By Megan Wilson
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
With stops at Temple and Houston Baptist, Dane Yelovich’s journey to Kansas State wasn’t typical. Not highly recruited out of high school, the senior outfielder took the road less traveled by to fulfill his dream of playing Division I baseball.
“I’ve always wanted to play D-I,” Yelovich said. “I have a strong drive to achieve my goals. I work my way through hard times. I had a belief in myself that I could get there. Now that I’ve got here, more people believe in me.”
After high school, Yelovich tried playing baseball at a junior college. When that didn’t work out, he transferred to Houston Baptist, a small NAIA school. After a year, he changed schools again, this time moving to Temple. With two years of eligibility remaining, Yelovich’s career looked like it had reached a stalling point.
However, his strong drive to reach his goals wouldn’t let him quit. He continued playing baseball in the summer, a road that would eventually lead him to K-State.
While playing summer league baseball in Salina for a former KSU assistant coach, Yelovich made contact with the K-State coaching staff who gave him the opportunity to try out for the team. He not only earned a spot on the roster, he worked his way into the starting line-up.
The road wasn’t smooth from there on out, however. After starting strong at the beginning of the season, Yelovich suffered a mid-season slump and lost his starting spot. Although it would have been easy to get bogged down in the slump, his determination to succeed kept pushing him forward.
“I had to just keep pushing through it,” Yelovich said. “In baseball, slumps are going to happen. I worked on my own and I put in extra work with the coaches to see what I was doing wrong. Slumps are mostly mental, so you have to keep telling yourself you can do it. Finally, you work your way through it.”
Beyond his determination and drive lies a burning passion for the game of baseball.
“I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s what I’ve built my life around,” he said. “It’s been a big part of my life for so long. In some aspect, everything I do is baseball.”
Yelovich has been playing since he was a little boy and hopes to continue playing long after his college eligibility has expired.
“When I was a kid, my parents got me a tee-ball set, which we set up in my basement,” he said. “I played with it all the time. When I was old enough to get signed up for the local leagues, I did. I’ve been playing ever since. I want to play pro ball after college.”
Since coming to K-State, Yelovich’s work ethic has been evident in his statistics. He started 26 games, went 18-for-19 in stolen base attempts, and led the team with 16 infield hits, reaching safely on 12 bunts.
Head coach Brad Hill called Yelovich one of the hardest-working players he’s ever been around, a kid who won’t be out-hustled or outworked by anyone. And Yelovich doesn’t disappoint. Simply reaching his goal of playing Division I baseball isn’t enough.
“You can always get better from last year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys coming in, and by me working hard, it helps them realize the importance of a work-ethic. I want to move to the next level as far as where my game is. I want to keep learning and keep getting better.”
Yelovich’s hard work helped K-State make a strong run at the end of last season, culminating in an appearance in the Big 12 Championship game. That is success that he would like to help K-State enjoy again this season.
“I would love to see us build on last year’s success and continue to improve. I think we can improve where we finish in the final standings and be in the top four in the conference. We have to play our game every game that we have and not focus on our opponent and what they do. We have to focus on baseball and play our game.”
Although the road hasn’t always been easy, Yelovich says the end result has been worth the challenge of getting there.
“These two year that I’ve been here (at K-State) have been beyond anything I could have hoped for. I’m glad I made the decision to come here.”