UA pitcher’s season open to public through dad’s blog
When he was 4 years old, Daniel Schlereth was there for his dad, an offensive guard for the Washington Redskins, when they won the 1991 Super Bowl over Buffalo.
A family photo shows Daniel cutting tape off his father’s ankles in the locker room.
Seventeen years later, Mark Schlereth, now an NFL commentator for ESPN, is there for his son as the University of Arizona’s left-handed closer makes his mark in college baseball.
Mark, 42, a retired Pro Bowl lineman who also won two Super Bowls with Denver, attends most UA baseball games with a video camera and pen in hand. He’s sharing his experiences with his son in a weekly blog on ESPN.com called “Meet the Schlereths.”
Being a tough guy – he had 20 knee surgeries in 12 NFL seasons – did not prepare Mark for watching his son pitch.
“My nervousness level . . . is like the white hot intensity of a thousand suns,” Mark said. “I literally make myself ill. You root and you cheer and get excited for everybody else, but when your son goes to the mound, you want him to . . . get out of every inning and cruise.
“I’m very nervous, to the point I actually break out in fever blisters. (A few weeks ago) I got hives where one of my eyes almost got swelled shut. There is nothing I can do about it.”
Daniel, 21, a projected third- to fifth-round pick in the major league draft, is just the opposite.
The UA junior doesn’t get nervous after getting advice from former Broncos such as John Elway, Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater and Bill Romanowski since he was a toddler.
“I’ve always had people with a watchful eye on me, particularly because of my last name,” Daniel said. “I think from the time I was a little kid, I was able to block that stuff out and focus on what you want to do. That comes with the territory.”
He worked for it
Daniel is getting the job done on the mound, giving up just four earned runs this season in 14 appearances. He sports a 1-0 record and a 1.54 ERA in 23 1/3 innings of work. He has 37 strikeouts, with at least two in 10 of his games.
He struggled in UA’s opener at Georgia, giving up a homer and walking two. But growing up, his dad taught him how to rebound from mistakes.
“I was hard on him, almost to the point of being a real jerk,” Mark said. “I did partly because I knew how much talent he had, and I never wanted people to look at him and say, ‘He’s just the son of a guy who played professional football and he has the best mitts, the best bat, the best shoes, the best coaches and daddy spends money on lessons.’
“I don’t want people to think he was just given everything.”
Daniel listened to his dad’s advice and worked hard to become one of the Pac-10′s best relief pitchers. Scouts, with radar guns in hand, are taking notice when he takes the mound.
Scouts did not drool over his father, who played football for the University of Idaho.
“I begged my way to the NFL,” Mark said. “Nobody was looking at me. I would show up to other guys’ workouts and introduce myself to see if I could get a look. That’s how I got myself to the NFL. Daniel does not have that issue. People look at him all the time.”
Mark finally became a 10th round pick in the 1989 NFL draft. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound guard retired at age 35 from the Broncos in April 2001, after enduring his 15th operation on his left knee the season before.
Gridiron is ‘first love’
Daniel, a star quarterback at Highland Ranch (Colo.) High, could have followed in his dad’s football footsteps. He was named a second-team All-American and the Colorado Gatorade offensive player of the year his senior season.
The senior captain set a single-season rushing record and busted a 96-yard scoring run.
“I guess I was pretty good,” Daniel said. “Football is always my first love. I still watch it, but baseball is just more in the cards for me.”
Both Schlereths knew football was not the future.
“He’s a left-hander, and he throws 95 (miles per hour),” Mark said. “The NFL is not littered with 6-foot quarterbacks.
“He can make a long living in baseball.”
Daniel, listed as 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, is likely in his final year with the Wildcats (17-11, 3-6 Pac-10), who started the season No. 1 in some polls, only to struggle in the last few weeks.
Every pitch he makes – from now until another possible return to the NCAA Tournament, to the June baseball draft – will be documented with constant stories and blogs from both Mark and Daniel.
Now that’s reality
The videos that also accompany the ESPN.com site have turned into its own reality show for the Schlereths, the team and college baseball in general.
The original plan was to do a television reality show. But ESPN was hesitant, even though Mark is also a regular contributor to the “Mike and Mike in the Morning” radio show (often wearing a UA hat or jacket) and he appeared on the soap opera, “Guiding Light” last year.
So ESPN’s Web site went with the idea.
“Reality television is anything but reality. It’s scripted. To me this is reality,” Mark said while in the stands at a recent Wildcats home game. “This is drama. To watch a kid go on and have a night like he did at Cal State Fullerton, where he struck out 7 of the 10 batters he faced, is special.
“To have a night like (a 20-8 loss to UCLA), where we looked like the Bad News Bears . . . that’s reality. There’s a drama of a college baseball team that was a preseason No. 1 and now they can’t get out of their own way.”
And the Schlereths are part of the drama – front and center.
HOME, SWEET HOME
After a six-day road trip to Seattle and San Diego, the UA baseball team (17-11, 3-6 Pac-10) returns to Sancet Stadium to face Indiana State:
Friday: 7 p.m.
Saturday: 6 p.m.
> To view Mark Schlereth’s blog and video entries about his son, UA relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth, go to ESPN.com and type in “Meet the Schlereths” in the search field in the right-hand corner. The entries also feature Daniel’s mom, Lisa, and his sisters, Alex and Avery.