Skyline freshman pitcher and former Sonora Wildcat Dan Molieri was getting his arm loose prior to the 2011 season finale on April 28 vs. Ohlone in Freemont.
FORMER SONORA WILDCAT DAN MOLIERI, back home at Bev Barron Field in July, has impressed his college coach John Quintell with his talent, work ethic and leadership abilities. Quintell hasn't decided yet whether Molieri will be a starter or reliever for the 2012 Trojans. "All I know," said Quintell, "is that I want Danny on that field for us as much as possible." AMY ALONZO ROZAK/UNION DEMOCRAT
“Our team record wasn’t what it should have been,” recalled Molieri. “I know Coach (John) Quintell wasn’t satisfied. Of course, as a competitor, I wasn’t happy either.”
Skyline had made the playoffs four consecutive seasons, from 2007 through 2010. In 2011, the Trojans would finish fourth in the Coast Conference/Pacific Division (12-12) and 16-19 overall — out of postseason play.
So 12-year Skyline coach John Quintell made a decision on that April day in Freemont with regards to the 2012 season.
“Coach Quintell comes up to me,” recalled Molieri “and he says, No.1 ‘I have high hopes for you.’ Then he says, ‘No. 2, We’re gonna work hard with you this summer.’ Then he says, ‘Also, we’re making you a team captain.’
“My reaction? I was ecstatic. Being named a captain is a big honor to me.”
“There’s a few reasons I wanted Danny to be a captain for us,” said Quintell, a former player in the New York Yankees organization. “Danny is very personable and that’s a big asset. He is absolutely a fantastic young man. But in terms of leading our baseball team, it’s his work ethic which will be his strongest asset. As a sophomore, I expect Danny will get our incoming freshmen in order. He’ll lead us vocally, sure. But he’ll also be a tremendous captain because he’ll lead our team when they watch his effort on the practice field and in games.”
“Good choice, Skyline!” beamed Sonora High head baseball coach Scott Johnson, who coached Molieri in 2009 and 2010. “He’ll be an outstanding team captain for their baseball team. No one will outwork Dan. No one will compete any harder. I haven’t the slightest doubt that he was setting the tone for his teammates during offseason workouts this summer — leading them by his example and encouraging them. I’m positive he did that for Skyline because that’s what he did for us here at Sonora.”
Sonora High head football coach Bryan Craig said, “Dan being named captain there doesn’t surprise me at all. He has natural leadership abilities. And, of course, he was a captain on our football team, too.”
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Molieri appeared in 12 contests for the 2011 Trojans and earned a save. This summer, he stayed in San Bruno, took summer-school courses and worked on his pitching.
“Danny had some delivery issues he needed to shore up,” said Quintell. “Like a lot of young pitchers, Danny was rushing off the mound. He’s gotten that fixed.”
In a late-July workout, Quintell put the radar gun on Molieri.
“I knew he was popping that mitt really hard,” said Quintell. “His delivery was perfect. So I told him, ‘Come here, I want you to see this.’ I showed him the gun and he was throwing 86 and 87 (mph). He’d put in his time. He’d worked so hard, so I wanted him to see what he’d accomplished.”
“I looked at the clock and thought, ‘Oh, wow!’ ” recalled Molieri. “I thought all the hard work I’d put in was starting to pay off for me.”
“Danny has increased his velocity, his power,” said Quintell. “He’s developed a nice slider and now we’re working on a changeup, which is really just an old-fashioned palmball. He has shown me that he has good command on that mound.”
“What I always admired about Danny was that he wanted to be on that mound in the most crucial moments,” said Johnson. “He thrived in pressure situations. When the bases were loaded and there were no outs I never needed to look any further than Dan Molieri. I’d know he was ready to get the job done for us. His will to compete can’t be topped.”
Molieri’s varsity athletic career at Sonora started on a hot August night in 2008. To be precise, it started at 12:01 a.m. at Dunlavy Field in what the Sonora football program calls “Midnight Madness,” the first minute the CIF allows teams to practice for an upcoming season.
“Let’s play some football!” bellowed Molieri, then a 5-foot-7, 125-pound junior cornerback.
“That’s Danny,” said Craig. “He was always excited to play football. In fact, he’d take film from us and go home and study it. His enthusiasm was contagious.”
“When I was real young, my dad (Dan Molieri, of San Rafael) expected a lot out of me,” explains Molieri, who graduated from Sonora in 2010. “He expected perfection and he was tough on me and that helped me a lot. I’d say I had been blessed with some athletic talent.
“And then later, once my mom (Dee) and Kirk (Clifton) got married — I call Kirk ‘Dad’ as well — he’d always take me to the games he was coaching at Calaveras. I think my enthusiasm comes from being part of the Clifton family. They accepted me as one of them.”
Also on that football coaching staff in San Andreas was Kirk’s legendary father, Dale “Old School” Clifton.
“Well, my grandpa Dale and Kirk both coached with so much enthusiasm and they took things serious and a lot of that has rubbed off on me. So, once I got to high school, I set high goals for myself.”
Amongst Molieri’s accomplishments were a 5-0 pitching record in 2009 with a 2.05 ERA and, on the gridiron, 13 career interceptions which place him amongst the all-time leaders in Sonora history.
Like Kirk Clifton (Sonora class of 1991, and now Wildcat offensive coordinator), Molieri was chosen to participate in the ultra-prestigious Lions All-Star Classic Football Game. Molieri was the starting cornerback on the victorious North All-Star team in 2010.
“Dan will be an excellent coach some day,” said Craig. “I’ve already told him that there’s an open door for him here on my staff. He can come back here and coach football for me any time he’d like.”
Fall baseball practice for Skyline started on Monday.
“Danny will be pushing for a starting job this year,” said Quintell. “And if he’s in relief, he’ll be our go-to guy, for sure, three times a week.”
“If they want me as one of our three starters, fine,” said Molieri. “If not, I’ll gladly relieve, whether that be one inning or five innings. I only have one goal this year: Do everything I can to help this team win. Period.”
“We’ll put Danny in a position to succeed,” said Quintell. “I look for great things from him this year. We plan on being a successful baseball team this season and, no matter what, Danny will be a huge part of that success.”