Daulton Varsho has been surrounded by the sport of baseball his entire life. His father, Gary, played eight seasons in the major leagues, and has spent many years as a coach and scout following his playing days.
With a father in pro baseball, Varsho has countless memories of the game. His favorite occurred in the early 2000s when his father was the bench coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.
“(My favorite memory) was when I was little, I hit with Jim Thome,” said Varsho. “He’s probably going to be a hall of famer here soon. He took me to the batting cage a lot and would flip me balls. I would hit and he’d help me out. It’s really good memories I’ll always have.”
Varsho has also leaned on his father for advice, recalling one simple, but impactful, statement his father once told him.
“There are ones that are humble and there are ones that are about to be,” Varsho said. “I live by it every day.”
Those words have stuck with Varsho, who is thriving as a member of the Milwaukee Panthers baseball team.
Last year, as a sophomore, Varsho had a tremendous season, hitting .381 with eight home runs and 51 RBIs, while also handling the everyday catching duties. Varsho was named Horizon League Player of the Year in 2016, becoming just the second sophomore in the past 20 years to win the league award.
With the Panthers season starting on Feb. 17, Baseball America ranks Varsho as the 98th-best college prospect for June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.
“He’s a baseball player,” Panthers head coach Scott Doffek said. “He can hit. He’s an exceptional baserunner. He has good instincts all over the field. You can put him anywhere on the field and he’d (adjust) pretty quick. He’s just a ball player. He’s a damn good hitter.”
Listed at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Varsho is undersized but has a tremendous hitting ability, presenting a balanced combination of power and plate discipline.
Besides having a breakout season with the Panthers last year, he also destroyed opposing pitching in the Northwoods League last summer, hitting .321 with 15 home runs.
“It’s helped a lot (with my development),” said Varsho about playing in the Northwoods League the last two summers. “A lot of at-bats. Mentally and physically being able to play all those games every day. Coming to the ballpark with energy to play every day.”
Pleased with Varsho’s development at the plate the last two years, Doffek attributes his success to receiving around 400 at-bats each season between Milwaukee and the Northwoods League.
“He’s matured and gotten better in the strikeout zone,” Doffek said. “When he swings at strikes, good things are going to happen.”
As Varsho enters his junior season, Doffek hopes to see him improve his arm strength.
“Certainly at the next level that’s going to have to improve,” said Doffek about Varsho’s arm strength. “It’s in there and will get there. He just has to get a bit more consistent with his fundamentals.”
Even with room to grow defensively, Doffek is confident Varsho will remain behind the plate in professional baseball.
“I think he could be (a catcher), and I think he will be,” Doffek said. “Depending on how his throwing comes that will dictate it. But, offensive catchers are hard to find.”
While Varsho will likely receive an opportunity to turn pro come June’s draft, he’s only focused on his junior season with the Panthers and leading the team to a NCAA tournament appearance.
“Just being myself is the best I can do for myself,” Varsho said. “I don’t have goals for myself. Just playing hard and taking it pitch-by-pitch. More just trying to get us to a regional. I haven’t experienced that and I’d love to experience that this year.”
Find more MLB Draft coverage here.