Sunday, April 21

Daniel Amaral reflects on growth as baseball player, family legacy at UCLA

Former UCLA outfielder Daniel Amaral continued his family's tradition of playing ball at UCLA, looking to his father Rich Amaral and his older brother Beau Amaral for guidance on and off the field. (Ken Shin/Daily Bruin staff)

Former UCLA outfielder Daniel Amaral continued his family's tradition of playing ball at UCLA, looking to his father Rich Amaral and his older brother Beau Amaral for guidance on and off the field. (Ken Shin/Daily Bruin staff)

Daniel Amaral grew up admiring – as many boys do – his father.

And like many of his former UCLA baseball teammates, he also grew up admiring a major league baseball player.

But for Amaral, those two idols were one and the same.

His dad, Rich Amaral, was a professional ballplayer for 18 years, spending 12 years in the minors before breaking into the big leagues in 1991.

“He grinded through it,” Daniel Amaral said. “It says a lot about his personality and who he is as a person to not throw in the towel, which a lot of guys would.”

His father retired from baseball in 2000, finishing his career with a .276 batting average in stints with the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. Despite admiring his father on the field, Daniel was just 3 years old when his father hung up his cleats.

“I did go (to his games), but I was too young to really remember,” Daniel Amaral said. “It’s … a bittersweet kind of thing.”

He and his father aren’t the only ballplayers in their family, and they aren’t the only Bruins either. Rich Amaral – who is now a scout for the Kansas City Royals – and his wife, Michele Amaral, are both UCLA alumni. Daniel Amaral’s older brother Beau Amaral played for UCLA baseball from 2010-2012, and his sister Jessica Amaral was a softball player for the Bruins from 2014-2015.

“There’s just so much trust in his gene pool. The athleticism in the family is just exceptional and you have to look at that,” said coach John Savage. “You have to look at the family tree – it trickles down to athleticism and mentality.”

The Amarals aren’t only ballplayers, however. They’re a normal family and an extremely tight-knit group, Daniel Amaral said.

“My brother and I are really close, he’s going to be the best man at my wedding,” he said. “My sister and I are very close as well. … My whole family, we’re really close. It’s really cool. I’m very lucky.”

Just like any other dad, Rich Amaral volunteered to be Daniel Amaral’s little league coach. And just like any other son, he could sometimes be a little tough to handle, Daniel Amaral said.

“He has played millions of games, it’s incredible,” he said. “But I was actually really stubborn when I was younger, so I wouldn’t take his advice for some reason.”

Despite his self-proclaimed stubbornness at a young age, Daniel Amaral had his dad act as his personal hitting coach throughout high school. He said that while he has shaped his entire game around his father’s, he has especially zeroed in on his base running.

“Everything with base running – how to steal a base, my lead and different things – that’s all him,” he said. “We talk about it all the time, how to get better. … It’s the little things, like maintenance.”

Rich Amaral said his son may have been humble as he grew up, but from his perspective, Daniel Amaral was further along than he gave himself credit for.

“The more I coached him, the worse he got,” Rich Amaral said. “I was better off leaving him alone and letting him do his thing.”

Daniel Amaral’s high school years were an eventful time for the family on the diamond. He was All-State and a three-time varsity letter winner at Huntington Beach High School, while his sister was in the midst of her softball career at UCLA.

It was also the time when Beau Amaral was selected in the MLB Draft.

“I remember sitting in science class listening to the draft, just waiting for him to be called,” Daniel Amaral said. “Then I had to go to practice and I didn’t hear anything. I just remember him getting drafted in the seventh round, that’s it.”

Beau Amaral was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh round of the 2012 MLB Draft after posting a .322 batting average and over 100 RBIs during his career at UCLA. And while Savage said that he thinks Beau Amaral was the more-refined hitter, he thinks that the two have very similar playing styles and that the younger is well on his way to catch up to his brother.

“They’ve got tools, that’s the one thing,” Savage said. “When you’re that size, you have to have tools. And they have tools.”

Daniel Amaral hit .178 in his first year as a Bruin. He started just 11 games his freshman year, citing his lack of maturity as the reason why he didn’t see much playing time.

“I wasn’t ready freshman year to play,” Amaral said. “The coaches knew that, that’s why I didn’t play a lot.”

The centerfielder came back and started 52 games his sophomore year, improving his batting average by 104 points. Things got even better for Amaral in 2018, when he set career highs in doubles, triples, RBIs, home runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

He got some recognition for his talent in the field as well after being named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team for posting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.

Amaral was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 14th round of the MLB Draft in June. When Amaral decided to sign with the Pirates’ single-A affiliate – the West Virginia Black Bears – instead of returning for his senior year, the Amaral family’s run in Westwood came to a close. With his family’s story at UCLA over, Rich Amaral said he was grateful for the opportunity he and his family got.

“We think the world of UCLA,” Rich Amaral said. “It was a dream come true for me to play there … and to think my kids were going to do it, that was a dream too. I keep pinching myself thinking that what has happened is incredible and how good the school has been to our family.”

The Amaral name has left its mark on the UCLA baseball program over the past few decades, and even as Daniel Amaral – the “baby” of the family – prepares to move on to the pros, the outfielder refused to overstate his family’s impact on the school.

“The program is way bigger than us,” he said. “There’s no question about that.”

But despite what the youngest Amaral says, his coach said that the program owes the family quite a lot.

“They’ve been a big part of our success since I’ve been at UCLA,” Savage said. “I respect the Amaral family tremendously. They’re part of our family.”

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Assistant Sports editor

Connon is an assistant Sports editor for the baseball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and cross country beats. He currently writes for the football and men's basketball beats and contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment. Connon was previously a reporter for the women's basketball and baseball beats. He is a second-year pre-communications major from Winchester, Massachusetts.

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