Danny Hagan spent three seasons as a left-handed pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization in the 1990s, and not a day goes by that he’s not appreciative of the experience.
“I always compared it to how much fun the game was in Little League,” said Hagan, now 48, and pitching coach for the Owensboro High School Red Devils for the past 11 years. “I was being paid for doing something I loved to do. The way I looked at it, that was a pretty good job. Every day was a gift, a blessing, no doubt about it.”
He got an early start in baseball.
“I started playing when I was 5 or 6,” Hagan said. “I started out in Buechel Little League in Louisville, and that later became St. Matthews Little League — good baseball area, good players.”
Hagan eventually landed at Trinity High School in Louisville, which featured a strong program that included teammates such as Jeff Brohm, who became a star quarterback at Louisville and later served as head coach at Western Kentucky and Purdue.
“Jeff was a year ahead of me, and he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians, but wound up playing football,” Hagan said. “I was drafted out of high school by the Montreal Expos in 1990, but decided to attend Jacksonville University in Florida. Then, three years later, I was drafted by the Reds and signed.”
A 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, Hagan spent his first pro season at Princeton, West Virginia, in the Appalachian League — and enjoyed success. He pitched even better at his next stop, Charleston, West Virginia, in the South Atlantic League.
“I had a really good year,” Hagan said, “so in 1995 I was a non-roster invitee to the Reds’ spring training down in Plant City, Florida.”
It was an eye-opening experience.
“Suddenly, I was around guys I’d grown up watching, some of whom I’d seen on the Reds’ world championship team in 1990 — it was a pretty cool experience,” Hagan said. “There was Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, Barry Larkin, Hal Morris, Joe Oliver, and even Deion Sanders was down there that spring with them.
“I think what I learned out of that is to not take anything for granted. Avoid the peaks and valleys and stay on a even keep. Baseball is a long season, February to October.”
That season, Hagan pitched for Winston-Salem in the Carolina League.
“Everything was going well until I was throwing a bullpen session in Chattanooga,” Hagan said. “My elbow popped, and that led to Tommy John surgery by Dr. (James) Andrews in Atlanta — things went sideways from there.
“I came back in 1996, had bone spurs in my shoulder, and ultimately decided to move on from pro baseball.”
Hagan’s pro record was 11-11 with a 3.54 earned run average.
He moved to Louisville and was a surveyor for a couple years before going back to school and receiving his undergraduate degree at Sullivan University. Since 1997, Hagan has worked in the health care field and is currently occupational medicine and employee health manager at Owensboro Health.
He hooked up with the OHS baseball team as an assistant in 2009.
In recent seasons, Hagan was joined in the Red Devil program by son, Tucker, an outstanding middle infielder who is in his freshman year on a baseball scholarship at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.
“I’ve been blessed in this game, in so many ways,” Hagan said. “I’m thankful for the impact baseball has had on my life.”