By Estela Marie L. Go
Sports, identities, and future selves were up for grabs in the backyard of the Diekroeger household. Stanford's Kenny and Danny Diekroeger played it all: soccer, basketball, football, and baseball. Over the years, however, they began focusing their athleticism. In high school, it was basketball for Kenny, football for Danny, and baseball for both.
"Growing up, I was good at a lot of sports so it was tough for me to choose which one I liked best but something about baseball really appealed to me," Kenny said. "Baseball is an individual sport and a team sport [simultaneously]. It is America's pastime and ever since I was little, I wanted to be part of that."
Only a year apart, the Diekroeger brothers have played on a number of the same teams. They have gone through t-ball, little league, middle school, and high school baseball together. This year Danny, a freshman, will be reunited with his older brother Kenny, a sophomore shortstop on the No. 10-ranked Cardinal.
"We have a young team and Kenny had a phenomenal year and is back to his natural position of shortstop after leading our team in hitting as a freshman," said 35-year head coach Mark Marquess, who has won two national titles with the Cardinal. "I expect him to have an even better sophomore year."
"It's nice to know someone on the team already," Danny said. "I've been able to talk to him about a lot of things and see what he's gone through so I'm more comfortable than a lot of [new players]."
Living only a few miles from Stanford in the home of two Stanford graduates gave these brothers examples to look up to and dreams to go after.
"My parents encouraged us but didn't put pressure on us so we wanted to do well in things and we wanted to get better," Danny said. "They let us make mistakes and overcome them ourselves. They didn't try to puppet us through life but let us do our own things and so far it has worked out."
Kenny and Danny grew up wearing Stanford gear, watching athletic matches on The Farm, and balancing sports and school--a combination of what it takes to be a Stanford student athlete.
"Ever since I was little, academics has always been number one," Kenny said. "I'm not just a typical jock; I'm much more well-rounded than that. I care about school and I really value my education."
"Kenny's got everything. He's got size, he's got arm strength, he's got speed, he's got power and hits for average and I think he proved that last year," said Marquess, also a Stanford alum, who has coached 52 players who have eventually made it to the Majors. "Also playing out of position is very difficult for a player coming out of high school and he did a nice job of it."
While both brothers were undoubtedly taking their academic career to the next level, it was not until Stanford offered them a spot on the team when they realized that baseball could be a significant part of their future.
BROTHERHOOD AND BASEBALL
The Diekroeger brotherhood actually consists of three outstanding student athletes: Kenny, Danny, and Mikey (who is currently a freshman at Menlo School).
"The relationship I have with Danny is obviously different than the relationship I have with Mikey because Danny and I were so close in age that I don't look at myself as a true mentor to him," Kenny, a freshman All-American and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last year, said. "But as for Mikey, I feel like it's my responsibility to help guide him through high school. When I was his age, I really didn't know what I was doing and I just went with the flow. Now I know what worked for me and I can help him get better in a more efficient way than I did."
But set an example he did to Danny. What Kenny went through one year, Danny found himself going through soon after.
"I remember the first time being on the same team together was in t-ball and I have these memories of Kenny getting up to bat, hitting it really far, and running around the bases," Danny said. "Then when I got up (and I was a little bit smaller), I would try to do the same thing but could only get it out into the infield for a single."
Years of playing together brought them closer and took their baseball careers to higher levels. While they have shared experiences and memories together, both still have unique personal achievements all to themselves.
Kenny enters his sophomore campaign as a preseason All-American after leading the Cardinal to the NCAA Regionals behind a team-best .356 average and 41 RBIs. In his first season he played third with three-year starter, Jake Schlander, to his left at short. Danny meanwhile moved over to short at Menlo School, following the departure of his brother, and the team won the league championship. Also, he was the school's starting quarterback. Danny is expected to be a utility infielder in his first season.
Over the summer, Danny prepared to play collegiate baseball while Kenny improved on his game and transitioned back to playing shortstop in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, where he was a starting all-star for Newport (RI) and briefly leading the team in hitting.
"People like to say defense and pitching win championships and if you're making errors on defense, it doesn't help the team win so hopefully I can improve on my defense and cut down my number of errors," Kenny said. "As for hitting, I struck out a lot too but I worked on that during the summer and I thought I did that pretty well."
For both, the goals for this upcoming season is to help the team in anyway that they can, all in the hope to win games and maybe even make it to Omaha.
At this point, anything can happen and the Diekroeger brothers may even surprise themselves.
Jan. 19, 2011