Marrero strikes up band with bat

May 06, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

Chris Marrero is one of those guys who moves to his own beat.

And when that beat comes together, it's pure music a veritable symphony.

His sound is clean. It's not the "Thump, thump, thump" that can be heard in some drive-by concerto on the streets. It's more of a "Crack, crack, crack."

Forget the MP3 players and iPods - Marrero gets his sounds from a baseball bat.

The Hagerstown Suns outfielder takes center stage nightly at Municipal Stadium where he's holding his own, personal "American Idol" contest.

He wants to be the King of Swing. His top prize is to someday be in the Washington Nationals starting lineup.

"I just want to be known as a great baseball player someday," Marrero said.

You could say Marrero has been discovered already. He was the Nationals' top selection - 15th overall - in the 2006 amateur draft. With that, came a fat contract - complete with a hefty signing bonus - and the distinction of being labeled as a future star for the rebuilding organization.


While third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been called "the face of the Nationals' franchise," it wouldn't be too far off the mark to label Marrero as "the face of the Nationals' farm system."

"I'm not thinking of that when I'm playing," Marrero said. "I'm just trying to have fun. It's fun and it's a game, but also a job. I'm living a dream."

What kid doesn't want to grow up being a star - be it in rock or baseball.

And even though Marrero is only 18, he knows he has to work.

He relishes the task of honing his craft.

His studio is situated behind the left field fence at Municipal Stadium. It's a batting cage, and that's where Marrero goes to create and find his rhythm.

There aren't any stereo mixers or amps back there. It's just a wide-open net enclosure where Marrero hits practice pitch after practice pitch to get his act together. Marrero comes to the park early daily just for the chance to get some of that studio time.

"With the batting drills, I like to be on my own," Marrero said. "It's my alone time. I just work on the things that I need to work on for the games. I'm trying to make everything an instinct."

Marrero's improvement comes with each passing day. He gets more confident at the plate and has made a home in the No. 4 slot in the Suns batting order. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound outfielder had his biggest breakthrough to date in the last week.

After missing four games with a slight back strain, Marrero came back with a vengeance. He finished with 11 hits over seven games in the Suns most recent homestand after returning to the lineup.

"When I was sitting on the bench, it gave me a new perspective," Marrero said. "I got to sit back and look at the game and hitting from a different angle."

It goes back to his alone time in the batting cage. Those times allow him to get back to his roots - a batting cage at home in Miami, Fla., where he worked with a special practice pitcher, his father Bladimir.

"When we (Marrero and his brother, Christian, who plays in the White Sox organization) realized we wanted to play ball, it got serious," he said. "My dad helped make me get better. He would come home after work and pitch to us in the batting cage into the night. I kind of feel like I'm back home when I get in the cage."

All of that help is one of the reasons why Marrero is in the position he's in at age 18 with the future of a franchise at his feet.

"I don't know why I got selected so high," Marrero said. "I guess they saw I was dedicated to the game and did so much work in the offseason to get better."

Advancing to the majors won't be without more extra work

Marrero was drafted as a third baseman, but with Zimmerman at age 21 and playing in the same position, he has been moved to the outfield. Now Marrero doesn't only have to work on his hitting, he has to figure out how to play another position.

"Playing out there is going all right," Marrero said. "I just need get more time and experience to get used to it. I have to work more and concentrate more on what I have to do when the ball is hit to me."

For now, Marrero is working to get it all in tune while the Nationals wait for their showstopper to arrive.

"I don't think I'm getting any more attention. But since I have moved from third base to the outfield, I think there are coaches there to help me adjust," Marrero said. "This isn't like college where you play and go to school. Here you play and get paid. I've improved a lot in my hitting and I'm maturing more everyday."

And that is probably music to the Washington Nationals' ears.

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