Jhan Marinez: From Socks And Sticks To MLB

  • Name: Jhan Marinez
  • Age: 27
  • Organization: Tampa Bay Rays, Durham Bulls

(Photo: Anderson Marinez & Jhan Marinez (r). Photo courtesy: Jhan Marinez.)

Author: Patrick Kinas, DNAOfSports.com creator.

It’s only happened six times. Jhan Marinez is a footnote to baseball history. Fourteen months after making his major league debut with the Florida Marlins, Marinez was traded to the Chicago White Sox – for a manager. It’s just one of the unusual steps for Jhan Marinez as he paces through his baseball career.

Marinez was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a hotbed of major league stars. The Alou brothers: Felipe, Matty and Jesus. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Manny Mota. Throw in another five dozen and the picture is more complete about Santo Domingo's relevance in our national pasttime.

“We have good field in the Domincan, and a lot of good players. My favorite was Pedro. We all looked up to him when we were younger. When I was a kid, I wanted to do the same.”

Although, Marinez didn’t initially believe baseball was in the cards.

“When I was young, I didn’t think I’d play baseball. I thought I’d have a different job,” Marinez said.

He wasn’t sure what that job would be, but he certainly didn’t expect this as a young teenager.

Socks And Sticks

Marinez started playing the game late by baseball standards. He also started playing by creative, unconventional means.

For Marinez, his younger brother Anderson and their friends, creativity was a necessity.

“I would play with my friends, making balls with socks,” Marinez said. “We would make the ball, tape it up. We used a stick for a bat. We did that for a long time. Baseball is crazy.”

“I started playing when I was 14 in little league in the Dominican,” Marinez said. “When I was 16, I had my first tryout. A scout came to see me and told me that I had an opportunity to sign for baseball. When I signed with the Marlins, I was throwing 83mph. They gave me my opportunity.”

The path to the majors started in 2006 at the Domincan complex run by the Marlins. One year later, Marinez arrived in the U.S. in rookie ball. Three years later, at the age of just 21, Marinez was a big leaguer.

“A couple of Dominican guys took care of me. My debut is beautiful. Everyone wants to go to the big leagues.”

It was current Toronto first base coach Tim Lieper who gave Marinez the call of his lifetime. Marinez was the young, power-armed reliever for the Jacksonville Suns and Lieper was the Double-A manager.

The Debut

The date was July 16th, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium. The Marlins were hosting the Washington Nationals, and while the Marinez-centric world was centered on Jhan in a big league uniform, all eyes of the 27,037 fans that day were locked on Stephen Strasburg, baseball’s biggest phenom at the time who was making just his 8th career start.

Strasburg didn’t disappoint, throwing six scoreless innings, but later in the game it was Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez strolling to the mound, replacing Taylor Tankersley with the 21-year-old, who started playing baseball with a sock and a stick.

Marinez retired his first big league hitter, Christian Guzman on a deep flyball to centerfield and made it through his debut in stellar fashion. He would get three more appearances throughout the rest of the season.

The Trade

September 29, 2011. A day Marinez will never forget.

“My agent called me in the Dominican,” Marinez said. “He told me I was traded for Ozzie Guillen. What??? You and Ozzie (Martinez) are coming to the White Sox. It was strange, but I didn’t think it was a joke.”

Trades involving players and managers are extremely rare, with only five other instances occurring, including 2002 when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays worked out a deal with the Seattle Mariners involving Lou Piniella, who would then manage the Devil Rays for three years (2003-05).

Marinez appeared in two games with Chicago in 2012 before being let go after the 2013 season.

The Present

“I’m very happy now,” Marinez said. “I had a good opportunity go to the (Triple-A) All-Star Game, and thankful to the team for support and opportunity to pitch.”

Over his last five years, Marinez has charted the common course from thrower to pitcher.

“Now I’m older, I know what I’m doing,” Marinez said. “Before I was only throwing ball, that was it. Before, I wanted to throw hard. Now, I need to pitch now. Command every pitch, down and in.”

He credits his catchers and his new pitching coach, Kyle Snyder with the Durham Bulls for his successful 2015 campaign.

“The catchers here are very good, “Marinez said. “Kyle was very good pitcher. He’s given me the opportunity. I’m working on it every day.”

He’s also grateful to the team giving him this opportunity, the Tampa Bay Rays.

“They gave me the chance. I’ll be here. I’m here every time. My mind is on focus on every pitch. When they want me, I’m here.”

His parents are separated now, but Marinez maintains a strong relationship with them. His daughter is in Florida. They all follow his progress online.

“My family sees the game on the computer every night. My mom watches games every day. I’d like to play for another 20 years to take care of my family.

And then?

“I’ll go back home and coach the little kids.”

And quite possibly develop the next Jhan Marinez.

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