Dillon Bell: Outrageous and Outstanding
This is no surprise considering his stat line this season. The redshirt sophomore is batting .333 with 25 RBI, has the second-most home runs on the team with four, and he’s sporting .484 slugging percentage to go along with .388 on-base-percentage. However, it’s not obvious to assume UCI’s biggest offensive surprise is outrageous given his poise in the batters box and his incessant work ethic in between games. Don’t be fooled—Bell isn’t nearly as serious a person as he is a baseball workaholic. Just ask his teammates.
“My teammates would probably say I’m outrageous. I’m part of ‘The Company,'” Bell said.
“The Company,” of course, is the name of the Anteaters’ pre-game skit ritual. It was created by Bell, center fielder Ollie Linton and relief pitcher Chris Lopez. Believe it or not, the skits are nothing but outrageous.
“The craziest one we did was last year in Wichita. We did a Jerry Springer skit—lots of incest in that one,” said Bell.
As crazy as it sounds, “The Company” is one of the many components to Bell’s success. Aside from having a picture-perfect swing that even he admits to not having to ever tweak, Bell’s mentality makes him impervious to mental slumps.
“You know, it’s a game. When you think of it as a job, that’s when you struggle. I’ve always thought if I’m having fun, I’ll do well,” he said.
Without a doubt, Bell’s been having tons of fun lately, but it certainly wasn’t that way from the get-go.
During the first half of the season, Bell was rarely penciled into the starting lineup. Given the surplus of potent UCI outfielders, there was a constant shuffle between who would start in the corner outfield spots. The competition was stiff between Bell, Sean Madigan, Tony Asaro and Brock Bardeen.
“We all knew we were getting switched off, but we all wanted each other to succeed, even if that meant one of us wouldn’t be playing as much,” he said.
“It’s a competition, for sure. But in the end that’s your teammate. If he does well, your team does well—that’s what you really want.”
Bell was given his shot to win the job early on but confesses he fumbled the opportunity as he got in the habit of being over-aggressive and swinging at bad pitches.
Fortunately for Bell, it doesn’t take a baseball fan to recognize the beauty of his swing. Everything looks perfect—even when everything goes wrong. His swing is uncommonly quick and compact. So every time Bell strikes out, it seems like an anomaly. There’s no way a swing that aesthetically pleasing can stay in a slump for long. The coaches realized this, and the Anteaters reaped the rewards shortly after.
The turning point of the season for Bell came in New Mexico, where he simply dominated. The sweet-swinging lefty collected six hits, two home runs and eight RBI to lead the Anteaters to a three-game sweep.
“New Mexico was a great series. Every time I got to the plate, it seemed like they were throwing the exact pitch I was looking for, and every time I got it, I felt like I could hit anything. It was unreal.”
Actually, given the way he’s continued to terrorize opposing pitchers, it wasn’t unreal at all—more like outrageous.
As his majestic stroke kept delivering, he quickly entrenched his name as a perennial starter in the outfield and in the middle of the lineup. After the New Mexico series, Bell came home to feast on Pacific pitching, collecting seven hits in three games, including a career-high four in one of the contests. Nevertheless, Bell doesn’t let himself get too comfortable.
“Once you’re in the lineup, you have to work to stay in the lineup. You’re always working. No matter what your situation is you have to work harder or you won’t be getting the rewards,” he said.
It wasn’t long ago that Bell skeptically checked the lineup card before games to see if he was playing. Now he has solidified himself as UCI’s right fielder—right next to Linton, his outrageous partner in crime. Don’t think for a second they’re fun-and-games is put to the side during game-time. Remember, Bell is only playing well when he’s having fun.
“The weirdest thing that happens in the outfield is when a fly-ball gets hit to Ollie, we all say, ‘Ollie! Ollie! Ollie!’ then he says, ‘Owi! Owi! Owi!’ It’s outrageous!” said Bell.
In spite of all the outrageousness, it’s hard to argue with the results. Even in the outfield Bell has made a name for himself by making a few spectacular diving catches and showing off his laserbeam throwing arm.
It may have taken him half the season to ingrain his name in the everyday lineup, but Bell has unquestionably established himself as one of the finest players in the Big West. Without his emergence, the Anteaters would be hard-pressed to make the postseason. Assistant Head Coach Pat Shine attributes Bell’s extraordinary development to his relentless work ethic. Bell is a prime example of the game rewarding the right players—outrageous ones.