Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Interview Part 2: Quinn Marsh, Utah Kid

A Reds farmhand delivers to the plate for Bakersfield at Sam Lynn Ballpark in 2012. Quinn Marsh's Salinas Spurs played at Sam Lynn in 1990. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Pro Prospect | Part 2: Utah Kid

Quinn Marsh had no easy task in this July 1987 relief outing for Billings.

Coming on with two outs in the eighth, Marsh faced the bases-loaded, the tying run on second.

But there was also more riding on this outing than a simple mid-summer win in the rookie Pioneer League. Quinn and his Billings Mustangs were trying to break rival Salt Lake's record 29-game winning streak.

Quinn was also trying to deny Salt Lake this win as a Utah-native himself.

"I was absolutely shaking in my boots," Marsh recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days. "Cobb Field was filled to capacity, with 5,000-plus fans just going crazy. It felt like it was Game 7 of the World Series."

Quinn shut down the Trappers that inning. He also shut them down the next, closing the book on Salt Lake's record streak.
The 1987 Salt Lake City Trappers. Quinn Marsh helped stop the Trappers' 29-game winning streak that July. (Provided)
"A Utah kid stopping the 29-game winning streak of the Salt Lake Trappers, that, to this day, still gives me chills," Marsh said.

Marsh spoke to The Greatest 21 Days by phone recently from his Utah home. He spoke of growing up in Utah, learning the game from his family, then heading to college and seeing scouts watch him for the first time.

He then got drafted and made the adjustment to the pros. Marsh spoke of his successes, and ultimately career-ending injury, as well as his attempts to come back from that injury while rehabbing on loan to the independent Salinas Spurs in the California League and then his realization that the career he never expected to have was over.

After signing with the Reds, Marsh moved to the rookie Gulf Coast League. He also met his coaches, who quickly set to work on his pitching motion.

Those coaches moved his motion downward. They wanted him to be a submarine-style pitcher.
Recreation Park in Visalia, Ca., in 2012. Quinn Marsh's Salinas Spurs played at Recreation Park in 1990. (G21D Photo)
"It was very difficult, but I was willing to give it a try," Marsh said. "They're the coaches. They've been in the positions to develop players and get them into the big leagues."

The move, though, didn't work out. That was evident by his ERA that first year: 9.10 over 18 relief outings.

Back to pitching over the top, Marsh moved to Billings for 1987. He got 19 outings there, getting that one save. His ERA also moved in the right direction, ending at 4.31.

The weather also fit his body better, he recalled. Gone was the heat and humidity of Florida and the Gulf Coast League.

Marsh played his next two seasons at single-A, 1988 at Greensboro and 1989 at Cedar Rapids. And his ERA kept getting better. At Greensboro, it came in at 3.63. At Cedar Rapids, it was a career-best 2.03.

"I just felt that everything was clicking," Marsh said. "I was starting to get more and more confidence. I was maturing as a player."
Cedar Rapids' old Veterans Memorial Stadium. Quinn Marsh played at the Vet in 1989 and 1990. (Cedar Rapids Kernels)
Then came the 1989 Midwest League playoffs. Throwing a slider, something happened, something that wasn't obvious at the time, Marsh recalled. The original thought was tendinitis. He and the Reds didn't learn until the next spring that he'd fractured his elbow.

In between, though, Marsh was invited to Mexico, and later to Australia. By the time he got to Australia and the first season of the Australian Baseball League, everything was hurting, he said. He only got seven innings of work.

If he could get his arm trouble, and after his 1989 campaign, Marsh thought he was moving up. With those troubles, though, AAA, or even AA, were out. For Marsh, it was high-A Salinas, sent there on loan.

It was there that the full extent of his injury was realized. He underwent surgery and didn't pitch an inning for the Spurs. Instead, he stayed with the club and rehabbed.

That Spurs club included former major leaguers Steve Howe and Leon Durham, as well as 10 players from Japan."The language barrier was tough," Marsh said of the Japanese players. "But the game was the same."

"It was absolutely another fun year," Marsh said. "I spent it being a mentor, as well as trying to make my career come back."

He also tried to work through the mental issues that come with being hurt. For Marsh, he had never been hurt before.
Fiscalini Field in San Bernardino, Ca., in 2012. Quinn Marsh's Salinas Spurs played at Fiscalini in 1990. (G21D Photo)
"That was the biggest challenge, fighting that mental part of breaking down," Marsh said, "not being 100 percent. I just continued to tell myself I could get over it, unfortunately, it didn't work out."

Marsh got called back to the Reds and Cedar Rapids at the end of the year, getting two outings there. But they were the last outings of his career. He was released at season's end.

Marsh has since returned to Utah, working in the international freight business, as a vice president with Access Technology Solutions and Logistics. He is also married to his wife Suzy and they have to sons, age 12 and 13.

Marsh also coaches a 13U team called the Mountain West Highlanders.

"It keeps me involved in the game," Marsh said of his work with youth. "I love teaching the game at a very high level. The kids are good. They're so much further advance than I was at that age."

Marsh recalled that, back when he was let go by the Reds, he could have come back with the Indians for 1991. But he was at peace and ready to move on.

"Once I got those release papers, absolutely tears were shed," Marsh said. "But life goes on and I learned so much. I have so many friends and influences today because of choices that I made to play baseball."

Go to Part 1, Quinn Marsh, Pro Prospect

Part 1: Pro Prospect | Part 2: Utah Kid

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