Leading by example: Present, former teammates look up to Deven Marrero

August 08, 2014 - 6:52 am
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Baseball is a game that requires a great deal of mental toughness and resiliency. Those are two characteristics that define PawSox shortstop Deven Marrero. Marrero has proven his physical abilities. Since being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket at the beginning of July, the 23-year-old has impressed, carrying over his offensive production from Portland (where he hit .291/.371/.433 in 68 games) and putting up a .252/.288/.324 line in 30 contests. His defense receives regular praise; he was named the best defensive infielder and the best infield arm in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America coming into this season, and he'€™s been hailed as a natural at the position. But it'€™s also Marrero'€™s approach to the mental side of the game that'€™s helped the 2012 first-round draft pick develop into a player who has shown notable improvement throughout the last year, and who is just a step away from the majors. Marrero is no stranger to thriving in an environment with many other talented players, like he has this season in Portland and Pawtucket, two minor league clubs that are loaded with talent. He attended American Hertiage High School in Plantation, Florida, and was a member of the 2008 team that went 31-2, winning a state championship. That team already has produced three major leaguers: White Sox catcher Adrian Nieto, Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. Playing in such a competitive environment at a young age proved to be beneficial. "We walked around like our stuff didn't stink. That'€™s what made us great," Marrero said of his high school teammates. "We helped each other out to get to the next level. We all knew we wanted to play this game as our dream and we'€™re living it right now." Said Hosmer: "A lot of us started playing together when we were 11, we've always been on travel teams together, so we [were] in a competitive atmosphere all the time. €œGoing to all of those tournaments definitely helped a lot, and our coaches always wanted to put us against the best competition. A lot of guys in the minor leagues now are the same guys we faced in those tournaments and stuff. Being in that competitive atmosphere ... it made everybody better." Hosmer recalls Marrero being one of the younger guys in a group that played together throughout their youth. Castellanos says that Marrero made the varsity team in high school while he was still in eighth grade. And both echoed the same sentiment -- that the shortstop'€™s defensive abilities opened eyes and made him stand out amongst the older players. "He'€™s been one of the best with the glove that I remember seeing, since he was in eighth grade," Castellanos recalled. "€œIt was just impressive to watch, you know? He taught me a lot of things. [I was] a grade under him, so just watching him and taking ground balls with him every day at the time we were in school together was real beneficial." "I'€™d never seen a better shortstop than him until I played with [Royals shortstop] Alcides [Escobar] and honestly, watching him defensively reminds me exactly of Deven," Hosmer said. '€œTheir similar actions, their throws they make, the weird angles shortstops usually do ... His defense is second to none." It'€™s not just his on-field abilities that stand out to teammates of Marrero, however. The 23-year-old makes a lasting impression on those he'€™s shared the field with on a personal level. "€œThe one thing about him, he really fit in, and once he gets comfortable in a situation, people just really feed off him,"€ Hosmer said. "€œHe has that leadership ability, he'€™s such a great teammate, he'€™ll do anything for you, a great friend. I think once guys really know him as a person, they really appreciate having a teammate like that because that'€™s a guy that has your back and really will do anything for you whenever you need it." Hosmer and Marrero have remained close friends since their high school days. They even live together during the offseason. But Hosmer wasn't the only one who spoke highly of Marrero'€™s makeup, both as a player and a person. "€œHe'€™s a great teammate,"€ said Christian Vazquez, who shared the field with Marrero in Double-A. '€"He takes a lot of leadership on the field at shortstop and in the clubhouse." Mookie Betts, who has spent time as Marrero'€™s teammate at multiple levels in the Red Sox minor league system, said Marrero is like a big brother to him. "We do everything together when we'€™re together, he does everything the right way plus more. ... He never ceases to amaze me,"€ Betts said. A common sensibility expressed by Marrero'€™s past and present teammates was appreciation for the 23-year-old'€™s resiliency and confidence. "€œThe mental side of the game stands out the most for me, just how he knows how to play the game, how he goes about his confidence and playing defense and hitting,"€ Betts said. "Even if he'€™s not doing well, he'€™s always confident, and his mental makeup is always there." Said Hosmer: "I would never tell him this to his face, he'€™s younger than me, but I honestly look up to him. €œHe'€™s had some adversity throughout his life, and you couldn't tell at all. He definitely has tough days, but the way [he can] not really show everybody and not let everybody else see that it'€™s affecting him, that'€™s one thing you have to do in this game. You have tough times, but you can'€™t let it affect you. I learned a lot from him, and all of our friends back home look up to him because of his leadership abilities and his work ethic." With Stephen Drew out of the picture after a trade to the Yankees and Marrero producing steadily at Triple-A, his chances of being promoted to the majors at some point this season have notably increased. Though Xander Bogaerts has shifted back to shortstop with the return of Will Middlebrooks, a September call-up isn't out of the realm of possibility for Marrero. While Marrero remains as one of the last of his group of high school teammates to break into the major leagues, they know it's just a matter of time until he receives the call. "Everyone knows his time is coming soon," Hosmer said. "I honestly think, and you can probably say this from my family, too, that I'€™ll probably be happier for him when he gets called up than I was when I got called up."