Daren Manheimer from Vancouver, Wash., is a Little Leaguer® in the Hazel Dell Little League.
By: Luke Ramirez
“Staying positive” is a commonly used cliché in sports, especially in baseball, where failing 70 percent of the time still makes you a great hitter. The ups-and-downs of the sport are unique to any other struggles an athlete can go through.
For Daren Manheimer, 18, “staying positive” on the game, and in life, is much more than just a press-conference soundbite.
“My mantra is: ‘A negative mind will never bring you a positive life’,” shared Daren. “That has really helped me through the tough times I have faced.”
Born without his lower right leg, Daren was fitted with a prosthetic at a young age. Despite the prosthetic, he was eager to try Little League® like many other boys and girls his age.
At five years old, Daren was inspired to play baseball after watching his cousin on the diamond and patiently waited for one of the games to end. Once both teams cleared the field, Daren and his father, Ian, went out to the mound and played catch. Just like that, he was hooked.
“I threw a pitch to my dad on the same mound that my cousin threw from and was actually hitting the glove,” said Daren. “That’s when I knew I had to start playing Little League.”
Daren began his baseball career with his brother, Gavin, at Hazel Dell Little League in Vancouver, Wash., on a team coached by his father, and played the game with a fire inside him to become a better player every day.
“He has been self-driven his whole career,” said Ian Manheimer. “I was doing everything I could to keep up with his drive to become a better player.”
One of the biggest testaments to the never-quit attitude that Daren carried with him on the diamond came on a day after the fields at Hazel Dell had taken on a lot of water from a rainy week. After hitting a sharp ground ball to the third baseman, he bolted out of the batter’s box eyeing an infield single.
Born without his lower right leg, Daren Manheimer was fitted with a prosthetic at a young age. Despite the prosthetic, he was eager to try Little League® like many other boys and girls his age.
“He was really moving down the line as I recall,” said Mr. Manheimer. “He was running so fast that the cleat he wore on his prosthetic got stuck in the mud and wouldn’t budge.”
Daren fell to the ground, but quickly got back up and hopped to the bag, his left foot hitting the bag just as the first baseman caught the ball. He was called out on the play and made his way back to the dugout, but not before retrieving his prosthetic that stood straight up in the middle of the base path.
“That’s the type of kid that Daren is,” said Mr. Manheimer. “He’s always going to fight to be the best he can be.”
While the family and friends that he’s made through baseball will always look back and chuckle at that story, it would prove to mean much more to Daren later in his life.
Striving to play high school baseball, Daren earned a roster spot on the Columbia River High School’s junior varsity team as a sophomore and junior.
“As I grew older, it got more complicated knowing the risk of being cut in high school, and I started to beat myself up as a sophomore because I was underperforming,” said Daren. “I went through some stress about my leg holding me back and I wasn’t having fun anymore.”
Battling depression, Daren chose to reflect on the days in Little League when he was just a kid who loved to play baseball and remembered the fun times he shared with his brother, father, and friends.
His mantra was soon confirmed when he was given a grant for a new sports-designed prosthetic leg, much like the ones worn by Paralympians. The upgrade helped Daren make the varsity team as a senior where he saw regular playing time as the team’s first baseman.
“Looking back at Little League, I’ll always remember the story about my leg coming off running down the first-base line,” said Daren. “That moment gave me the mentality of putting my mind to something and doing it.”
Daren says he plans to pursue his baseball career as far as he can. While it’s easy to say that he is at a disadvantage to other college baseball players, the challenges he has overcome and the positive attitude he has developed from his Little League days will no doubt be his greatest advantage.