SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers resident Daniel Zlotnick spent several years in the Southwest pursuing a professional baseball career, but now, the 23-year-old is trading in his glove for a guitar as he tries to make it big in the world of music.
After leading the Somers High School varsity baseball team to three consecutive section titles, culminating in a no-hitter in the 2009 championship game against Yorktown, Zlotnick went on to pitch three seasons for Division 1 Marist University.
In 2013, he joined the Trinidad Triggers of the Pecos League, a Texas-based independent league that has produced two Major League Baseball players since its inception in 2009. He split 2014 between Trinidad and the Raton Osos before calling it quits.
Though his baseball career didn’t pan out, those long team bus rides in the Southwest provided Zlotnick the opportunity to hone another craft. A guitar player since his father bought him one for his 11th birthday, Zlotnick has performed in many middle school and high school bands, citing Jimmy Page and Stevie van Zandt as influences.
While in college, without a band to back him, Zlotnick began perfecting an acoustic set that would play well in the local coffee houses. It was during that time period that he began, for the first time in his life, writing original tunes.
Driving to and from Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico could sometimes take a half-day. During this time, Zlotnick, while “falling out of love with baseball,” found himself focusing more and more on his music.
“It was definitely hard to do,” Zlotnick said of his baseball career. “I wasn’t excited to go sleep in a host family’s house and ride a bus for 13 hours. We were in middle of nowhere; the only place that had WiFi was the Denny’s.”
His debut EP, independently released last year, was written almost entirely while playing in the Pecos League.
“When everybody was asleep [on the bus], I’d be figuring out songs and recording voice memos and writing lyrics in the notes,” Zlotnick said.
After retiring from the sport, he returned to Somers, where he began taking gigs at local establishments, such as Burger Barn and Muscoot Tavern in Somers; Rockwood Music Hall, Bowery Electric, Parkside Lounge in New York City; Note in Bethel, Conn.; and Lucy’s in Pleasantville. He played more than 100 shows in 2016. During these performances, he never likes to tell the audience when he’s performing one of his own songs instead of a cover.
“While performing at Burger Barn, I was playing one of my own songs,” he said. “My mom was there and she was like, ‘What song is that?’ I said it was mine and she said, ‘You have to record these and get them down.’”
Zlotnick chose what he felt were his six best songs and headed to the studio. On the EP, Zlotnick performed vocals, guitar and banjo. James Marchionno, a 2008 Somers High School graduate, joined him on drums. The EP is available to stream on Amazon, Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, Tidal and others. One of his songs, “Wildest Dream,” was featured on 107.1 The Peak.
Zlotnick said his untitled album, which he describes as acoustic rock, is a mixture of The Avett Brothers and Bruce Springsteen. There are many factors in deciding which songs make the cut, but one is most important.
“I just want music people can sing along to and just drive to it with the windows down,” he said.
Zlotnick, who still lives in Somers, is currently writing and recording music for his second album. An independent artist, Zlotnick pays an annual fee to a company called TuneCore to have his music streamed on all the major applications, which are known for not paying artists very well.
“I’ve had at least a few thousand plays on Spotify and I think I’ve made like $4,” Zlotnick said.
He also works as a substitute teacher and assistant baseball coach and pitching instructor for the Somers High School baseball teams. He actually started working with Somers High School while a college student on break.
Zlotnick said he enjoys working with the students, who have discovered his other career.
“We have a big speaker for batting practice and they put on one of my songs,” he said.
On Friday, March 17, Zlotnick will be playing one of his biggest concerts to date. He will be the opening act for Grammy Award-winning folk rock singer Marc Cohn at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater in Peekskill. Tickets are available at paramounthudsonvalley.com.
To learn more about Zlotnick and to view a list of upcoming shows, visit danzlotnick.com.