STM's Marchese puts baseball dream in play

Standing in the box, Josh Marchese brings a flexible approach to his role.

A batter’s box isn’t very large, but the six-foot-two Marchese can flip his strategy in the matter of seconds, depending upon pitch and the count.

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After all, there’s nothing sweeter than the sound of a well-hit ball.

For Marchese, baseball is where his comfort zone begins.

“I’ve always had a good average. I hate striking out, that’s one of my pet peeves,” the Burnaby teen said. “I’m not a fan of it. If there are two strikes, I’ll get in to a lower stance and just put the bat on the ball, keep it simple and figure it out. I’m not a fan (of striking out). Especially when there’s a moment when we need a hit, it’s just not what I like to do.”

Hitting is his calling card, and as a member of the Langley Blaze of the B.C. Premier Baseball League, it’s how he contributed to a terrific season. Although the Blaze didn’t win the provincial title, they went down swinging in a series against Abbotsford.

Marchese delivered a two-run single in the final and, in the semifinal, connected on a grand slam that erased a 4-0 deficit.

It’s those kinds of clutch moments that have earned the St. Thomas More grad a new opportunity, as a freshman with the Div. 1 Niagara University Purple Eagles next month.

“They’re a Division I program, so that was always my dream, to play Div. 1 baseball,” Marchese said of the Catholic university in Lewiston, N.Y. “They said I would play as a freshman and work into their program, move my way up, which is important.”

Opportunity is key, and Marchese says there’s no doubt that it’s a big adjustment heading to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Pitchers will bring a different kind of heat, but the Burnaby minor baseball product isn’t fazed by it.

Over the past year alone, he’s been taking his cuts against players from the college level as well as minor pro levels, thanks to provincial team and the Blaze travelling team.

Last year he played in the Perfect Games World Series in Florida, where a group of Canadians joined some Dominican players to make a roster and compete in a heavily scouted tourney.

“There were 120 teams and 1,200 scouts. It was an amazing tournament. (The scouts) drove around in golf carts and came to your field. We did fairly well, although it was a different team – we were on a Canada-Dominican team that ended up ranked 50th in the world.”

This past spring, Langley headed to Arizona and tested its mettle in a tour that saw them play pros from the  rookie, Single-A and Double-A circuits of the Major League farm systems.

“We were facing guys who throw low to high 90s – one of the guys warming up in the pen was throwing 106, 107,” he recalled. “It was an eye-opening experience. In B.C. there are probably one or two who can throw above 90. It was just incredible.”

Having started playing
the game at the age of 10, Marchese grew quickly to love the diamond game and its many nuances. He pitched and played the infield, but in recent years left the throwing to others and concentrated on wielding a heavy stick.

Last year, his first with Langley, saw him post the league’s sixth-best batting average at .374, with 25 runs batted in. Only 15 times in 107 at bats did he strike out.

“I only had him for one year (in Langley), but as far as a player, Josh improved a tonne on defence. He worked hard at getting better,” remarked Blaze coach Jamie Bodaly. “His hitting was good already, but he’s taken it to the next level. He’s a tough out, with what we call an advanced approach. He hunts his pitches and is ready to make adjustments in the count.”

A former starting goalkeeper with a Cliff Avenue metro team, Marchese was a starting lineman with STM’s football team all through high school. Some of his best friends – Tyler Eckert, Sajjan Shokar and David Osho – are heading to universities (Laurier, Windsor and Toronto, respectively) back east to play football.

For Marchese, however, the sport of choice always came back to the batter’s box.

“When you’re hot as a hitter, it’s probably the best feeling,” he said. “It’s basically a gift that I can still play baseball and go to school. It’s a way to go to school and not pay as much.”

He credits his parents for supporting him and being there for nearly every game, which tallied 130 the past year. On the diamond, Marchese has always looked up to former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, from whom he earned the ‘Papi’ nickname. He’s also known as ‘Cheese,’ and not because he can’t lay-off the high heat.

While he’ll be in a new school with new teammates, Marchese said he’s eager to do the work to earn his playing time. And when he gets to the plate, there’s no such thing as a big hole.

“A majority of my hits tend to be with two strikes,” he said. “I like being at two-strikes – it’s either do-or-die. You either strike out and look bad, or you get a hit and be clutch. Two-strike at-bats I like.”

Count on it.

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