Check out any Syracuse football practice or scrimmage lately and you will notice a strange black shell surrounding the traditional Orange helmets. This new equipment is designed to lessen the impact on blows to the head. Part of the reason for that is because some Syracuse players had issues with concussions over the last few seasons.
One of the more serious cases was with former defensive end Tyler Marona. He transferred into Syracuse as part of the 2013 recruiting class from Pasadena City College in California. Shortly thereafter, he suffered a serious concussion that ended his football career much sooner than he anticipated.
While Marona was a football star in high school, it was not the only sport that drew his passion. The crack of the bat, standing on the mound, the smell of the grass on the baseball diamond was always an attractive sport for the talented athlete.
Marona was a talented pitcher in both high school and during his one year in junior college. But when Marona arrived at Syracuse, he had to give up America’s pastime. He had to focus on football. But after his concussion, it was time to redirect that focus.
”Well I was always a baseball/football player all the through last year and I decided to go with football,” Marona said. “When that ended, I wanted to try my luck on the mound again. And sure enough, I still had it.”
Upon returning home for the summer, Marona got the itch to pitch again. Right after returning home, he made the decision to give baseball a serious attempt. He hired private pitching coach Mike Scolinos in April and the two went to work.
Everything came back rather quickly for Marona, who says he can now hit 94 miles per hour on the radar gun, up from 88 during his high school days. The hiring of Scolinos was another turn of luck as he was hired by Providence Christian College in Pasadena to run their baseball program just three months Marona hired him.
”He got hired around the end of July and offered right away,” Marona said. “I was nervous to be called upon so quickly but honored that he gave me such a great scholarship.”
The last several months have been difficult for Marona. Yes he helped coach a little bit with the Syracuse football program, but it was not the same. Marona missed the competition. He missed playing.
”I was lost without sports,” Marona said. “I had built my life around them. Now I am grateful for the chance but look at it as a comfort not a crutch now, which inspires me to better my life not just my game.”
Marona has slimmed down by about 30-pounds since leaving football, which has helped his ability to get back into baseball shape. He said that transition was natural for him as he did not like putting on weight in order to play football. He feels much better now with where his body is in order to be on the leaner side.
Not only is Marona back playing a sport he has always loved, but he will be counted on to have a big role for Providence Christian this season. He says he is projected to be the number two starter in the rotation.
”If there’s no nervousness, you’re not human,” Marona said. “Maybe you don’t even belong there. I know for myself, I wouldn’t necessarily have apprehension about it. Maybe just some angst because there are some responsibilities with it. But I’m just excited to get out there and play again.
”We play 45 games and I’ll have probably about 15 starts. That’s a lot of games and a lot of batters. So it’s just going to be a lot of fun even if I have a bad start here or there.”
Even while he transitions into another sport, and did not have an opportunity to play for Syracuse on the field, he still looks back on his time in Central New York fondly.
”My best friend is Michael Lasker,” Marona said. “He’s been huge. He was someone that I spent every day of my life with when I was at Syracuse. We talked about everything together and we’re from the same place. He’s someone I already miss quite a bit. Almost all of the guys on the team and all of the coaches. Just the environment. I won’t miss the cold that much.
”All of the experiences I had at Syracuse. I had a girlfriend while I was at Syracuse. It was all taken care of. I had a first class experience there….I left (home) a boy and came back a young man and I owe that to Syracuse.”