For most 12-year-olds, it takes hours of practice and dedication to earn a trip to South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the Little League World Series. For Montesano resident Cole Daniels, the hours were spent picking up garbage after games, eating lunch with special needs children at school, coaching the younger athletes and just being the person he is everyday.
Minutes after Daniels was named to the Montesano Little League’s 11- and 12-year-old all star team, he learned that one of his dreams had come true. The 12-year-old was selected as the 2014 Good Sport Award receipient for Little League. A national award given to only one Little Leaguer in the country, the Good Sport Award is given to an individual who has demonstrated superior qualities of sportsmanship, leadership, a committment to teamwork and a desire to excel. The award alone is a special honor for Daniels, but along with it comes a trip to accept the award at the Little League World Series from Aug. 19 through 25.
“I’ve watched it on TV and always dreamed of going. It is just a shocker,” Daniels said. “It is just really cool to get this honor. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It totally caught me unexpected.”
Often award submissions for national competitions almost get lost among the large amount of letters from all over the country. When Montesano Little League’s Steve Bove nominated Daniels, he was sure the letter would stand out just as much as Cole does. One story that stood out from Bove’s letter to nominate Daniels happened at the Montesano Little League opening ceremonies earlier this year. Bove asked Evan Gentry, who is legally blind, to throw out the first pitch, but he also needed someone to help Gentry through the special moment. Bove immediately thought of Daniels. When the time came to make the throw, Gentry hurled the ball to the plate, but with all of the cheering he began to get nervous. Daniels leaned in and whispered to Gentry that he had done well and to enjoy the moment and told him he hoped he continued on it baseball.
“There is not a kid that deserved it more,” Bove said. “He is not your ordinary 12-year-old kid. As a baseball player he is phenomenal, but as a person he is even better. If he never steps foot on a baseball field again he is still an all-star. He is everything that you read Little League is supposed to be about. It is not every day that you see this. I couldn’t think of anybody better.”
With two younger brothers, Cole often spends hours after his own baseball practice watching the younger teams compete. While some would complain or find a reason to leave, Daniels stays to help anyway he can from emptying garbage cans to giving words of encouragement and the occasional coaching tip to the younger players.
“Cole is a cheerleader,” Cole’s mother Kellie Daniels said. “If a little boy isn’t doing that well, he is the first one there to pick him up. He will be coaching the 9-year-olds saying ‘Don’t get upset. It will be alright.’ There are a lot of stories where Cole will go out of his way without being prompted to help someone younger or help someone who needs an extra hand.”
As a centerfielder, shortstop and pitcher during this season, Cole has excelled, but he is the dictionary definition of sportsmanship. No matter the sport, Daniels puts aside the competition to help build up and encourage others.
“During wrestling season if he pins a guy he helps him up and gives him a hug and tells him great job,” Cole’s father Corey Daniels said. “That is just who he is. It is genuinely sincere.”
Daniels is the same kind and encouraging individual on and off the field. During school he is almost never seen without a smile on his face, and during lunch time he goes out of his way to sit with special need students.
“Every time I walk out of my classroom Cole has a smile on his face,” Simpson Elementary para-educator Roxane Didion said. “I see him interacting with all of the kids, it doesn’t matter who they are. He is just so very kind and very thoughtful. He never thinks of himself. He is always looking out for the person next to him.”
With all that, Cole Daniels has done to help others over the past few years of Little League, it wasn’t just himself he was thinking of just moments after getting the trip of a lifetime for a young baseball fan. Daniels weaved his excitement into a wish for his team to join him by being one of the final eight teams in the country.
“I’ve only been to like three states and Washington in my life and this is going to be really fun,” Cole Daniels said. “I just hope my team will make it there for baseball.”