Connor Marabell: Baseball Bloodlines

For some players, baseball is in their blood. High-A Lynchburg Hillcats outfielder Connor Marabell has that distinction.

“My dad was a professional baseball player, my uncle Luke played college baseball, and my grandpa played baseball,” said Marabell. “The minute I was born I was holding a baseball.”

His father Scott was an undrafted player, signed by the Dodgers, He played five seasons, rising as high as AA San Antonio in the Los Angeles system playing catcher, first base, and outfield.

Connor, his father, and his uncle all attended Jacksonville University in Florida, with Connor transferring there after a year at Seminole Florida junior college. His college performance led to his selection in the 25th round of the 2015 First Year Player Draft and helped him be prepared for playing professionally.

“I think the college experience matured me,” remembered Marabell. “It helped in both baseball and off the field. It helped me learn to go about business the right way and it’s paid off in professional baseball so far.”

In addition to his time playing college ball, he spent parts of two summers playing for three separate summer league college teams.

“My first year [2013] I played in the Florida League, close to home,” he said. “The next year I started out in the Cape [Cape Cod League] as a temp contract, and then after the College World Series was over they cut me and I went to the Northwoods League.”

Both the Cape Cod and Northwoods are prestigious summer wood bat leagues for college players. In the month he spent with the Falmouth Commodores, he had the opportunity to play with two other players who are currently tasting success in the minor leagues. In the Red Sox system is Tate Matheny, son of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, and in the San Francisco system is Steven Duggar who has already reached AA and is playing for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

“It was fun playing with Duggar,” said Marabell. “He plays the game the right way and he was a great teammate. He’s also really good friends with [the Hillcats’] Tyler Krieger. They both went to Clemson.”

In his month at High-A there have been some bumps in the road for Marabell. Over his first 15 at bats in the Carolina League he was hitting only .133 with a pair of hits and a single run scored. Not only that but his friend and roommate, Nathan Lukes, was traded by the Indians to Tampa Bay for outfielder Brandon Guyer.

“It makes you realize how much this game is a business,” said Marabell. “Lukes is a good friend of mine, we were roommates in spring training and with Lake County, so I miss him. He’s got a great future ahead of him.”

Since then he has worked diligently with Hillcats hitting coach Larry Day and has begun to adapt to the challenges posed by the High-A Carolina League.

“I’ve been working with LD on timing,” he said. “If you don’t have good timing you’re not going to do well. Also, working on getting good pitches to hit so you can square the ball up.”

In his last ten games (as of August 21) he is hitting .303 with six RBI and a stolen base, helping the Hillcats reclaim the Northern Division lead from the Potomac Nationals.

“It’s still early,” Marabell noted. “We’ve got more than two weeks of games left and we are going to figure it all out soon.”

The former college first baseman is still learning to play the outfield, but has jumped in to the spirit of winning that pervades this year’s Hillcats team and wants to do whatever is necessary to contribute to winning.

“Being versatile is huge in the outfield, being able to play all three positions,” he shared. “I enjoy playing center, it’s fun out there, but I’ll just play wherever they want me to play.”

He continues to build on the discipline and routine he developed in college and growing up, learning to play the game the right way. It earned him a brief trip over to the Major League side in spring training, where he got an at bat with the big club.

“It was awesome playing with the big leaguers,” said Marabell. “It was a surreal moment with Tito and the squad, just a great experience that I’ll never forget. It gave me something to look forward to and hopefully I’ll get there one day.”

Barely a year after being drafted and signing with the Indians, Connor Marabell is carving a path towards those same Major Leagues. As he and his teammates work hard and strive to put a W in the ledger each day, he is gaining the game experience that will make him a better player and perhaps one day grant him his wish of playing in the big leagues.

Photo: Lathan Goumas/The News and Advance

David Freier was born in Brooklyn New York in 1966 less than a decade after the Dodgers had departed the very same borough. His first professional baseball game was at Yankee stadium and to this day he and his father still argue over who started for the Orioles that day (his father says Mike Cuellar, while he insists it was Jim Palmer). Being a lover of underdogs he naturally became a Mets fan. He grew up in Montclair New Jersey which had the advantage of being home to two baseball legends, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby, as well as having a local college which regularly held baseball card conventions that fed his baseball card hobby. While attending college at the University of Richmond he and some of his friends attended a Richmond Braves game in the then (1985) brand new Diamond stadium, and now home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. This began what has become a passion for the minor leagues of baseball. During his 10 years as a Richmond resident he and his future wife developed an affinity for the Braves, especially when Richmond fan favorite Francisco Cabrera scored the winning run to knock the Pirates from contention and vault the Braves into the World Series of 1991. During extensive travels he has rooted for the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis Loons, St. Paul Saints, Iowa Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Erie Sea Wolves, Berkshire Bears and of course the Lynchburg Hillcats. To date he has visited over 110 different baseball parks in which he has seen a game. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research in 2000 and has been a member ever since, where he participates on the Biographical and Minor Leagues committees when time permits. In his day job he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

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