The third Tuesday in March was a perfect day to come out and watch America’s pastime in Orange County. The smog had seemingly vanished and the sun was high shining through the crystal clear sky as fans, parents, and scouts all ushered in to fill the stands at the Fullerton College baseball field. With pre-game tunes blaring through the loudspeakers, the Hornets took the field with a little extra swagger, knowing their ace was on the mound. All signs pointed to a typical home game against conference foe Irvine Valley College. However, with a former MLB icon on-hand analyzing his every pitch, the stakes were high for one athlete.
Under the watchful eye of legendary former Angels closer and newly hired UC Riverside head baseball coach Troy Percival, Hornets sophomore starting pitcher Dylan Prohoroff delivered a performance that justified the countless hours he has poured into his craft. Moreover, it served as validation for the sudden influx of attention Prohoroff has been garnering from scouts and universities vying for his services next season.
The 20-year-old Prohoroff looks every bit the part of the prototypical ace of a pitching staff. Peering over his glove with beads of sweat collecting on his brow, Prohoroff stands atop the mound at 6’3″ and 205 pounds, routinely firing 90-plus mph fastballs past opposing batters, leaving them shaking their heads as they walk back to the dugout.
Like many athletes though, Prohoroff’s success didn’t happen overnight. Nor did his journey come without its share of adversity.
Sports fans often see their favorite athlete on the field and assume that talent is what lies beneath success. However, attributing an athlete’s success to their talent alone would be discounting the arduous journey, filled with thousands of hours of hard work and sometimes even incredible circumstances that led to them being the athlete they have become.
Although the level of attention he is receiving now has not always been there, Prohoroff’s love for the game of baseball definitely has. His parents, Steve and Christine Prohoroff recall the moment they knew their son was going to be a baseball player like it was yesterday.
“We knew on his second birthday, he picked up his glove out of all of his gifts and he never put it down,” Steve said.
Prohoroff picked up pitching at the age of seven and never looked back. Although he had some success, Prohoroff was never the most highly touted pitcher growing up.
Playing in Pony League baseball as a young pitcher, he fought hard to make all-star teams. As a result of his work schedule, Steve only had a chance to help coach one season. Christine recalls how that forced her son to work even harder to get noticed over the other kids whose parents coached.
“I call it daddy ball, he never got that. He was never the one who got special attention because he was never on the inside,” Christine said.
Dylan grew up just a couple miles east of the FC campus in Placentia and attended Valencia High School. As a two-way player at Valencia, Prohoroff led the team in batting his senior year, but knew that he wanted to be a pitcher at the next level.
With graduation approaching, Prohoroff was not receiving many offers so he decided to stay close to home and attend FC, where he knew he could work on his game.
“He has always had to fight for everything. He has been the underdog and he would always prove them wrong,” Christine said. “Dylan has always had to fight, so I think that is what made him a better player.”
Dylan took that fighting mentality to the next level once at FC. He routinely spends two or three hours in the gym lifting weights and improving his cardio nearly everyday. Most incredibly, the days he pitches are no exception.
“He goes and pitches a complete game and still goes to the gym afterwards. For him to go to the gym for two or three hours after that is just wild, it’s unheard of,” Steve said.
In lieu of having his own private lessons and personal trainers like many young athletes do, Dylan has taken it upon himself to improve his game and add to his workout regiment by constantly reviewing instructional videos.
The anchor of the Hornets staff is singularly focused on getting to the next level. As a result, he cuts out anything that will impede his progress on the mound.
“He doesn’t go out and party. He doesn’t go out to places other kids are going out to,” Christine said. “You know he wants to ultimately get drafted one day so he stays in, he tells me, ‘Mom I need to stay focused and that isn’t going to do it for me.'”
Dylan’s self-crafted regiment is beginning to reap its rewards. Nobody is looking past him anymore. He is currently leading the Orange Empire Conference in most statistical pitching categories, including; a 1.47 ERA, most wins with eight, strikeouts with 73, and batting average against is way down at .197.
“Dylan has been special this year, he has been phenomenal for us every time out there,” said Nick Fuscardo, head coach of the baseball team.
Hornets catcher Garret Basehart described Prohoroff as having a bulldog mentaility when he is out playing on the field.
To truly understand Dylan’s journey and where his intense competitive drive stems from, you must look no further than his parents. Dylan has gleaned much of his inspiration watching how Christine faces her own battle everyday.
During a routine pre-natal visit, Christine’s doctor informed her of some shockingly difficult news that would forever impact the Prohoroff family.
“Well I actually got diagnosed with kidney disease when I was pregnant with Dylan. He is my only child and the doctor told me it would be between 2-20 years before I would develop full blown kidney failure.”
With her son on the way, Christine and Steve took the news the only way they knew how. People can go one of two ways when faced with crisis like this, either you can allow it to consume you or in the Prohoroff’s case, you can approach each day with optimism and appreciate the time you have.
“I could sit there and be depressed about it, or I could just keep pushing forward and stay positive, so that is the what I always did,” Christine said.
Naturally it was difficult to process initially for the Prohoroffs, but Christine decided early on that she refused to allow her condition to sway her effervescent attitude. In fact, seeing Christine at each and every game you would never know she was sick.
Listening to her son talk about what Christine was like growing up, you begin to see where Prohoroff’s bulldog mentality derives from.
“Just knowing how she battled with that, always maintaining an optimistic outlook on life, just seeing that everyday shaped me into the person that I am today,” Dylan said.
The connection between the way Dylan approaches his craft on the mound and his mom’s courageousness instilled at home is evident. In microcosm, that parallel was on display back at the IVC game.
Before the intense gaze of the onlooking Percival, a pinnacle moment arose that would bring out all of the traits that coaches look for in a player. Unknowingly, Dylan was given the opportunity to show off something more than just pitching skills. It’s that thing that cannot be taught that propels athletes over the top in crisis, they call it moxie.
With one out in the seventh inning, a sinking pop fly to right-center caused two Hornets outfielders to collide and miss the ball, allowing the IVC batter to trot into second base safely. With his pitch count rising north of 100 Prohoroff walked the next batter, bringing the go ahead run up to the plate.
Clinging to a 3-1 lead with fatigue noticeably setting in, Dylan dug deep and delivered some of his best pitches of the contest, getting the very next batter to ground into a double play that ended the inning and silenced all the chatter coming from the opposing dugout.
“I just relax and take it pitch by pitch and just go for the next batter and control what I can control. That’s the phrase of the year,” Dylan said. “I have so much confidence when I am on the mound because I know all the hard work that I have put in on and off the field. I believe I can execute my pitches at all times.”
Percival saw all he needed to see at that moment. He immediately got up and asked Fuscardo to introduce him to Steve and Christine. Just a couple hours later the Prohoroff’s received a call from an eager Percival.
“[Percival] called that night… he said ‘I want to make you a Highlander’,” said Steve.
Dylan wound up with a complete game against the Gauchos, retiring the final seven batters without relinquishing a hit.
“That is what they love about Dylan. That is what every coach tells us, they love the fact that he is a workhorse,” said Christine.
With this seasons success, Dylan is attracting the attention from some high profile coaches and Division I baseball programs. In addition to Percival at UCR, he has also recently received offers from several other universities, most notably, the University of Arizona and San Diego State University, both schools are perennial top-25 caliber programs.
“I have been fortunate. I’d say the past two weeks to a month I’ve had a pretty good amount of schools just start contacting me and asking for visits,” Dylan said. “It’s crazy, in high school I had a couple offers, but nothing like this and it seems like it just came out of nowhere. It’s been a crazy process, but I am just enjoying every minute of it.”
The extra attention has been a bit of a welcome surprise. However, Dylan modestly admits that it can put added pressure on him, but nothing that he hasn’t prepared for.
“That is part of the process when you are talking to schools and they ask when you are throwing and say they are going to be there. It is nerve racking, but I just got to know that I have worked hard and I am ready for it.”
Dylan attributes his success to the values instilled at home, insisting that his parents always put things in perspective by letting him know that baseball was a privilege and not to take that for granted.
“We always taught him to stay humble because things could turn very quickly,” Steve said. “Know where you came from, what you have worked and fought for, but stay humble.”
Watching his mom battle kidney disease has also had a profound affect on how Dylan approaches everything in life.
“She always taught me to have a positive outlook on life and live everyday to the fullest. Whether it’s baseball, weight lifting or whatever it is, I always think I’m doing this for my mom,” Dylan said. “If she can go through everything that she has gone through and stay optimistic, then why can’t I.”
With a prognosis of 2-20 years, Christine has fought her kidney failing much longer than most doctors expected. This past year though, it eventually progressed. She is currently on the list for a kidney transplant. Despite her battle with kidney disease becoming even more serious of late, Christine continues to stay optimistic.
While Christine is on dialysis now, she still never misses a game.
“I actually do all of my treatments at home myself. I don’t even want to go into the dialysis center because I don’t want to be around sickness.”
Dylan’s journey has paved a two way street of inspiration. The strength that Christine has shown throughout her son’s life has developed a strength within him that she now thrives off of.
“That is why I come to all of his games, seeing Dylan play gives me reason to get up and do something.”
Christine exudes an unshakeable optimism, as she awaits that phone call from her doctor one day.
“I am just waiting for that transplant and when that happens I will be feeling like a million bucks!”
The mother-son duo serve as motivation for one another, fostering a relationship of reciprocal inspiration. Whether it is home or away, Christine is at all of her son’s games. Even if he is not on the hill that day, you will see her emphatically cheering the Hornets on.
Dylan is looking forward to transferring next year and playing for a NCAA Division-I baseball program. In addition to UC Riverside and San Diego State, Dylan is also strongly considering the University of Arizona as well.
Of course, Steve and Christine explained that they are hoping that he stays somewhere local so that they can still make it to all of his games.
In addition to excelling on the baseball diamond, Prohoroff is also a Deans List student. As demanding as being a student athlete can be, he maintains a 3.71 GPA and plans on pursuing a business degree when he transfers.
Moving on to a Division-I university is just the next step in his longer journey. Prohoroff ultimately has aspirations of getting drafted and playing professional baseball one day.
Brimming with excitement, Dylan still dreams about the day he hears his name called in the MLB draft.
“It would be the greatest day of my life. I mean I have been working so hard every day since I was born pretty much, that has been my dream. Words wouldn’t even be able to describe it.”
With Dylan well on his way to making an impact at the next level, that day might not be too far off.