Not everyone has to learn a mailing address that requires them to spell Cullowhee, nor do they have to know exactly where that is, but the tiny college town in the mountains of North Carolina has become home for former Forsyth Central player Danny Bermudez.
Bermudez, a rising senior and catcher for the Western Carolina Catamounts baseball team, always had the goal of playing Division I baseball, but when asked if he figured he’d be doing it in a town like Cullowhee, he said “no, not at all,” with a hint of laughter.
He’s grown to like it. There’s a lake nearby. Life is simple. His teammates have no choice but to spend down time together. But most importantly, with each year Bermudez has been in a Catamount, he’s nestled into his place on the baseball team.
As a freshman, Bermudez, already prepared for the collegiate game, started 29 times for Western Carolina behind the dish. He finished the season with a .240 batting average. Fast forward to his senior year, which begins with fall practice in a few weeks, and Bermudez is on pace to bat 100 points higher.
Last season he ranked third on the team with a .317 average, second on the team with 10 games where he had multiple RBIs, and had 19 multi-hit games. He started all 48 games, including six times at first base and twice in right field to complement 38 contests at catcher. When asked if he could play those other positions permanently, he said he was confident he could hold down a starting role.
His performances earned him second team All-Southern Conference honors and he was named to the All-State team by the North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association. He was also the first non-senior to ever wear the “Leggett No. 7 Legacy” jersey, an honor at Western Carolina that commemorates former head coach Jack Leggett.
“That was all definitely an accomplishment for me,” Bermudez said. “I would like to, this year, be on the first team [all-conference]. My confidence has grown every year.”
Bermudez attributed his steady rise in statistical performances to his comfort level. He said his numbers were more sporadic in his first few years because he was “worried about not playing well and losing a starting spot.”
In his junior year, he had earned a solidified role behind the plate. The game slowed down, he thought less and did more.
“The biggest adjustment was absolutely my confidence,” Bermudez said. “I kind of knew this year my starting spot was safe behind the plate, so it gave me more confidence about everything.
“In the first few years I put so much pressure on myself to perform.”
Perhaps the most unique achievement Bermudez has so far—he’s been hit 27 times by pitches, 15th most in program history, and will carry an eight-game on-base streak into next year.
“I didn’t know that,” Bermudez said. “I honestly don’t understand why I get hit so much, but I do. Maybe it’s because I am pretty close to the plate.”
Bermudez hopes to lead the Catamounts in his senior season to a Southern Conference title, a Southern Conference tournament victory and a few more wins in the NCAA regionals. The Catamounts finished last season 21-30 after injuries decimated a team that went 37-18 the previous year.
Bermudez attributes his ability as a catcher to his relationship with his brother, David, who pitches for Georgia Regents and will enter his senior season this year as well.
“I hate that we had to go to different schools,” Danny said. “I guess once we got into our junior and senior year in high school we knew we weren’t going to end up at the same place, but it’s worked out for both of us.”