Matt Marsh fourth in from the left played in the 2012 Northwoods All-Star Game in Wisconsin
By Walter J. O’Neill Jr.
You hear stories of those gifted baseball athletes who were born with a glove on their hand; well in this particular case it was true. Minutes after Matthew Marsh was born 21 years ago, he was given his first baseball glove.
For most of his youth he was known for his power hitting and great eyes behind the plate as a catcher. However, during his junior year at Shore Regional High School he was allowed to throw a few games as a relief pitcher, a position he loves. Affectingly called “Moose” by his teammates, Marsh shinned on the mound.
His first year after high school he played one year at Felician College before being heavily recruited to play for the Patriots of Central Florida, the twelfth ranked team in the nation according to the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Just as soon as his sophomore season was over, Marsh was asked to play and pitch in the Northwoods League. It is a summer baseball league comprised of teams featuring some of the top talent in college today. All players in the Northwoods League must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to play. It should be pointed out that players are not paid which this ensures their NCAA eligibility. However, players are provided host families to live with while playing summer ball.
The league is operated just like a professional minor league team, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions using wooden bats, minor league specification baseballs, experiencing overnight road trips, and playing nightly before thousands of fans in stadium settings.
Marsh is playing in Minnesota for the Mankato MoonDogs of the North Division. Currently the MoonDogs are in first place in their division with a 38-18 overall record. He normally enters a game as a middle relief pitcher, and this season has pitched 29.2 innings and has 41 strikeouts, threw 24 balls and only allowed 26 hits.
Besides the MoonDogs, the North Division has the Alexandria Beetles, Duluth Huskies, Rochester Honkers, St. Cloud Rox, Thunder Bay Border Cats, Waterloo Bucks and the Willmar Stingers. The South Division has Battle Creek Bombers, Eau Clair Express, Green Bay Bullfrogs, La Crosse Loggers, Lakeshore Chinooks, Madison Mallards, Wisconsin Woodchucks and the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters.
Last week the league held its 2012 All-Star Game and Marsh was selected as one of the eleven pitchers to represent the North Division. “For the season, we set the Northwoods record for the most wins in the first half of the season,” said Marsh. “Playing on a team that wants to win forces us to play at the top of our game every night.”
While Marsh was warming up in Madison, Wisconsin for his first appearance in an All-Star Game his father, uncles, aunts and friends were gathered at Boyles Bar in Monmouth Beach to watch the game which was a live feed over the internet. It was a loud boisterous crowd at the local watering hole until the bottom of the fifth inning.
The North was up 2-0 and had two outs when Marsh was called into action. He had a shaky start, as he gave up one run and had bases loaded before he recorded the final out of the inning. “It was an honor to be voted to the All-Star team by the coaches of the Northwoods League,” said Marsh. “Playing with former Major League Baseball players was amazing; being around guys like that is motivation for me to become a professional baseball player.”
As soon as the MoonDogs season ends, Marsh will be on the road again. This time he is heading to Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis, where he will be starting his junior year. His uniform color will now be blue and white with a Spartan logo, but his desire and determination to be the best pitcher he can be grows. “I will be doing my part to try and help the team win the College World Series and get myself seen and drafted,” said Marsh.
It should be easy for him to get noticed. He was clocked this summer throwing 94 mph and has great control. “I want to thank my mom and dad as well as all of my family for their support over the years,” added Marsh.