Born in Alaska and raised in Colorado, Daniel Schlereth was immersed in the world of professional football.
His father, Mark Schlereth, spent 12 years in the NFL, winning the Super Bowl once with the Washington Redskins and twice with the Denver Broncos. At Highlands Ranch High School, Daniel Schlereth was a highly-rated quarterback.
Today Schlereth pitches for the Sugar Land Skeeters and is trying to work his way back to Major League Baseball.
“We’re a football family and I just happen to be left-handed and throw decently hard, so I took this path. This is my 12th season now. I made a decent little career but I feel I have some more to prove,” he said.
In addition to being a star quarterback, Schlereth was a force on the mound for his high school baseball team. It was that skill that carried him into college where he played for the University of Arizona.
When asked why he didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps, he said, “Obviously my size, I’m not a huge person. Football is my passion though. I love the game. I try to take a football mentality out there on the field with me. But yeah, football’s my first love and obviously growing up in that situation most of us want to be like our dads. Unfortunately, he’s about four inches taller and about 80 pounds heavier than me.”
His father recognized early on that his son was a natural at baseball.
“I started coaching him when he was 4 years old in T-ball,” Mark Schlereth said. “He was incredibly skilled at 4 when I started him in T-ball.
The proud pop kept coaching and encouraging Daniel through the little league ranks but refuses to take credit for his son’s ability.
“I did nothing, that’s just a God-given gift,” he said.
The 6-foot lefty was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008 and made his pro debut the next spring. From there he went to Detroit. He then went into the farm systems of five different teams before joining the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League last year. In June 2018 he went to Seattle and this spring was with the Boston Red Sox.
“I was with the Red Sox in spring training and absolutely loved everything about it,” Schlereth said. “I was pretty shaken up when they said they didn’t have a spot for me, but you never know. I still keep in contact with those guys, so you never know. This is a fickle game and things change quick. I loved my time in Detroit and I’d love to go back there but it doesn’t matter to me. I’ve played for 10 different teams now. I’ve played for a third of the teams in the game so I think I’ve got a good amount of experience and I think I could really help somebody.”
When asked where he would like to go in the majors, Schlereth said he’d be happy anywhere but he wouldn’t mind being with the Houston Astros.
“One of my best buddies in the world is the first base coach for the Astros, so that would be a good thing to do and obviously (former Skeeters pitcher Felipe) Paulino went over there,” he said.
With his roots in Colorado and his father doing TV and radio programs there, he said he wouldn’t mind throwing for the Rockies, a team that notoriously has a hard time getting good pitching.
“It’s been weird with them. We’ve tried to reach out to them, tried to latch on with them the last few years but I don’t know,” he said. “I never really got any type of traction going on with them which is strange because I know how to pitch there. I’m not afraid to pitch at that altitude. I grew up pitching there. Every time I’ve thrown against the Rockies in Coors Field it’s gone really well. I don’t know if there’s a lot of pitchers beating down the door to sign with them. That’s been an interesting one with them. I’ve offered to take nothing to go there and they just have other plans right now.”
In the meantime, he said he likes the Houston area and is happy to be with the Skeeters. He said he enjoys playing for manager Pete Incaviglia.
“Pete does a good job with getting guys in the bullpen work and not just sitting on your hands for too long. He gets everyone the right amount of work,” he said.
“I love it man, he’s a throwback guy, very intense, which is right up my ally. I came from that background. I came from an intense background. One of my favorite coaches, my favorite coach that I’ve played for in college, was the most intense human being I’ve ever been around, so I’m used to it. It’s kind of nice to be around it actually. Baseball’s a pretty laid-back sport but when your manager wants to win and you’re playing for something it’s definitely, for me personally, it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Incaviglia said he likes what he sees in the 33-year-old.
“Daniel’s pitched real well, I thought,” he said “He’s pitching well for us, he’s throwing the ball, his fastball’s 94-95, he’s got a good breaking ball and hopefully we can get to him in the bullpen and try to win a game today.”
Although Mark Schlereth knows his son longs to be back in the majors, he remains proud of him for furthering his career with the Skeeters.
“I’m proud of him. He’s been given a million opportunities to quit and has been encouraged by a lot of people, ‘hey, it’s over.’ He’s a stubborn little cuss. That kid has no quit in him,” Mark Schlereth said.
For Daniel Schlereth, who earned his first win in relief last week for the Skeeters, playing professional ball has always been his goal, even if it’s not football.
“So I think that, especially in our family where we’re realistic about professional sports and we know how hard it is and the work ethic it takes to be at the highest level, so I always felt like I’d get to the big leagues and pitch there. So that was kinda what I thought I was going to do and no one said any different so I really didn’t know any better. I just put my head down and kept working toward something and it came true.”
The Sugar Land Skeeters won the first-half championship of the Freedom Division and the Long Island Ducks won the first half of the Liberty Division, guaranteeing both teams a spot in the Atlantic League playoffs this fall. The Skeeters backed into the playoffs by losing Sunday 3-2 to the New Britain Bees as the York Revolution lost 7-5 to the Lancaster Barnstormers. The All-Star break is this week with the second half of the season starting for the Skeeters on Friday as they host the Ducks.
The Skeeters return home July 12 for a six-game series against the Ducks. On Friday the Skeeters will celebrate Christmas in July with a Swatson bobblehead giveaway. Saturday is Parrot Head Night with a themed jersey giveaway. July 17 the teams will play at 11:05 a.m. for Super Splash Day.
Skeeter of the Week
Jason Martinson belted three home runs and three two-base hits last week to help the Skeeters end the first half of the season as Freedom Division winners, earning a playoff spot.
Atlantic League standings
Wins – Losses – Games back
Sugar Land Skeeters 35-35-0
York Revolution 34-35-.5
Lancaster Barnstormers 24-44-10
S. Maryland Blue Crabs 24-44-10
Long Island Ducks 42-27-0
Somerset Patriots 42-28-.5
High Point Rockers 41-30-2
New Britain Bees 35-34-7
Ducks 4, Skeeters 3
Skeeters 16, Ducks 7
Ducks 4, Skeeters 3
Ducks 3, Skeeters 1
Skeeters 10, Bees 5
Bees 3, Skeeters 2