Marlette catching on to being behind plate
In more ways than one, Tyler Marlette is a rookie.
Given that he plays baseball for the Pulaski Mariners in the Appalachian League, his playing level and that of the league as a whole is rookie. Marlette is a rookie in another respect, too. This will be his first full season behind the plate as a catcher.
“I played catcher here and there, but in high school, I played mostly at third base,” he said.
The switch to catching was just another aspect of graduating from high school and straight into the national workforce. This time a year ago, Marlette was fresh off of collecting his diploma from a large Orlando, Fla., public school. He, his family, and their adviser were in the process of evaluating the contract tendered him by the Seattle Mariners, who had drafted him in the fifth round of that year’s amateur draft.
Marlette had something else to consider other than terms of the contract. He’d accepted a scholarship offer by the home town University of Central Florida. Despite being recruited by assorted Southeastern Conference schools and other college baseball heavyweights, the UCF offer held the most appeal for him.
“I wanted to be close to home,” he said.
Instead, in mid-August he signed with the Mariners, meaning his immediate destination was going to be far, far away: the organization’s training complex in Peoria, Az. The reported $650,000 signing bonus no doubt had an influence on the family’s thinking.
“It was an offer I couldn’t resist,” he said. “I had to take it.”
Marlette was sent to Pulaski for the last couple of weeks of the season, which was uneventful by conventional statistical measurement. He hit .156 with 13 strikeouts in 48 at bats in 12 games. That could be partially explained by being rusty. He hadn’t played in a formal game since high school as contract negotiations plodded on through the summer.
The first couple of games of the current season extended the slump. He’s off to a 1-for-8 start. No reason to believe he won’t snap out of it at any second. He homered in the Aflac All Star game at spacious Petco Park in San Diego last year, indicating he’s had the ability to rise to the occasion when need be.
Meanwhile, he’ll be refining his catching technique.
“It’s been pretty easy to adjust to catching full time,” he said. “It is tough in that it’s a totally different game behind the plate than it is t third base. I can adapt, though.”
Truth is, he talks like a born catcher.
“You’re the only player facing the field; you’re the leader,” he said. “You’re the man on the field. That’s what really changed my mind. I like catching way more now. It feels natural.”
It’s well known conventional baseball wisdom that one of the quickest paths to the Major Leagues is as a catcher. That didn’t factor much into Marlette’s switch from third, though. It was a coach’s decision. That would be Jered Goodwin, his coach at Hagerty High School.
Goodwin and Marlette go back a ways together, ever since the player made varsity at one of the larger high schools in Florida. That was a story in itself.
Before his freshman season, Marlette and his father met with Goodwin about trying out for varsity. The coach had bad news.
“He told us freshmen didn’t play varsity there,” Marlette said.
First day of junior varsity practice, Marlette took the usual round of batting practice. Later that evening, instructions arrived from Goodwin.
“Varsity practice tomorrow starts at 2 p.m.”
-Ray Cox covers recreational, high school and college sports in the New River Valley. If you have information you’d like featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 381-1672.
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