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Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Updated: March 7, 12:29 PM ET
Schlereth opens up about pitching, pressure and family support

By Daniel Schlereth
Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: This season, former NFL player and ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth and his son, Arizona reliever Daniel, will keep a running journal on ESPN.com of Daniel's season. Mark outlines what it's like to watch a son compete through a father's eyes in the first part of the series.

I'm lucky that I have a family who has made so many sacrifices to watch me play baseball pretty much my whole life. My mom, dad and two sisters have been amazing and extremely supportive and now ESPN.com readers get a chance to meet my family and see their dedication. They've made my life easier over the years by loving the thing that I love so much.

Hopefully this will be a fun season for my teammates, my family, friends and myself as we fight for a chance to get to Omaha, Neb., to play in the College World Series rather than just watch it like I have in the past.

I would like to start my portion of the series off by answering some questions about myself so that people will understand where I'm coming from and what I'm like. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there wondering who I am so this is probably the best avenue for you guys to get to know me before we really get going.

ESPN.com: What was your motivation for coming back to college?

Daniel Schlereth: I love this team and I love the guys I play with and I want to be a part of something special and I believe we have a great opportunity to do that this season. My goal is to get to the College World Series and to play in Rosenblatt Stadium for the first time. That's why I came back -- because an opportunity like that is incredibly rare.

ESPN.com: What are your goals for this season?

DS: My goals are really simple and that's to pitch the best I possibly can in every outing and to help this team win in any way I can. I try to block the personal goals out right now and just focus on the team. We have a great opportunity to win a title and to join a rare group of extraordinary teams who have done that. I'm completely dedicated to winning and after watching my father over the years I know that it takes dedication, pride and purpose to win. I hate to use a cliché here, but I'm leaving it all on the field every time, because that's what I demand of myself.

ESPN.com: You had a rocky start to the season, how do you bounce back from a poor performance?

DS: That opening series against Georgia was extremely tough for myself and my team. It was a tough series against a great team that deserves way more credit than it receives. Luckily we played well enough to take two out of three games even though I know I didn't pitch my best out there. There was a lot of anticipation on this team for the opening series due to the high expectations and hopes we have this season and it was nice to win the series.

That said, the minute I step off that mound I'm already assessing what I did well and what I did poorly and using that to make myself better, but I'm not focused on the performance itself. A relief pitcher has to have an even-keeled mentality and just forget the performances good and bad when you're up on the mound. I can't afford to sit and stew over a poor performance and my team can't afford for me to be getting down on myself. I just take the good with the bad and hope that the hard work and dedication that I put into the game pays off when I'm up on the mound.

Also, no player wants to be responsible for a poor attitude on the team because attitudes can be so infectious. We always try and stay upbeat win or lose. Baseball is a crazy game where you can lose one night and then have to come back immediately so you have to have the right mind-set to take care of business.

ESPN.com: In the Sacramento State series, you bounced back and pitched well. How'd you feel afterward?

DS: As a reliever, there aren't many better feelings than when you walk onto the field with men on bases and you clean up the mess. I love walking into the dugout afterwards and seeing the smile on the previous pitcher's face after that happens. It's just an awesome feeling. The guys are loose and feeling on top of the world and you're the hero for that moment. Those are the moments that you get geeked up for when you're warming up and envisioning the game in the moments before a game starts.

ESPN.com: What's the biggest difference between you now and when you were a freshman?

DS: The biggest difference is how I take care of my body. I feel old even saying this, but when I was a kid I could do anything I wanted and not feel any pain. But now, as a young man, I have to think about everything and really focus on stretching and warmups. I make sure to keep my arm as loose as possible before I start pitching.

I've also matured as a ballplayer in terms of my preparation. I keep a daily journal to jot down my routine and make sure I'm doing the things I'm supposed to be doing. I realize the full importance of preparation in every facet of the game now. Before I may not have been as diligent in my workouts, stretching and the mental parts of the game, but now I feel that I'm striving to be the best for my team in every part of my daily routine.

ESPN.com: What's it like pitching when your Dad is in the stands yelling and screaming?

DS: There have been some times when I've definitely heard him getting it going if the stadium is empty, but for the most part I don't hear anything. When I'm out there pitching, I'm trying my best to just completely focus on the catcher's mitt and getting that guy in the box out. If I start trying to listen for my Dad and the rest of my family, then I'm going to start hearing other people out there and that will mess with my concentration and I can't let that happen.