Q: What’s your favorite baseball movie?
I’d probably say Major League because of the camaraderie they show in the movie and it’s just a bunch of misfits. They all ball out, but they are degenerates. It’s just a fun comedy baseball movie!
Q: Who was your favorite team growing up?
So, I had two favorite teams. Obviously the San Diego Padres, just because I’ve lived in San Diego County since I was about 2 years old. But when my parents moved over [to the United States] from Cuba, they lived in New York and New Jersey, like right near Yankee Stadium, so a lot of my family grew up as Yankee fans, so that just trickled down to me. So basically, I was a Yankee-Padres fan. (Sorry to the Blue Jay fans!)
Q: Who is your current favorite player and your all-time favorite player?
Current favorite player… that’s kinda tough because after being drafted and meeting a bunch of people, you just realize that we’re all the same. We’ve all been down the same road, but I’m most excited to see Vladdy Jr. Obviously he’s in my organization and he’s so young. The dude is an absolute stud! I just want to see what he’ll do in a full season and healthy. What he did in the minors is just unreal, so it will be cool to see what he does in the bigs. Also, Tatis Jr. too because of the Friar Faithful, bringing it back to Petco.
All-time favorite player… I’d have to say Andy Pettitte. Since I’m a left-handed pitcher and grew up a Yankees fan, plus I don’t throw hard or anything. When I started paying attention to baseball, Andy Pettitte when at the top of his career, was a high 80s to low 90s pitcher, he’s crafty and that kinda stuff just resonated with me. So definitely Andy or even Cliff Lee when he was with the Indians and Rangers. They’re just guys who went out there and used what they had to win.
Q: Who/what has been your biggest inspiration?
I’d have to say my parents. My dad was a third-world country farmer and my mom came from the city, but more factory kind of lifestyle. Coming here with nothing but the shirts on their back and a little bit of money. So their hard work and where they’ve gotten to now, inspired me to push myself to try and be successful in everything that I’ve done.
Q: How did you get into baseball?
I feel like every parent goes through this phase where they want their child to play a sport when they are young just so they can do something. My mom just signed me up for tee-ball when I was 5. She just said to my dad, “hey, I want him to play some sports just to see if he likes anything,” and she just signed me up. It’s funny because my dad is a big baseball fan, but ultimately it was my mom who got me into baseball.
Q: What advice do you have for younger players?
Don’t worry about the results so much that it affects the process.
Q: What’s your warm-up song?
My walk-out song is “More Love” by Rebelution. I had to text my friend and former teammate, Danny Sheehan right before season because that was his walk-up song all throughout college. So asked him, “hey dude, is it cool if I walk out to your song? We’re boys and I love that song and I want to ask you first,” and he was cool with it. I think I’m going to ride with that song for as long as I play because I absolutely love that song!
Q: You were fortunate enough to play under Tony Gwynn for a year at San Diego State University before he passed away in 2014. How did Coach Gwynn impact you as a player?
Honestly, I think the big thing that TG did for us was he treated us like men and he treated us with respect. Being a pitcher, I wasn’t with him all the time like the hitters would be, but you know, he was a Hall-of-Famer, he was one of the best hitters, if not THE best hitter to ever play baseball. I mean the guy hit .338 in his career, but he never treated you like he was bigger than you. You were always an equal to him and he always respected you. I think that was the biggest thing I got from him. I know I was only with him for a year, but just seeing how he went about business and that he was just human, not some super juggernaut Hall-of-Fame guy. He was a regular man and he treated everyone else equal and that was just awesome to see.
I actually have a really funny story about the first time I met TG. So it was my sophomore year of high school and they brought me on an official visit to SDSU. Coach Valenzuela, who at the time was the pitching coach and the recruiting coordinator, was showing me around the facility and we were coming down the tunnel and the guys were practicing. He turns to me and says, “You’re about to meet Tony Gwynn. He’s going to be in the tunnel right here.” In my head I was thinking, “Oh my God. Tony Gwynn?! He was a Padre!”
I only met one kind of big-time baseball player before that: Dave Winfield. I had faced his son in a tournament, and since my parents were big Yankee fans, they wanted a picture with him. He took photos with us and he was just a good guy. So at the time, I had only met him and Dave Roberts, who had gone to the same high school as me, so he did a lot of stuff for our community.
So, I’m coming down the tunnel, and I see TG, and in my head, I go completely blank. He goes, “What’s up kid? How are you?” with a big smile on his face. I said, “Hi Mr. Winfield. Nice to meet you,” as I shake his hand. He kinda smiled at me and he obviously knew what I just said. But going back to what I said earlier, he treated everyone with respect. He probably figured, he’s a kid from San Diego, meeting the greatest San Diegan ever, and I just called him Mr. Winfield. He chuckled. In my head, I just kept thinking, “You’re so dumb, Marcus. What are you doing? This could be your potential head coach and you just called him Mr. Winfield.”
We watched practice for a little bit, and when I went back up the tunnel, I corrected myself and said, “Nice to meet you, Coach Gwynn.” He said, “There you go!” and he chuckled. It was so funny, but I was so embarrassed that that was the first thing I said to Tony Gwynn, not even as my potential head coach, but the fact that he’s one of the greatest San Diegans and greatest baseball player of all-time.
Q: Last season, you were playing for the Lansing Lugnuts, what has been a highlight of your time in Lansing?
I would have to say my teammates. At the end of the day, minor league and just professional baseball, you have to worry about yourself, but I would always hear about having teammates that were like mean and they only care about themselves. Luckily, the teammates I’ve had the last few years, coming up together in the system, have been awesome. The memories I’ve made with my teammates last year, I can never replace them.
My teammates, the fans, and the workers at the stadium, and the announcers were all great! But teammates were number one. I did everything with my teammates because we were just a close-knit group, and those are going to be my fondest and most cherished things from that Lansing season.
Q: You’ve played 79 games in your career, recording 7 career saves, do you prefer coming into the game for middle relief or closing it out?
We have this ongoing joke with a couple of my teammates. We call ourselves “The Bridge Guys”. We have this role where we get the starters to the back-end of the bullpen. We’re the guys in the middle that just eat up 2-3 innings and we’re just bridging it. Closing out a game is fun and everything, but I love coming in 4th or 5th inning, going 2 or 3, and just getting to the big dogs at the back-end. It’s more fun and just less stressful. It’s just been an on-going joke that I’m bridge guy or just “stereotypical bridge guy.” We’ve been running with it for the past 2 years.
Closing is awesome, but it just takes a different mentality to be a closer. Even in games I’ve gone in where we’re up by a lot and I go in to finish the game, those last three outs are still so hard to get. The beautiful thing about baseball is that the other team can start a comeback at any point in the game, even with two outs. So it’s tough, it’s fun and I like that challenge, but I’ve always loved being a middle of the game kinda guy! I’m not the serious kinda guy, so I can go out there and be my goofball self. Obviously, being put in a high stakes situation, I can be more serious, like closing out a game. But the bridge guy just suits me, it’s the goofball of the team.
Q: You used to be a starting pitcher at SDSU. Do you miss starting?
Yes and no. I’d have to say the one thing I miss about starting is having a good routine. Like I can long-toss this day, throw a pen this day, and your arm is always in pretty decent shape. I do love being in the bullpen more than being a starter for the last 3 years since transitioning my senior year at state to a bullpen guy. It’s not exactly the routine, but I just miss being able to do something that can prepare you for that day. When you’re coming out of the pen, you don’t throw a bullpen during the season. Like last year, I threw maybe two pens during season. One of them was literally the day after I pitched in a game. I didn’t do too hot, so I had asked my pitching coach, and I said, “Hey, this is what I felt yesterday… Is it cool if I throw a light pen today so I can just mimic it because I know that I’m going to be down for the next few days?” He said, “Sure, I don’t want you to, but if this is what you need, then you can do it.” It was a fastball only bullpen, but that was only one of two bullpens I had all year. We play 140 games, so your arm always needs to be ready to go. I had about 40 appearances out of the pen last season, but I didn’t just go one inning, I’d go two or three, so it felt like it was waring on my body by the end of the season. But if I want to be in the bigs, I just gotta wear it. Big league guys go about 22 more games than that, so I just gotta work on building up my stamina and to be just be ready for it.
Q: What has been your main focus this off-season/spring training?
Last year, I kinda changed my mechanics with my arm at the beginning of the season. I’ve been working on that more now, because when you’re in season and change something, you don’t really have much time to practice it. It just happens while you’re in the game, so I took this off-season to work on it more and just hone it in. I feel very comfortable with it now.
I also developed an actual cutter last year. I always had this “slutter”, a slider/cutter combo that I’d throw, but I worked on my new cutter a lot this off-season. I’m feeling really good about it! I remember one of my catchers went up to my pitching coach from last year and said, “Wow, Marcus has a legit cutter now.” So my emphasis this off-season and spring training was the cutter and the arm mechanics.
Q: Now that the season is postponed, what have you been doing in your free time?
So I recently started a brand called Rare Co. with one of my teammates, Sean Rackowski. We always do a lot of investing on Robinhood and we bounce ideas off each other, so when this idea first came to me about starting an e-commerce company, I knew if there was one person I was going to do this with, it was going to be Sean Rackowski. He’s one of my best buds, and when I approached him with the idea, I sent him an article about e-commerce and was like, “What do you think? Should we just send it?” and I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of “I’m down to be risky.”
I’m surrounded by so many business geniuses like my friend, Dom Purpura. If you say that that guy doesn’t influence you to be great or do anything, and to be brave, then you’re lying to yourself. I also have my friends, Andrew Brown and Tyler Loptien who are business guys, whether it’s stocks or just doing something to better yourself. So those three are always talking about different business ideas, so I took the time to research e-commerce myself.
I was on the verge of leaving for spring training, so I’m not going to ask any of these guys right now since I won’t see them. So I thought who else would be down to start a business and I instantly thought of Sean Rackowski. We started Rare Co. at the beginning of spring training. Every day, we go to the field, then come back, and play some Smash Bros. for an hour or two, then we go up to the conference room of the team hotel and just grind out different ideas. We had our first official launch day on April 11th and we’ve done pretty well so far. We’ve just been trying to understand this business, learn more and just grow! Sean is the mastermind behind the logo and all of the designs. From the get-go he knew what our logo should be and I trust him. We both built the site together and now I’m working on taking care of the social media front. I’ve been watching so many videos on Facebook Ads and how to promote and advertise better.
The idea came up around my memories with my teammates. We’d always have this joke about saying adventure, like if we wanted to have a fun time. Whether it was an off-day or we had a day game with some free-time at night, we’d always say let’s go on an adventure. We’d go do something like the movies, the bars, or just something fun. It was a good group of guys just going out and having a good time. When I approached Rack about starting the business, we came to a consensus that it had to be about adventure because that was our thing all last year.