BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — This was the beginning for Danny Serretti: “My father put a bat in my hand as soon as I could stand,” Serretti recalled. “As soon as I could start walking, there was a ball in our front yard.
“He wanted me to be a lefty, so at age 2 he had me swinging from the left side. I guess that’s when my switch-hitting began.”
Serretti’s father, Dan, in addition to being a big baseball fan, won gymnastics youth national championships in 1982 and 1983.
“I got my athletic genes from my dad,” Serretti said. “He always loved baseball.”
At ages 3 and then 4, Serretti began to closely monitor the shortstop who played for the Yankees at the time.
“No doubt, Derek Jeter was my guy,” Serretti said.
Three outstanding varsity seasons as the shortstop for Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights were followed up by four stellar years of big-time college baseball at the University of North Carolina.
That led to the switch-hitting Serretti receiving the news baseball players dream about: Major League Baseball was impressed enough to desire his services.
Serretti, 22, of Berkeley Heights, was selected by the Detroit Tigers as the 177th pick of last week’s annual Major League Baseball draft, ending his decorated four-year career as the University of North Carolina baseball program’s starting shortstop.
Serretti was the first of five players from North Carolina selected in this year’s MLB draft, which commenced Sunday, July 17, in Los Angeles, Calif.
“That’s a testament to North Carolina and the players they bring in,” Serretti said.
Serretti (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) was chosen by the Detroit Tigers on the draft’s second day, Monday, July 18. Born May 7, 2000, Serretti, the son of parents Jenn and Dan Serretti, graduated from North Carolina this spring with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
A 2018 Governor Livingston graduate who was a three-year varsity starter at shortstop for head baseball coach Chris Roof, Serretti is the only shortstop in school history to win both state and county championships. Serretti — a member of the Math Honors, Athletic Honors and Spanish Honors societies at Governor Livingston — sparked the Highlanders to a championship all three of his varsity seasons. He missed his sophomore season due to injury.
“We’re honored and blessed to have someone that went through our program get drafted to have a shot at playing major league baseball,” Roof said.
Serretti helped Governor Livingston capture its third Group 2 state championship his freshman season in 2015. He then helped guide the Highlanders to another Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional state crown his junior year in 2017. As a senior in 2018, his play was instrumental in leading Governor Livingston to a second UCT championship in three years.
“He’s got everything it takes,” Roof said. “He’s worked his tail off, and, on top of that, he’s a great kid.”
Serretti just completed his redshirt junior year at UNC, where he earned second-team All–Atlantic Coast Conference honors. He was also considered a fourth-year senior this year, since he did play for the Tar Heels during the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season.
This past season, Serretti, who wore No. 1, produced career highs at UNC in every major statistical category. Serretti started all 64 games for baseball coach Scott Forbes, batting a team-high .365 with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs.
Serretti also paced the Tar Heels in on-base percentage at .437 and finished second in the ACC in hits with 96. The switch-hitter frequented the base paths, amassing a 26-game hitting streak and a 33-game on-base streak.
Serretti’s outstanding performance helped lead the UNC baseball program to its second ACC Tournament championship in the last four seasons.
“That’s what I’m most proud of, winning the two ACC Tournament titles,” Serretti said.
North Carolina defeated North Carolina State in this year’s title game in front of a large crowd in Charlotte, N.C. UNC topped Georgia Tech for the crown in Serretti’s freshman year.
Following his all-state baseball career at Governor Livingston, Serretti burst onto the scene in Chapel Hill, earning freshman All-America honors during the 2019 season. His .299 average and 18 doubles were a team high, while his 69 base hits ranked second.
Serretti started 198 of the 199 career games he played for the Tar Heels. He is one of just 10 UNC players in program history to produce 50 doubles.
Serretti finished his collegiate career with a .303 batting average, 22 home runs, 145 RBIs and 237 hits.
“It’s no surprise what he achieved at Carolina,” Roof said. “He’s obviously very talented.”
Serretti reached Lakeland, Fla. on Tuesday, July 19, and took part in post-draft workouts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He had Sunday, July 24, off.
Serretti said on Sunday, July 24, that he would find out this week if he was headed to Detroit’s Low A club, the Lakeland Flying Tigers or its High A club, the West Michigan Whitecaps in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“The next step is trying to get better and play as well as I can and move up the organization as fast as I can,” said Serretti, who last week signed with Detroit for a deal with a $293,300 bonus.
Serretti said the Tigers will be looking at Serretti at shortstop, second base and third base.
“I’m pretty flexible with all three of those infield positions,” Serretti said.
Serretti was home with his family on Monday, July 18, watching the draft and hoping to see his name called. His agent, Bob Barad, who was in Los Angeles, was in close contact on the phone with Serretti and at one point called him to tell him to turn on the TV.
“I was getting nervous because it was getting later in the range. My agent and I thought I was going to be picked,” Serretti said. “At first I was relieved when it happened.
“My parents were super happy. I grew up a huge Yankees fan, but now the Tigers are my team. It all started to sink in later on.
“I’ve been working toward this my whole life. All the hours and all the money spent to play this game kind of paid off.”
Photos Courtesy of University of North Carolina and College Baseball Daily