24-year-old Oliver Marmol has been named the 2011 hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, a job held at the start of last season by Roger La Francois.
After a series of 2010 in-season moves of hitting coaches driven by the departure of Mitchell Page from Quad Cities in May, La Francois was shifted from the GCL to the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League.
A few weeks into the Muckdogs' season, La Francois suffered a partially-torn Achilles tendon which required him to wear an air cast on his left leg when not in uniform. While he could continue to work, regular tasks like coaching on the bases seemed out of the question.
Though at a low point in his playing career, Marmol was in the right place at the right time to take on a new opportunity, one he had considered for some time.
He had begun 2010 as an infielder for the Palm Beach Cardinals but soon sensed his end as a player, at least in this organization, might be near. Originally drafted in the sixth round in 2007 from the College of Charleston, Marmol was scuffling in his fourth season. Though he batted just .221 in 104 at-bats over 33 games, it was actually an improvement over his career mark of .203.
Following his release by the Cardinals on July 21, Marmol expressed a desire to get into coaching rather then trying to continue playing elsewhere. The Cardinals obliged, offering Marmol a shot to serve as an extra coach for manager Dann Bilardello's club. The new bench coach assisted the hobbled La Francois, while also watching and learning.
Marmol impressed the Cardinals brass. Here in 2011, he has been signed to his first regular coaching job, taking over La Francois' former assignment with the GCL Cardinals. The club is headquartered out of the organization's facility in Jupiter, the same town where Marmol took off his playing uniform for the final time and now calls his home.
The man ultimately behind the move is John Vuch. The Cardinals farm director reminded me the job is much more than just teaching hitting at the organization's entry-level US outpost, where many of Marmol's new charges are still teenagers.
"Marmol will be serving as a coach at GCL, primarily doing hitting, but also some infield and other areas," Vuch said on Monday. "He assisted at Batavia last season when Roger LaFrancois was limited due to injury, and received very positive reviews from players and staff for his work. This gives both Oli and the Cardinals an opportunity to let him continue to develop as a coach."
Marmol will soon report with the rest of the coaches, continuing there through regular and extended spring training camps. Some of his new charges are not yet members of the organization, though. The GCL Cardinals will open their 2011 season about two weeks after the June 6-8 draft.
I reached Marmol at his Jupiter home as he anxiously awaits starting work the first week of March. He was kind enough to answer a few questions.
What did you learn in your time at Batavia last summer as you transitioned from player one day to coach the next?
"It's a lot different in how to treat the players, to go about your business as a professional leader," Marmol explained. "I learned a lot about how to evaluate players. You have to understand their age and where they are at in their career.
"It was mostly how to go about things in a professional manner and what the relationships with the players were like. It is a lot different from player-to-player, now that I am a coach. That is mostly what I got out of it," he said.
When were you offered the GCL job and how did it come about?
"It was up for discussion when they offered the position for Batavia that they would evaluate everything and decide if they would offer a position for the upcoming year," Marmol said. "The one that made the most sense was the GCL since I will be handling younger players, not guys my own age, since I am pretty young. John Vuch made the offer about two weeks ago."
What is your approach as a hitting coach?
"I had coaches who wanted to cookie cut everyone, to try to make them the same," he recalled. "Each player is different. Some are going to want individual attention in swing mechanics and their approach and some are going to have a better idea than others. My job is to collectively bring them together, see what their needs are and pay attention to detail with each kid."
You were not known for your hitting as a player. How did you know this job is right for you?
"That is a question that I figured would come up quite a bit," Marmol admitted. "Honestly, in my career as a professional (in college, it was a little different) my hitting wasn't very good at all. Some people say, ‘Some can teach it, some can do it.'
"I have a passion for hitting. I have a passion for infield. I believe I have the ability to teach it really well. I can communicate to the players. I can relate to them pretty easily.
"I have a good understanding and have been able to work with some guys that have a really good grasp on hitting. (Palm Beach hitting coach) Jeff Albert is one of them. He is mentioned quite a bit when it comes to hitting techniques and mechanics and approach.
"As far as information-wise and knowledge of the swing, I am able to teach it a whole lot better than I was able to do it as a player… I wasn't able to slow the game down enough to do it as a player, but I don't think that has anything to do with being able to teach it as a coach," Marmol said.
As you touched on briefly, there are more requirements to the job than just coaching hitting, like defense and baserunning, correct?
"Absolutely," the new coach replied. "I played a little bit of short, a little bit of second and in my final season, I played a little bit of outfield. I was known for baserunning a little bit so I am able to cover a lot of aspects of the game as the hitting coach.
"It is much more than just coaching hitting. You've got a bunch of guys that you really have to bore into. You have to let them know that you care about their careers just as much as they do. There is a lot of mental toughness and mental preparation that goes into coaching each individual player, more than just coaching the mechanics of the swing," he said.
I bet these next five weeks will be difficult, waiting to get started…
"I am looking forward to the season, to see how it turns out," Marmol replied. "I am definitely anxious to get this thing going. It is a great stepping stone into something that I want to be doing for a very long time."
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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