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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The Family Web Gem

    ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, left, videotapes a UA baseball game to chronicle Arizonas season for ESPN.com. His son, UA closer Daniel, pitches in the Wildcats 8-3 win over Cal State-Fullerton on March 14 at Sancet Stadium.
    ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, left, videotapes a UA baseball game to chronicle Arizona’s season for ESPN.com. His son, UA closer Daniel, pitches in the Wildcats’ 8-3 win over Cal State-Fullerton on March 14 at Sancet Stadium.

    ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth threw a curveball at his employer – not as the on-air personality most viewers see, but rather the father who makes family a priority.

    After all, pitching runs in the family, with Mark’s son, Daniel, anchoring the No. 6 Arizona baseball team’s bullpen.

    Mark, a three-time Super Bowl champion, undertook an unprecedented new project from his familiar old seat on the ESPN studio. In effort to bring national attention to college baseball – a sport that only catches three weeks of airtime during the College World Series – Mark plans to record the Wildcats’ journey to Omaha, Neb.

    But unlike the objective and unbiased approach other national analysts take when covering a sport, Mark will capture the season through the eyes of a father watching his son develop both on and off the diamond.

    Each week Mark records a two-plus minute video segment for ESPN.com, chronicling both Daniel and the Wildcats’ series through the perspective of his family’s journey and newfound obsession with college baseball.

    “”I understand the power of not only baseball, but the power and the drama behind following a college baseball season – from the start, to the middle, to hopefully the eventuality to competing for a national championship in Omaha,”” Mark said. “”There’s a lot of interesting dynamics.””

    The “”Schlereth Road Trips”” can be found directly at ESPNU.com, with content that includes an introduction article from Mark, Q-and-A with Daniel and a video recap of the Whataburger College Classic in Corpus Christi, Texas.

    Not limited to in-game highlights of Arizona’s three-game sweep during the tournament, Mark’s video documentation includes footage from his attempt to implement a new yoga exercise routine with Daniel, the drive through Corpus Christi and laughs in the hotel room from pitcher Preston Guilmet and third baseman Colt Sedbrook.

    “”Join me and my family as we chronicle the baseball season and hopefully wind up in Omaha, Neb., as the Wildcats try and win a national championship,”” Mark says in the video.

    He initially pitched the idea to both ESPN and several production companies, with thoughts that such a concept could evolve into a “”real”” reality television show, as opposed to the “”fake”” contrived drama that currently runs network television, Mark said.

    ESPN only shared the same conceptual vision at first, but Mark can foresee a groundbreaking new genre of reality television all the way to fruition. Despite the network’s only attempt at a reality show with “”Bonds on Bonds”” – a show which left the network unsatisfied – Mark believes the concrete formed as a webcast reality series could eventually evolve into the national limelight.

    “”The thing about our family, we’re not going to have a kid going to drug rehab, there’s none of that junk,”” said Mark in reference to today’s reality shows. “”There’s nothing like the drama of a baseball season. There’s nothing like the drama of watching your kid take the runway.””

    Not an analyst, but a fanatic

    Equipped with a video camcorder, tripod and family by his side, Mark experienced a new sense of passion covering a team that means more than just wins and losses – or a payday.

    No, far unlike any in-studio breakdown of Xs and Os on the gridiron, Mark found a thrilling, rejuvenated sense of fandom while watching UA head coach Andy Lopez’s squad.

    “”Covering a (professional) team (for ESPN) … I don’t really care who wins or who loses,”” Mark said. “”I really have no rooting interest even for the teams I’ve played for. It doesn’t really matter that much all things considered. That’s my job and it’s what I do.””

    Covering the Wildcats, however, brings a complete polar opposite approach to Mark’s job.

    By meeting and forming relationships with the players and coaches, Mark acts more like a fanatic would, rather than taking the typical unbiased studio analyst approach.

    “”As far as watching these boys, I have an invested interest in all these boys,”” Mark said. “”I’ve gotten to know them, they’re wonderful young men and so you root for them.””

    Lopez said the coverage of the team has been good.

    “”Any kind of media exposure is going to help,”” Lopez said. “”It’s going pretty well as it is. It’s not like college baseball is hurting, but any type of media exposure is good.””

    Unprecedented nervousness

    Although Mark’s full-time position as an NFL analyst requires a demanding commitment, ESPN allows the two-time Pro Bowler to flex his schedule around Arizona’s.

    With as many family trips as possible, his daughter, Alex, and wife, Lisa, sat in the front row for game one of the Cal State-Fullerton series on March 14.

    Daniel began warming up in the bullpen in the seventh inning, prompting a nervous Mark. Not even the anxiety of starting in three Super Bowls and playing 12 seasons in the NFL approaches the feeling Mark experiences when Daniel enters the game.

    “”(Those haven’t) even touched the nerves I feel anytime my son trots out of that bullpen,”” Mark said. “”I am literally sick. I get fever blisters, I break out. … I stress so bad during the baseball season.””

    Daniel struck out the side in the seventh inning, promoting a large ovation and excitement from Mark’s corner.

    Mark’s daughter Alex, 21, helps out with video recording by moving the camera into the section of scouts, who rose radar guns up with every pitch.

    And with every strikeout, a new gun rose from the section behind home plate.

    “”When I played, at least I’m in control whether I screwed it up or played well,”” Mark said. “”Being a parent sitting here in these stands, I have zero control over how my son performs or what he does.

    “”I love the games when my kid’s not pitching,”” Mark added. “”When he comes in for however long he does, it is absolutely nerve-racking for me.””

    ‘The maturity of about 12-year-olds’

    In such a unique project that exposes a personal view of the Schlereth family, only its loose mentality and fun personality would form the perfect match.

    “”We both have the maturity of about 12-year-olds,”” Mark said.

    Added Daniel: “”We just like to have a good time. We try to keep things loose around the house. I think that translates on the field for me and the studio for him.””

    The close father-son relationship revolves around a unique set of similarities. As a former professional athlete, Mark can often relate to some of the ups and downs Daniel faces at his high level of competition – despite Mark’s career in football and Daniel’s potential future in baseball.

    Such potential cultivated from tough years in the making after Mark instilled crucial keys to a prospective professional athlete at a young age.

    “”There’s been times for me as a parent, I’ve really been a jerk when it comes to this because I demanded so much from (Daniel),”” Mark said. “”Now that he’s older and a little wiser and mature, now he understands why at 12 years old I was chewing him out.

    “”I want him to have the best opportunity to play at the next level,”” he added. “”I always knew he had the talent to play at the next level. I just wanted him to mentally be tough enough to handle the ups and downs and challenges.””

    Today, as a UA junior, Daniel has developed the maturity to understand the demands that professional athletes face.

    The left-handed closer was selected in the eighth round of last year’s draft, but opted to return to Arizona for the opportunity to help the Wildcats compete for a national championship.

    “”I can still hear him in the stands sometime,”” Daniel said. “”It’ll bring a smile to my face. We’ve always been close.””

    In the end, baseball still brings the family together. America’s pastime became the Schlereth family-bonding epicenter – especially in the seats of Sancet Stadium.

    “”Baseball has been a family affair, and it’s really been something that’s brought us all together as a family,”” Mark said. “”It’s been a phenomenal run for all of us. My wife and two daughters … we’re all baseball junkies.””

    As a typically shy and private person, Daniel took time to warm up to the idea of embracing the national spotlight.

    “”Daniel is very humble, far more humble than me,”” Mark said.

    “”And private,”” added Lisa, his mother.

    Mark wrote about such issues with privacy online, citing a “”slightly annoyed”” mood from Daniel at times due to the amount of questions.

    “”Initially he wasn’t extremely enthused about it, but I think he’s grown with the idea,”” Mark said.

    Added Daniel with a laugh: “”I thought it was a great idea, but I didn’t really want to participate in it.””

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