Once A Jayhawk, Always A Jayhawk: Wally Marciel
The Kansas baseball team was huddled in the dugout with hoodies on before an easily forgettable fall evening at Hoglund Ballpark. Players were wishing they could get out of the cold and into the clubhouse where they could thaw out, but the fall practice was just beginning.
Out of the dugout emerged a man much too eager for what Mother Nature was offering.
“The sun is always shining on the Jayhawks, boys! Let’s get to work!”
On queue, the players jog onto the field and scatter, they know the drill. Head coach Ritch Price had taught them well.
One of those players was an underclassman from Hawai’i, who wanted to experience the four seasons first hand, so he chose to come to Kansas to get an education and play baseball.
“In high school, I didn’t know anything about Kansas,” Wally Marciel recalled. “I knew all along that I wanted to get away from home to experience something new.”
A chance encounter at a baseball camp in California would lead to Marciel leaving the comforts of the island and his family to live a drastically different life.
“Not a lot of college coaches come to Hawai’i to recruit,” Marciel said. “My parents would send me to camps and showcases in California and Arizona to gain some exposure.”
One of those camps was at Stanford, where Price, along with close to 200 other college baseball coaches, came to recruit for the future of their programs.
Players were split up randomly and assigned a coach to play for during the camp. Marciel was appointed to Price’s team and soon after, both parties made a lasting impression on one another.
Upon conclusion of the camp in California, Marciel scheduled a visit to Lawrence, Kansas, where he could examine the campus, the town and the Jayhawk baseball program.
“I just fell in love when I took my first official visit,” Marciel said. “It’s a drastic change from Hawai’i, but I knew I wanted something different. When I got to Lawrence, I enjoyed it a lot. I liked the town, I liked the people and I liked the campus. It was just the right fit for me. The day before I left to go back home to Hawai’i, I told Coach Price I wanted to be a Jayhawk.”
For an 18-year-old kid, moving away from home to a new city or state is no small task, but relocating from Hawai’i to Kansas is a giant leap. The kid is not only leaving what and who he knows, but the parents are entrusting a coach, someone they have come to know only through recruiting visits, to ensure the safety of their child.
“I remember when I took my recruiting visit to Wally’s parents’ house in Hawai’i,” Price said as he recollected the trip. “I was sitting with Wally and his parents at their table. Once I finished my two-hour presentation, Wally’s dad — who is about six-foot-five and probably 250 pounds, he’s a big man — looked at me from across the table and shook his finger in my face and said, ‘I’m going to trust you with my son!’ So, needless to say, I was going to make sure Wally had a good experience at KU.”
The experience Marciel had at KU is something he is forever grateful for.
“In Hawai’i, it’s all about Ohana, family,” Marciel explained. “The Kansas baseball team is exactly that, family. Coach Price does a great job of treating his players first-class and I really felt like I was apart of the Jayhawk family and I still do. Now that I am the director of operations here, it makes me realize how great I had it as a player.”
In his first year as the Director of Baseball Operations, Marciel has continued to feel a sense of unity and camaraderie with the team and coaches, something Price hoped for when the position was created a few years ago.
“When I got the approval from (Deputy Athletics Director) Sean Lester to create the ops position, my goal was to bring back former players and give them an opportunity to learn the ins-and-outs of what it takes to be a college coach, and give them that experience while continuing to be a Jayhawk,” Price said.
More than just the baseball team, Marciel knows that the entire University of Kansas is one big family. From return trips home to the islands to anywhere else he goes wearing his KU gear with pride, he gets people coming up to him with a ‘Rock Chalk’ greeting and a great conversation about the Jayhawks.
“You see the Jayhawk all over the country and it makes you feel a part of something bigger,” Marciel said. “It gives you a sense of pride to know you are a part of something like that.”
Price added, “We try to make Kansas a place that when you come here, you have a great college experience. We pride ourselves on making our players a part of the KU family and when you walk out of here, we want you to be a Jayhawk for life, and I certainly think that is the case with Wally.”
Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk.