Simmons delivers pitches, laughter
Pitcher says, ‘I can do that. I can stand up and make jokes ...’
Whether Danny Simmons is telling a joke, or throwing a fastball, it is all about the delivery.
A senior right-hander at UC San Diego, Simmons has a knack for making people laugh, and two years ago friends convinced him to take his talents to the stage as a stand-up comedian.
“I never thought about it before,” Simmons said. “About a week later, I thought, ‘I can do that. I can stand up and make jokes.’ A few days later, I was at an open mike night and did some jokes, and I did really well, which was kind of surprising. It gave me this false hope and confidence and I thought I could do this every week. Then, I found out I can’t. But it kind has grown into a passion.”
Simmons is a born performer, whether on the baseball field or playing the saxophone in jazz bands, so stand-up comedy came easily for the student-athlete. He also may have inherited some of his comedic timing from his father Mark, who performed stand-up in the late 1980s at places like the Comedy Store.
“[My dad’s] imparted some wisdom on me, and tells me all the time that I shouldn’t do it because it’s a waste of time,” Simmons said. “I let him know that I realize that, but it’s so much fun to do and a really cool culture.”
Despite his father’s well-meaning advice, Simmons has continued to perform at various open-mike nights throughout the San Diego area, and at several UCSD campus events, serving as the entertainment or the master of ceremonies. He combines observational humor with slapstick routines, and has weaved his saxophone into the act.
“I use my saxophone as an attention getter, and I also use it to make punch lines,” Simmons said. “I will sometimes say an off-the-wall thought and then make a funny sound on the sax.”
Simmons said doing stand-up is a nice stress reliever with all the demands juggling school and baseball. “No matter whether you’re funny or not in stand-up, it always you feel good because no matter how poorly you do at an open mike night, there’s always someone doing worse than you,” he said.
Teammates enjoy catching one of their pitcher’s acts, and senior pitcher Eric Abraham said Simmons’ charisma gives him the ability to command the stage. “It doesn’t really matter if the joke is good or bad, the delivery is always there,” Abraham said. “Whether he is doing stand-up comedy or just talking to people, his ability to catch people’s attention is really good.”
While UCSD head coach Dan O’Brien has not seen Simmons perform, he does appreciate his ability to keep the energy up in the dugout. “He’s a team leader first and foremost,” O’Brien said. “He’s also the guy who keeps it loose and makes sure our guys aren’t taking things seriously, and remembering we’re out there to have fun and it’s a kids’ game.”
Simmons is known for his dancing in front of the dugout between innings to pump up the team, and even recruits Abraham to get out there with him. “He’s a really good dancer,” Abraham said. “He’s 6-6 and pretty big guy, but he can move really well.”
“It’s way over the top,” O’Brien said. “I can’t even watch. I have to turn away. But our guys have fun with it.”
Simmons’ inspiring dance moves were even showcased during last year’s Division II Championship Game as the Tritons tried to rally against eventual national champion Southern Indiana.
“The guys in the booth kept playing Michael Jackson songs all week because they knew I liked to dance to them,” Simmons said. “In the sixth inning, they played Billy Jean and of course, I love the song. The guys on the team were like, ‘dance, dance, dance.’ I wasn’t in the mood to dance; I wanted to win the game. My friend Eric Abraham turned to me and said, ‘Hey, we need this.’ I went out in front of the dugout and we scored two runs, and it gave us some more energy even though we didn’t win the game.”
When Simmons takes the mound, his focus definitely changes from entertaining to getting hitters outs. A permanent fixture in the Tritons’ starting rotation this season, Simmons is 2-2 with a 4.22 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. His top performance of the season was a seven-inning shutout of then-No. 17 Mesa State, which earned him California Collegiate Athletic Association Pitcher of the Week honors.
“When he is keeping the ball at the knees, he is tough to hit,” O’Brien said. “He’s got some velocity mixed with some good off-speed pitches, so he’s a big strong kid that pounds the strike zone and really keeps hitters off-balance.”
“When I’m pitching, I’m dead serious,” Simmons said. “I’m competing out there. I can’t get out of the zone.”
While it is tough for Simmons to concentrate on comedy at the moment because of his commitments to academics and baseball, he dreams of being of famous one day, whether is it in comedy or the business world.
“I will be some sort of an entertainer whether it is on TV or in the boardroom,” Simmons said. “I like to be around people.”
Third-ranked UC San Diego returns to action this weekend as the Tritons play host to CCAA foe San Francisco State for a four-game series beginning Friday.