By Rick Assad
When Daniel Starkand was toiling on the mound and at first base for Burbank High a decade ago, because of his love for sports, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to imagine that he would one day get a job covering two of the most iconic and glamorous teams in the Southland.
“The best aspect of covering two franchises like the Lakers and the Dodgers is that I grew up rooting for them in Los Angeles,” he said of working for Medium Large Sports Media. “So now getting the chance to cover them as a career, it honestly doesn’t feel like a job.”
Starkand is the managing editor for LakersNation.com and is the senior writer, editor and social media manager for DodgerBlue.com and is also the co-host of DodgerHeads, a show on YouTube.
Starkand, a two-time All-Pacific League selection, a two-time All-Area pick and an All-CIF Southern Section member as a senior, enjoys the challenges of keeping fans informed.
“I wake up every day excited to write, edit and talk about teams that I’m passionate about,” he said.
Sometimes Starkand’s job can be hectic, but it’s still fun.
“The biggest challenge of working two websites is just keeping up with a million things going on at once,” he said. “We cover all news and rumors, so things can break at any time and we have to cover it in a timely fashion. Luckily though, we have an amazing staff filled with talented writers that keep my job easy.”
A sports fan early on, Starkand, who attended Chapman University from 2012 through 2016 and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and broadcast journalism, and was a member of the baseball team for two seasons, said hardball stood out for him.
“My experience playing for the Bulldogs was awesome. I played basically every sport growing up, but by the time high school rolled around, I knew that baseball was not only the one I was best at, but also the one I enjoyed the most,” he said.
Starkand, who was named scholar-athlete all four years while at Burbank, began as an intern in 2016 at Medium Large Sports Media and worked his way up the ladder, said that playing the game he loved was something truly special.
“Getting to play on the varsity as a sophomore was a big step for me as I got valuable experience against good competition as the youngest player on the team,” he said. “I definitely believe that experience led to me having more success as an upperclassmen, particularly my senior year  when I was able to put it all together with 50 straight innings without allowing an earned run. My coaches and teammates at Burbank were awesome, making my experience that much more enjoyable.”
That season, 2012, saw Starkand post an incredible 0.40 earned-run average.
Burbank coach Bob Hart saw Starkand develop into a solid hurler and an effective one who every time he took the mound was going to give it everything he had.
“Daniel was a real good competitor and a team guy,” he said. “He comes from a quality family and was a pleasure to coach.”
Starkand was able to retire batters despite not having an exceptional fastball.
“I was not a hard thrower as a pitcher so what made me stand out was my ability to command the strike zone and change speeds to keep the hitters off balance,” he reasoned. “I was lucky enough to have a natural tail on my ball, so I used that to my advantage to get ground balls to keep my pitch count down in order to pitch deeper into games.”
Starkand relished those times when he had to out-think and out-pitch the batter.
“The biggest mind game between a pitcher and a hitter is throwing what they are not expecting,” he said. “Scouting reports are so thorough nowadays that hitters step to the plate knowing exactly what you like to throw in what counts.”
Starkand said there is a remedy for just such instances and was always ready and eager for a challenge.
“So to counteract that, sometimes you have to pitch backwards. Or, if you’re talented enough, you can continue to pitch to your strengths because hitters can know what’s coming and still won’t hit it,” he added. “So while it’s very cerebral, the most important thing is mixing up speeds and locations to keep hitters guessing and off balanced.”
Starkand’s transition from prep baseball to college was eye-popping.
“The difference between playing high school and college is night and day, and that’s even coming from someone who played at a Division III school,” he noted.
Having been on the playing field made it somewhat easier to tackle his current job.
“Being an athlete has definitely helped me in my career because playing in high school and college taught me a lot about time management,” Starkand said. “Being a college baseball player is basically a full-time job in addition to being a full-time student, so if you’re not efficient with your time then you won’t be able to take care of everything you need to.”
Starkand added: “Playing baseball also taught me some leadership qualities, which are very important now that I have writers that work with and underneath me,” he said.
This is Starkand’s fifth season covering the Lakers and Dodgers and said that readers can’t get enough information on their favorite teams.
“I’m not really a news breaker, but I have written some feature stories that I am very proud of, whether that be about Lakers legends like Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson or the number of Dodgers’ players and prospects that I have had the privilege of meeting and interviewing,” he said.
Starkand said he does on occasion wish he could go back and play baseball, but it’s something that he reflects fondly about.
“Of course I miss baseball. More so than missing baseball though, I just miss getting out on the field and competing,” he said. “I am as competitive as they come and absolutely hate losing. So what I miss the most is just getting between the lines and trying to win games.”
While working for two sports websites and being on YouTube is satisfying and exciting, it isn’t the same as being on the mound and trying to grind out a win, in the end it’s still about being and doing your best when it matters most.