Spring Awakening: Despite Setbacks, Marasco Motivated to Succeed

March 19, 2011

When Kansas’ redshirt sophomore Jake Marasco toes the lines of the baseball field at Hoglund Ballpark, he does so with more than just his uniform on his back. Along with toting his bat and glove from the clubhouse to the dugout, he also carries the memory of his late mother, Carol who passed away suddenly a year ago this month.

“Every day before I take the field, while the National Anthem is going I say a prayer and talk to my mom for a second,” Marasco said.

Being the youngest of three children, Marasco was especially close with the woman who helped raise him.

“My mom was my best friend, we were extremely close and I still, after every practice, go to grab my phone to call her,” he said. “But I still have my whole family in my life and I am blessed to have them.”

While Marasco took some time away from his team to be with his grieving family last year, the then-redshirt freshman knew he was not quite ready to step back in the batter’s box when he returned from his mother’s funeral.

“I was still the regular DH when I came back but it just got to a point where everything was just a little too much,” he said. “The coaching staff and team were really understanding and we all collectively decided that it would be best if I took the rest of the year off.”

Despite his heavy heart Marasco was frustrated that he was dealt yet another season-ending circumstance that put him in the dugout rather than out on the field.

“Last year I started off the season very well, but after my mom passed away I went home to be with my family for about a week and a half while the team went down to play LSU,” he said.

The time off, coupled with his heavy heart and occupied mind were enough to take the promising infielder out of the lineup. Not playing was nothing new for Marasco, who had to shut things down during his true freshman season in Lawrence because of a broken foot.

“It was really just a freak accident because I took a step to a ball in the outfield and my foot just shattered,” Marasco said. “I was on crutches for three months and got a medical redshirt but it was frustrating because I had the opportunity to start and play pretty regularly that year.”

Marasco had started 12 of 13 games in left field his first season and had six hits to go along with four RBI and another four runs scored.

Before having to take time away from the team to collect his thoughts and be with his mourning family last season, Marasco managed to compile a respectable .273 batting average in 30 games with 30 hits, 19 runs scored and 11 RBI.

“The thought of just hanging it up did cross my mind last season,” he said. “It is hard not to think, is this going to end? Or what is going to happen next that is bad? But at the same time, if you can get back up and give it your best, it is kind of a rewarding feeling. That is why I am hoping this year I have a full, healthy one on the field and off as well.”

Now looking forward to his first full season of play in his third year in the Jayhawk baseball program, the Wichita native feels hopeful about his chances on and off the field. Through the first 17 games of the season, he is leading the team in several offensive categories. Most notably, batting average, where he is the fourth-leading hitter in the Big 12 with a .409 percentage heading into games Saturday.

“I feel good so far,” he said. “I have been fortunate enough to where I got off to a fairly good start so it makes things a little bit easier as far as being able to remain positive.”

That positive attitude will go a long way in helping Marasco as he moves forward in battling challenges on and off the field. For the third year Jayhawk, he knows all too well that like life, baseball is more about dealing with what is going on between his ears rather than in between the lines.

“Baseball is the most mentally challenging game that there is,” he said. “The only way that you get out of slumps or other stuff is just by grinding your way out of it.”

That mindset has helped Marasco get back on the field and contributing to his club in a big way, a feat that he says his mom would be so proud to see.

“I think she would be very happy because that is definitely what she would have wanted,” he said. “She was my biggest and number one fan so I know that she would not want me sitting on the bench. Instead she would want me going out there, hitting, running and fielding. She would always just tell me, ‘Jake just see the ball and hit the ball’. She simplified it better than anyone I know.”

Marasco will now look to take that basic wisdom his mom gave him as a comfort to the many curveballs he will face in the batter’s box and throughout his everyday life.