When it comes to athletic achievements at Penn, few can top Mark DeRosa. In just two years at starting quarterback he became the fourth-leading passer in Quakers history.
And when this Wharton student and Sigma Chi fraternity member hit the baseball diamond in the spring season, he attracted attention from Major League scouts with his superior hitting and fielding skills. He was eventually drafted by the Atlanta Braves organization in 1996. He left Penn, having completing his junior year.
DeRosa has since carved out a niche for himself as a utility player, and after stints with the Braves and Texas Rangers he signed a three-year $13-million contract with the Chicago Cubs in the 2006-07 offseason.
Last week, The Daily Pennsylvanian took some time to catch up with the Red and Blue alum.
Daily Pennsylvanian: Tell me what it was like to be Mark DeRosa on Penn's campus.
Mark DeRosa: God, I was up at 7:00 in the morning, going to football meetings. I'd schedule my classes early in the morning and try and get those out of the way by lunch time, so I could eat lunch and take a nap before football practice. Then I'd go to football practice, see a tutor for a little bit and then head over to Smokey Joe's and have a few pops with the fellas. That [was] a day in the life for me.
DP: How did you feel about your experience as an undergrad in Wharton?
MD: My Wharton experience was awesome - intimidating as well . Is that school still graded on a curve?
DP: It certainly is. How did you deal with it?
MD: I knew going in that I was going to be middle-to-bottom of the pack in most my classes academically, so I tried to at least give an effort and let the teachers know I was there every day and putting forth effort.
I had a concentration in marketing. I enjoyed that. It wasn't so much number-crunching . I felt that I was in touch with what people liked.
DP: Would you ever consider pursuing a career in business after your playing career is through?
MD: I hope I never have to . I keep in touch with most of my buddies that I went to college with and they're all on Wall Street . I've kept those contacts and it's something that definitely interests me, but it's not anything I think about right now.
DP: Any crazy stories from Spring Fling?
MD: Spring Fling, I was playing baseball! All of my buddies were having all of the fun and I was at the field playing games. I really didn't get to enjoy all of the things my buddies did.
I went to the fraternity parties, I went to Smoke's, I went to Murph's as a freshman - you guys probably shouldn't write that though [laughs] - I went to Cavanaugh's to watch the football games on Sunday.
DP: How do feel that your experience as a Penn quarterback has helped you become a better clubhouse leader in the majors?
MD: I think it's helped because I've been in pressure situations. I think football is probably the most demanding sport there is [and] the most team-oriented sport I've ever been a part of.
Football is also the ultimate discipline sport. Practicing every day could become monotonous in football, but it was something you had to do to succeed on Saturday. Being the quarterback, I felt like I had to keep a level head, but I also had the ability to speak my mind.
I feel like that's helped me in the clubhouse. Hopefully, I'm called a leader - I don't know if I am by my teammates - but [I hope to be] someone who is not afraid to speak their mind on stuff.
DP: Do you have regrets?
MD: The one regret I have - and I wouldn't even call it a regret - [is leaving school early] when I was drafted. It was a decision I had to make because when you're drafted in baseball - if you're drafted high enough and they invest enough money in you - then they're going to give you every opportunity to make it to the major leagues. I felt like that was what I wanted to do. That was my childhood dream . Leaving school was a no-brainer at the time, but I still regret never being able to play football at [Penn] for two more years.
Doing two sports and concentrating on baseball toward the end of my career at Penn, I felt like I left a little bit on the table as far as football. I could have been a better player. I could have studied more film. I'm sure Al Bagnoli wouldn't want to hear that.
DP: What was your experience like in the minor leagues?
MD: I've been all over this country playing baseball . I've been in some podunk towns, that's for sure. I've eaten breakfast at bait-and-tackle shops in small towns in North Carolina.
Minor league baseball reminded me a lot of college: A bunch of guys, like a fraternity, having a bunch of fun, but the ballpark was our class.
Golly, there are so many stories I could tell, but I don't know if you could print them. The stories that come to mind are 17-hour bus rides from Eugene, Oregon to Boise, Idaho, wondering, "Why the hell am I doing this? Why am I not back hanging out with my friends in college?" . [My friends] were going out for the night and I was getting ready to play in front of 500 people in Yakima, Washington.
DP: Let's talk about your Major League career. You have played in Atlanta, Texas and Chicago. Which city has the best fans and where have you been happiest?
MD: When I'm done with my career, my time in Chicago - hopefully we'll win a World Series - I know I'll look back on it with the fondest memories. I can't wait to start spring training again, get back to Chicago and play in front of those people. They're so passionate. They care so much . You know that when you show up for work, you're not just doing it for yourself and your teammates, [but] you're doing it for the people who go about their every-day jobs and come home just to watch the Cubs. Their day, whether good or bad, revolves around whether we win or lose. That's something I care deeply about. As far as where I've been happiest, I'd have to say Chicago.
DP: Do you plan on finishing your degree at some point?
MD: I realize the sacrifices my parents made to send me to Penn. When you're a senior in high school, you have scholarships on the table for two sports, and you leave free education on the table to go to Penn, it forces your parents to re-mortgage the house and to really sacrifice. It's something I really appreciate . I'm sure my mom would love to see me graduate.
Getting my degree is definitely something I'd be interested in, but it's something that will have to wait until my career is done.Comments powered by Disqus
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