Everyone seems to have a favorite Dan Przybylski story.
Fallston coach Mark Puckett most vividly - and affectionately - recalled the Cougars' Class 3A North baseball final with Franklin last year. With his team down to its last out, Przybylski hit a 380-foot home run to tie a game that Fallston eventually won.
For teammate Fred Dimpfel, it was the shot Przybylski hit against Harford Tech last year, the ball embedding in the roof of a firehouse 415 feet away.
"That ball," Dimpfel said, "just exploded off his bat."
"He's the type of player that we're going to be talking about for a long time," Puckett said. "Whether it's the one he hit off the firehouse or not being able to go through practice without getting his uniform dirty. ... The people who have played with him, or watched him play, there's always a Dan Przybylski story."
The All-Metro first-team performer is having another big year for the No. 5 Cougars (6-1).
Entering his team's two games yesterday in the Hammond Tournament in Howard County, Przybylski (pronounced PRIS-BILL-SKI), who has moved from shortstop to second base after last year, when he was named Harford County Player of the Year, is hitting .435 with eight RBIs, 14 runs, four stolen bases and five extra-base hits, including one home run.
Przybylski has an intense focus on the diamond, which contrasts greatly with his easygoing, off-the-field demeanor. Puckett compares him to Clark Kent, Superman's alter ego.
"I am pretty quiet, but when I get out there, something just clicks in my head," said Przybylski, whose all-out approach in baseball and basketball has earned him the nickname "Beast." "Even in basketball, I pretty much dive all over the floor. I guess sports just does it for me."
There is also his propensity for making a splash at important moments. The home run against Franklin kept the season alive, but it was just the latest of clutch hits Przybylski produced for the Cougars last season.
In a regular-season showdown with North Harford, he drove in the tying run with a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh as Fallston edged out the Hawks and went on to win the county title.
"I live for the situations that other people wouldn't want to be in, like being up in a position to make the last out of the season," Przybylski said. "Not one thought went through my mind that I was going to make an out."
Added Puckett: "Pressure affects people in different ways, and I feel like the bigger the moment, the better Dan is. You sort of expect him to do something special when you really need him to."
It didn't take Puckett, who returned to coach Fallston in 2002 after a nine-year hiatus, long to recognize Przybylski's talent.
So impressed was he by Przybylski as a sophomore in his first varsity season, Puckett moved incumbent shortstop Drew White, who earned All-Metro honors, to third, opening a spot for Przybylski.
Przybylski hit .375 that year, but it was last season when he took off. Puckett put him in the leadoff slot -"he puts pressure on teams right away," said Puckett - and the junior delivered.
At 5 feet 10, 180 pounds, Przybylski, generating power with his strong legs and quick hip rotation, slammed five home runs and led the county in runs (36), triples (six) and RBIs (28). He also stole 13 bases.
But a tremendous season turned slightly sour in the 3A state semifinals. Przybylski hit an RBI triple in the game, but his two errors at shortstop contributed to Patuxent's 6-4 comeback victory over the Cougars.
Przybylski was so adamant that he let his team down, he apologized to his teammates on The Sun's high school TV sports show, on which he was being honored as Athlete of the Week.
"I told [my teammates] that will never happen again," he said.
Przybylski spent the summer trying to make sure of that. Noted for hauling around a bat and working on his swing at every opportunity - Przybylski is the school's yearbook editor, but occasionally escapes from his duties to take some cuts - the senior turned his attention to his fielding.
He took nearly 100 ground balls a day over the summer to prepare, often summoning Dimpfel to join him. At halftime of Cougars field hockey games in the fall - Przybylski was a team manager - he would go beyond the goal and work on his throwing and catching.
"He has it down where he thinks fielding is a confidence issue and he's done everything physically; he just wants to be perfect mentally," Dimpfel said.
Meanwhile, Przybylski, whom Puckett said is much improved in the field, still calls on other means of motivation, both for the team, for which he is a captain, and for himself.
He keeps copies of the article chronicling the Cougars' loss in the state semifinals last year in his room at home, in his car and in his locker at school. He also makes sure to tape a copy in his team's dugout before practices and games.
"I don't care if I'm All-Metro this year. I just want a state title," said Przybylski, whose Eagle Scout project later this month will revolve around refurbishing the Fallston dugout.
The senior also believes he has something to prove. Aside from Division III Salisbury, no other school has recruited the senior. However, he has been accepted at Maryland and said he'll probably try for a walk-on spot on the baseball team.
"People are saying that I'm not going to play if I go to Maryland, but I'm not sitting the bench," Przybylski said. "I'll be working as hard as ever, and I'll be prepared to play. If I get one shot, I won't let myself fail."