By Jonathan Owens
The details are lost to time, but Sanford native Danny Borrell threw his first pitch in a youth league game on a dirt field somewhere in Lee County in the 1980s.
“I still remember my team – Lee Builder Mart,” he said of his days on the rec fields of Lee County. “I was an athletic kid and I could throw strikes, and that’s really all we needed.”
Borrell doesn’t remember that first pitch, but it was the start of a journey that would take him to the highest ranks of the sport. After 18 years with the New York Yankees organization, Borrell accepted a new adventure in early August.
He was named pitching coach for Georgia Tech, a job change that includes a “significant pay increase” according to the New York Post.
Learning the game as a youth in Sanford, he helped Lee County High School win its first state championship as a star pitcher and first baseman in 1996 – the first of two for Lee head coach Charlie Spivey. He then shined as both a pitcher and everyday player at Wake Forest and was drafted by the Yankees in the second round of the 2000 MLB draft.
Borrell played nine seasons in the minor leagues before the Yankees hired him as a pitching coach. He eventually was named as pitching coordinator for the entire Yankees organization in 2015.
With the Yankees, he worked with some of the game’s best pitchers – the Yankees don’t usually lack for talent at any position. All Stars Dellin Betances and Luis Severino rank among the 34 pitchers he helped get to the majors.
“Working for the Yankees was absolutely amazing,” he said. “I have been lucky enough to be a Yankee lifer. I spent 18 years in pinstripes. It was an absolute honor.”
He said the lessons he learned from Spivey – particularly his attention to detail – have helped him achieve success at every level of the game.
“I still call him coach. I can’t make myself call him Charlie,” Borrell said of Spivey. “He had a huge influence on my life and my career.”
Now he’s embarked on a new journey, returning to the college game for the first time in two decades. At least the mascot will be familiar.
“I’ve come full circle,” Borrell said, referring to both Lee County and Georgia Tech’s mascot – the Yellow Jackets. “I’ve had a lot of offers to coach at a lot of places over the years. This one just felt different. I’m at a point in my life where my resume is full. I just felt like this is a great situation for me and my family that I couldn’t pass up.”
Lee County may be the only high school in the country with two pitching coaches among the elite collegiate ranks. In addition to Borrell, UNC’s longtime pitching coach Scott Forbes hails from Sanford as well.
Borrell said Forbes was one of the first people to reach out to him to welcome him to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Forbes is now the Tar Heels’ Associate Head Coach, and is likely among the favorites to take over as head coach in the future.
Borrell said he didn’t know what the future holds, but for now he’s happy to focus on pitching.
“I want to do what I love, and that’s developing pitchers,” he said. “I honestly don’t think I’m smart enough to coach both sides of the ball. I just want to use my gifts and knowledge to help young player succeed.”