to have fun. There’s too many kids out there not having fun in baseball anymore… When there’s people and coaches taking the fun out of it, they’re not going to get that best kid.”

The baseball field can be a brief escape from the pressures of the world around. Pralgo worked in the real world for some time, grinding and working seven days a week while waking up at 5:30 in the morning, but in the end, he always found himself coming back to the baseball field.

It’s that same drive and love for the game that he’s extending to his players and the 6-4-3 DP Athletics program today.

“Plain and simple, it’s always been my happy place,” Pralgo said. “We try to preach that to all the kids and families. Life is too short. Make sure you’re around things that make you happy.”

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