Daniel Schlereth grew up 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 in Colorado, Daniel Schlereth was a highly-rated quarterback.
Now the younger Schlereth pitches for the Sugar Land Skeeters, who last week won the first-half title in the Freedom Division to qualify for the Atlantic League playoffs. He 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,” he said. “I made a decent little career but I feel I have some more to prove.”
When asked why he didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps, he said, “Obviously my size.” Schlereth said he is about 4 inches shorter and 80 pounds lighter than his dad.
Schlereth said football is his “first love,” though, and he tries to use a football mentality on the baseball diamond. His father, however, recognized early on that his son was a natural at baseball.
“I started coaching him when he was 4 years old in Tee ball,” Mark Schlereth said. “He was incredibly skilled at 4 when I started him in Tee ball.”
The 6-foot lefty, who played college baseball at the University of Arizona, was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008 and made his major league debut the next year. From there Daniel Schlereth went to Detroit. He appeared in 94 major league games from 2009-12, posting a 5-6 record and 4.35 ERA.
Schlereth 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.”
Schlereth said he’d be glad to play for any major league organization and would be especially happy to land with the Houston Astros or Colorado Rockies. His father does TV and radio programs in Colorado.
Despite his roots in that state and the fact he’s pitched well at Coors Field, Schlereth said the Rockies have not reciprocated his interest.
But Schlereth said he likes the Houston area and is happy to be with the Skeeters. He said he enjoys playing for manager Pete Incaviglia.
“He’s a throwback guy, very intense, which is right up my ally,” Schlereth said. “I came from an intense background. … 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 (mph), he’s got a good breaking ball.”
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 Schelreth 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,” he said. “So that was kind of 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.”
Historic all-star game
This year’s Atlantic League All-Stars will make baseball history when the first man steps to the plate at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at PeoplesBank Park in York, Pennsylvania.
Pitches in the all-star game will be called with the assistance of an automated ball-strike system (ABS). League executives say it is one of the most anticipated rules initiatives resulting from a partnership between the Atlantic League and Major League Baseball, which is using the independent league to test potential rule changes.
The home plate umpire will continue to perform all of his normal duties, but will be assisted in ball-strike calling by ABS.
Representing the Skeeters in the all-star game are pitchers Carlos Pimentel and Matt West, third baseman Juan Silverio and outfielder Jared Mitchell.
The Skeeters signed free agent shortstop Javier Betancourt, first baseman Blair Beck and RHP Matt Ramsey. The team also activated RHP Troy Scribner and LHP Matt Purke from the temporarily inactive list, and placed RHP Dallas Beeler on the temporarily inactive list. In addition, the Skeeters released RHP Jean Machi and LHPs Cesar Cabral and Roy Merritt, and placed outfielder Jabari Henry on the 7-day injured list.
The Skeeters return home Friday 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. On July 17 the teams will play at 11:05 a.m. for Super Splash Day.
Skeeter of the Week
Beck, signed just before the road trip, had a phenomenal introduction to the Atlantic League. The first baseman and outfielder hit .296 with two homers, three doubles, eight RBIs and a .996 OPS in 30 plate appearances since his debut to earn Skeeter of the Week honors.
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