D-backs Prospect Daulton Varsho Is a Name to Know

Daulton Varsho is a Cheesehead at heart. He hails from Chili, Wisconsin, attended high school in nearby Marshfield, and played collegiately at UW-Milwaukee. Summer ball also found him close to home. The 21-year-old catcher strapped on his gear for the Eau Claire Express, in the wood-bat Northwoods League.

He’s currently hanging his hat in the Pacific Northwest. Selected in the second round of this year’s draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Varsho is beginning his career with the short-season Hillsboro (Oregon) Hops. The environs have been to his liking. With the Northwest League playoffs set to begin, Varsho’s left-handed stroke has produced a .311/.368/.534 slash line.

His rooting interests have largely been geographic, but there is a notable — and perfectly plausible — exception. Varsho is a Packers fan, and he went to Badgers games growing up, but he didn’t root for the Brewers. His baseball allegiances were with the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom his father — former big-league outfielder Gary Varsho — was the bench coach during his childhood.

The youngster is named after his dad’s late friend and one-time teammate Darren Daulton.

“I have the honor of carrying his name,” Varsho said of the Phillies legend, who lost a battle with brain cancer last month. “And it’s a great honor, because he was not only a fantastic player, he was very humble and very hardworking. That’s what my parents have always wanted me to be, a very humble and very hardworking kid.”

While Varsho’s assessment of Daulton might not necessarily square with the memory some have of the often controversial catcher, it’s clear he means it.

The fact that Varsho — like his namesake — dons the tools of ignorance is happenstance rather than design. From an early age, he was naturally attracted to the position, in part because he “enjoys being able to control the game.”

He admits that throwing out his father on the base paths would have been a big challenge. The elder Varsho was 27 for 32 in stolen-base attempts as a big leaguer, and he had 40 or more steals three times in the minors.

“My dad was a lot faster than I am,” admitted Varsho. “The last 60 [yard dash] I ran was a 6.8, and I think he was well below that… I guess he could really fly.”

Comparing familial wheels is a subject he’s comfortable addressing. Comping himself — ditto modeling his game after someone else’s — is a different story.

“I don’t want to ever compare myself to anyone,” said Varsho. “I just want to do the things I’ve always done. Being Daulton Varsho is what is going to work best for me. Once you try to be somebody else, you start becoming a player you’re not. It can only mess up the fundamentals you grew up with, and that got you to this level.”

Gary Varsho’s son doesn’t lack confidence. Asked if he’s surprised to be putting up boffo numbers against professional pitching, he responded in the negative. Not only does he believe in himself, he has a much bigger goal: “to be a starting catcher in the major leagues.”

His background didn’t portend immediate success in professional baseball. Unlike many high-round picks, Varsho didn’t hone his skills against top-flight competition on the travel-ball circuit. Before going on to play at UW-Milwaukee, the proud Wisconsinite was “just a hometown kid, playing American Legion ball.”

He’s now chasing a dream in pro ball, and not because of parental pressure. Following in his father’s footsteps emerged as a natural path, but it was never an expectation.

“I grew up playing football and baseball, and I had tennis lessons when I was little,” explained Varsho. “I always wanted to be playing different sports, and my dad never really pushed toward any certain one. But I always wanted be like him, so I put baseball on my back.”

You can bet that seeing the name “Varsho” on the back of a Diamondbacks uniform would put smiles on a lot of faces in central Wisconsin, especially his family’s.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Great story, RiP Darren Daulton.