I’ve written hundreds, no, more like a few thousand stories in a career that began in junior high in the 1970s. So, I know writing feature stories on athletes can be tricky. You want to hit the mark. You don’t want to oversell or undersell. You want the reader to get to know the athlete.
Dominick Yarson may not be playing baseball next year for Vanderbilt or LSU or Mississippi State, but something fleshes out pretty quickly when you talk to him and to those who know him best as a player.
What comes quickly to mind is you want to be Dom’s teammate, too. He is that much fun to play baseball with.
“Everyone likes Dom,” says Chris Banos, who coached Yarson’s Diamond Jacks 18U Gold team in the fall. “He talks to everyone on the team. He’s constantly in the game. His approach rubs off on everyone else.”
Says Chris Brown, who coached Yarson during three separate seasons with the Diamond Jacks, “You know Dom is going to compete in whatever situation you put him in. And he knows he’s going to get it done. His effort will always be there. He’s the kind of player who makes his coach feel good. And comfortable.”
His Ewing High School coach, Dave Angebranndt, perhaps put it best, “He’s a baseball player, not just a kid playing baseball. That’s the difference between Dom and the average kid.”
Yarson committed to New Jersey City State University the day before Thanksgiving to ensure he will get four more years on the diamond, spreading his love of the game to more unsuspecting souls at the collegiate level. He will do so against some of the very best Division 3 baseball has to offer in the mighty New Jersey Athletic Conference.
Yarson certainly seems like an ideal fit for head coach Jerry Smith’s Gothic Knights squad. We got to know the Kean grad during his high school coaching days, especially when he guided JFK-Iselin to the NJSIAA Group 3 championship in 2009. Smith and Yarson began exchanging text messages last spring.
“That started the process,” says Yarson. “Coach Smith asked about my grades, what I wanted to major in, stuff like that. A month later I spoke to him on the phone and he said I’d have an opportunity to play there.”
Well, Yarson can talk baseball so we can guess that Smith enjoyed that phone conversation as much as his recruit.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted in a school until I went there,” said Yarson. “When I visited Jersey City on November 15, I was hooked. I was really comfortable there. The facilities are great. I love how the field is right on the water. I love the gym for indoor practices. Coach Smith mentioned a lot about the personal growth thing. I liked that. We talked about life aside from baseball.”
And the opportunity to play college ball right away was a big pull for a young ball player who cannot seem to get enough of the game. He’ll have that opportunity in perhaps the best Division 3 college baseball conference in the nation. “I’m excited about the great competition in our league,” said Yarson.
While Yarson’s love and passion for the game is what drives him and certainly has a great deal to do with his success, there is also a healthy amount of moxy that emerges as well.
“Dom is just a smart kid,” says Angebranndt. “He’s savvy, gritty. I would describe him as a dude, a kid who wants the ball in his hand. And one who doesn’t want it taken out of his hand, as well.”
Yarson batted .357 and pitched some big innings for a 4-13 Ewing team that struggled in the Colonial Valley Conference against such perennially rugged competition as Steinert, Hamilton West, Robbinsville, Hopewell Valley and Allentown. Angebranndt recalls one tense encounter with Yarson when he pulled him from the mound with Ewing holding dearly to a one run lead against Princeton.
“He pitched six strong innings and we were ahead, 2-1,” said Angebranndt, a catcher during his playing days at his alma mater, Ewing, and in college for Mercer County College and then Delaware. “It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. I brought in our closer. Dom looked at me like he wanted to kill me. Then we lost the game. But that’s the kind of player you want playing for you, one who is furious when you take the ball from him.”
Yarson played mostly in the middle infield when he wasn’t pitching and that carried over to summer ball with the Diamond Jacks 17U Gold team, coached by Brian DelRosso. But DelRosso discerned the growing 6-2, 165-pound Yarson’s true position was a bit to the left.
“I thought Dom was athletic enough to play on the left side of the infield,” said DelRosso. “He has the skills to play that side and he picked up third base very naturally.”
Yarson saw in DelRosso a coach who trusted him, so he repaid that trust with a willingness to make a change.
“DelRo is very laid back but he is also all about putting the responsibility on you when it comes to getting better,” said Yarson. “I’ve gotten more comfortable at third. The ball gets up on you a lot quicker, so your reaction time has to be a lot better. It’s a longer throw but you have time to make a good one. I’ve adapted well.”
Bunt defense has been a big adjustment for Yarson, as well. “You have to learn to read the bunt, knowing, for example, whether the pitcher will field it while you stay home. A lot of it is situational.”
DelRosso would find many valuable uses for Yarson.
“Dom is a coach’s treat,” said DelRosso. “He can play anywhere you need him. He can pitch, play defense and hit. Any opportunity he was given on the field he seemed to take advantage of. His flexibility as a player will be very useful at the next level.”
A strong spring and summer evolved for Yarson into a fall season with yet another coach, his third in six months. This time it was Banos’ turn to meet, greet and coach the player who seemed to be absorbing baseball knowledge at a frenetic pace from a variety of valuable sources. But, first, Yarson had to take in Banos’ no nonsense approach.
“That was a huge change (from DelRosso), honestly,” said Yarson. “Coach Banos is straight up and doesn’t sugarcoat things.” But with Yarson’s intense focus on the field, it is not surprising the coach and player took to each other. “I couldn’t be more happy to have played for coach Banos. He’s the man.”
Banos quickly learned the qualities that have helped make Yarson a good ball player.
“There’s not much not to like about him,” said Banos. “He’s such a hard worker and that makes everyone around him better. He had some big at bats and big hits for us in the fall. He threw well, too. He attacks the game and does that on the mound, too. He’s aggressive. He comes right at you. He throws hard and has a very good curveball. And he really doesn’t walk anybody.”
Brown had Yarson’s services at two different age levels over three seasons and smiled broadly at the first mention of Yarson’s name.
“Dom’s a blast to be around,” laughed Brown. “He brings a lot of energy. He has a positive mindset. He’s a guy who can play all three infield positions, short, second and third, and when I needed him to close, he closed for us. He throws strikes and he has a good curveball.”
Brown will be interested to learn that Angebranndt has plans for Yarson to play some first base, as well, this spring to preserve the arm of the ace of the Ewing staff.
“Dom hit third or fourth in our lineup and he batted .300 all three seasons I had him,” said Brown. “He has good hands and a good feel for the strike zone and a good approach at the plate.”
Yarson played as a freshman at Ewing in 2019, so the loss of the 2020 to COVID thrust him suddenly into a leadership role in 2021.
“Knowing we were coming back from the (lost) COVID year, we needed to take pride in our work,” said Yarson. “Having played as a freshman gave me a little advantage. I played relaxed, knowing what to expect and I tried to help my younger teammates with that.”
Yarson saw the ball well at the plate and pitched well in 2021. More of that success this spring will keep his options open as a potential two-way player at Jersey City.
“I was recruited as a third baseman,” he said. “But the option stands for a possibility to get on the mound there. Wherever they feel they need me, I’m good with that.”
First, Yarson is pumped for his senior season at Ewing and the promising prospects embodied in the 2022 Blue Devils team.
“We definitely have better potential this year,” said Yarson. Wagner-bound senior shortstop Ryan Leary, who played varsity as a freshman with Yarson, and William Paterson-bound second baseman Kenric Davis fortify the Ewing lineup. “We have more leaders this year, so I’m excited about that.”
Just a month away now from the first preseason practice, Yarson will continue his winter regimen, all designed to bring a closing flourish to his high school career with the betterment of his Ewing team front-and-center.
“Coach Angebranndt asked me after I committed, ‘What does that mean for my pitching this spring.’ He knew I was recruited as a third baseman,” said Yarson. “I’ve definitely devoted a lot to my pitching. I’m throwing every Friday and will step up my bullpens soon. I believe I’m taking on the role of ace of the staff, like last year.”
Called that a big question answered in the positive.
“I’ve formed a very good relationship with coach Angebranndt,” said Yarson. “I like him and respect his decisions. We’ve had our disagreements but that has only made us closer.”
Angebranndt is looking forward to whatever the 2022 season brings.
“It’s been a pleasure to see Dom grow in the game,” said Angebranndt. “Hopefully he puts all of his hard work into action this spring. We will be better this year. I want Dom and his teammates to experience that team success.”
FINAL NOTE: Yarson’s older brother, Anthony, plays college ball. He’s a senior at Immaculata University in East Whiteland, Pa. But the baseball lineage in his family goes back much further. Dom’s grandfather, Frank Rubino, 79, played 765 games over seven years at shortstop in the Phillies organization, reaching the Triple-A level in 1965. Rubino concluded his professional career in 1967.
“Dom has that knowledge of the game that allows him to succeed,” said Angebranndt. And he clearly didn’t have to go far to find his sources.