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.
"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
"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
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
"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."