Candon Dahle’s summer has been that of a recluse. He graduated from Blackfoot in May and wasn’t seen for months. He was toiling away in his shop, endless days spent alone repeating the same motion like clockwork, replacing interactions with humans to inanimate objects.

OK, not exactly. But while another summer of baseball commenced in Southeastern Idaho, one of the better pitchers in the area wasn’t on a roster and filled most days throwing off an indoor mound to no one.

“It’s really weird because I’m his neighbor and can always catch his bullpens but he never hits me up,” said Grays catcher Eli Hayes, who played with Dahle at Blackfoot. “He’d rather throw to a net.”

Dahle finished up a stellar senior campaign with the Broncos – a year in which the 6-foot-5 right hander hurled over 40 innings, striking out 46 while keeping his ERA to an incredible 1.69 – and, like Spielberg tweaking “Jaws” just before the release, wanted to fine tune his game before he headed off to the College of Southern Idaho on a baseball scholarship.

Problem was, throwing to a net and facing live pitching is about the same as driving a car and flying a plane.

Dahle was chucking upper-80s lasers into a net the size of the strike zone, one that was broken up into nine quadrants to give the pitcher more defined aiming targets. But nets like that don’t reward non-strikes. A curveball low and outside might fool a hitter but, with no batter for reference, it’s going to miss the net and bounce into a wall.

“I was like, ‘Man I just need to get some live batters,’” Dahle said. “I’ve been locked up in my shop just throwing and I wanted to see what pitches were looking like against live batters.”

Enter Hayes.

The Grays 17-year old catcher ran into his former battery mate a few weeks ago and the two began chatting about their baseball dichotomy. Dahle was pitching to air. Hayes was facing real competition with Gate City.

They started talking through the idea of teaming up once again.

Dahle texted Grays’ manager Rhys Pope – who was an assistant on a Blackfoot Legion team Dahle pitched for last season – about possibly coming on as a late-addition to the Grays. There was enthusiasm on both sides. The Grays added Dahle on July 25, the day all Northern Utah League rosters had to be finalized.

With playoffs kicking off next week, another arm at Pope’s disposal was welcome news.

“It’s huge,” Pope said. “I’ve seen him do it all – be a starter, middle reliever and a closer. He can pitch in any situation. He lives off his fastball, like if he’s locating his fastball, it’s going to be a good day for Candon.”

So far, Dahle’s had a few of those days for the Grays. The soon-to-be college freshman has allowed just two hits and no earned runs while striking out a quintet in 3 2/3 innings of work.

“It’s great to be involved with these guys,” Dahle said. “That California (Jays) team was legit and I was happy I was able to shut those guys down.”

He’s also happy to be out of his shop – although the thing is described as Disneyland for any athletically-inclined child.

It’s a 60x40 building the Dahles included in their plans when they constructed the Blackfoot home a few years ago. It may turn into a garage when all the kids leave, Candon said, but until then it’s a personal workout space. It’s a long pentagonal-prism shaped building that holds a couple basketball hoops and a homemade wooden mound Dahle can pit up against the wall and throw from.

If someone wanted to be a recluse, it wouldn’t be a bad setting. It’s also an advantageous space for any baseball player in the winter – or during a global pandemic.

“While everyone else was at home sitting on their butts – maybe lifting a little – I was in there doing pitching chats with coaches,” Dahle said.

On the black Sport Court surface, Dahle set up a tripod up near his wooden mound and Facetimed a pitching coach recommended by his cousins Nate and Jake Dahle – who both pitched at CSI and are now headed to BYU and Dixie State, respectively.

With the camera on him, Dahle fired off pitch after pitch in his shop. The quick fix wasn’t tough to find.

“I was very poor on my back (half.) I was all arm and I’d whip it,” Dahle said. “I’d get injuries in my bicep and on my front side, which you shouldn’t have. After I started working with him, he was like, ‘You should be sore in your back, never your arm.’

“Now I’m at that point where I can probably throw 100 pitches, come back and play catch like nothing happened.”

What many of the Grays Northern Utah League opponents haven’t seen is the 6-foot-5 fresh-armed flamethrower that snuck on the Gate City roster at the eleventh hour. The Grays will likely start next week’s playoffs as the No. 3 seed and, perhaps, the final piece will come in handy.