DC Arendas is not a typical South Carolina baseball player.
None of his teammates are related to the head coach like he is — Chad Holbrook is his uncle — but the rising sophomore infielder from Greensboro, N.C., is doing the same thing as his fellow Gamecocks this summer: He’s trying to get better.
Playing for the Columbia Blowfish in the Coastal Plain League, Arendas has begun to find a rhythm at the plate and in the middle of the infield, something that was difficult to do this past spring when he collected 14 at-bats in 13 games as a USC backup.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Arendas said he understands that a move of shortstop Joey Pankake to a different position — possibly pitcher, as Holbrook has indicated is likely to occur, could mean more playing time for him next season.
“It would be awesome to step in and have the privilege of playing next year, but right now I’m not focused on that,” Arendas said. “My job in the summer is to continue to improve and get stronger in the weight room.”
Arendas said he is aware that if he gets in the USC lineup next season, he’ll receive some extra scrutiny because of his relationship to Holbrook, whose sister Nicole is his mom. But he grew up around the game. His father Dave, who was a former All-ACC second baseman at North Carolina, serves as the Tar Heels’ director of baseball operations.
He chose USC over UNC in the recruiting process before Holbrook became the coach a year ago. But his uncle didn’t play favorites when he arrived on campus last fall.
“My goal was to come here and work as hard as possible, and in doing that, hopefully I would make it onto the field. From a family standpoint, he doesn’t treat us any differently than anybody else. If anything, he probably stays away from us too much, which I don’t mind at all,” Arendas said.
“North Carolina is always going to be home to us. They’ve been nothing but great to our family all these years. That was hard for us, and I think it was harder for my parents. But I was excited about the opportunity to play at South Carolina and step out a little bit away from home.”
Holbrook said Arendas isn’t the same as the other 34 players, but the coach is going to hold him to the same standard.
“I won’t lie and say he’s just another guy. He’s family,” Holbrook said. “He’s going to play because he deserves to play and he can help us win. He’s not going to play because he’s my nephew.”
Arendas, who had one hit in 14 at-bats for USC, is getting regular playing time with the Blowfish. In 12 games, he’s 11-for-46 for a .239 average and has a double, homer and four RBIs.
Blowfish manager Jonathan Johnson, who is utilizing Arendas at shortstop and second base along with Francis Marion’s Michael Wilson, said it will take time for players who didn’t play much for their college teams to make the necessary adjustments over the summer.
“I’ve told them from the beginning to have patience, trust in themselves, believe in themselves, and don’t try to make up all of that ground in one day. DC has done a good job of that,” Johnson said.
“He’s made the plays when they’ve come to him, and his at-bats are getting better. I’m excited to see what he’ll do in the next few weeks.”
Arendas, who credits his strong spiritual faith for helping him get through the tough times of not playing much as a freshman, knows he must cut down on his strikeouts and find a way to make consistent contact. Holbrook wants that strikeout-to-walk ratio to be as close to even as possible next season, which would help drive up Arendas’ on-base percentage.
Arendas is prepared to play multiple spots next season, something Holbrook could see happening, although the coach expects his nephew to be in the mix to start at shortstop.
“He’s shown that he’s very polished defensively,” Holbrook said. “He puts in the work at shortstop, and he’s got the arm and the range to play there. He’s got great hands. But he can also play any infield position, and he’s probably going to have to be ready to play all three of them.”
Arendas can’t wait for his sophomore season to get underway. Rooming with football players Dylan Thompson and A.J. Cann this summer, he has immersed himself in the winning culture of USC’s top programs. He said the Gamecocks have the ability to return to Omaha. They came up one win shy this season thanks to the play of his father’s team.
He smiles as he describes the family dynamics during the Super Regional in Chapel Hill.
“It was a little awkward. When we went out to dinner after the game, my mom was wearing South Carolina stuff and my dad was wearing North Carolina stuff,” Arendas said. “He wasn’t putting on any kind of garnet and black. It was the one time this year he wasn’t rooting for us, but I think he handled it pretty well. I know it was a tough circumstance for him.”