Senior relief pitcher Eric Marshall sharpens his ability to focus.
by Rick Waters '95
Fifth-year senior relief pitcher Eric Marshall, who is the Frogs’ closer again this season, earned his degree in finance last May and is working on an MBA.
More from Spring 2010
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by Rick Waters '95
It’s one of those conversations only a group of baseball players have as they grind through the monotony of another day at the diamond during a long season. What kind of jelly is better — grape or strawberry?
A couple of infielders are staunchly in the grape camp, saying it’s the classic companion with peanut butter. How could anyone think otherwise? An outfielder and an off-day pitcher say strawberry is underrated and offers a richer, sweeter taste.
Just a few feet away in the dugout, fifth-year senior relief pitcher Eric Marshall doesn’t even hear them. It’s late in the game, the Frogs are leading and Marshall is about to go to work.
He’s poring over a small card with rows and columns of 100 randomly distributed numbers, locating them in sequence: 00, 01, 02, 03 … up to 99. It’s his concentration grid, and he follows the routine before every mound appearance. Think of it as Sudoku for sinkerballers.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 180-pounder can master the grid in about 5 minutes now, up from about 12 when he started. Designed to help athletes heighten their focus, it works best with distractions around, like blaring televisions or conversations about sandwich spreads.
“It simulates game conditions,” said Marshall, who along with fellow reliever Kaleb Merck, champion the tactic. “I can block out noise and sharpen my mind to the point that the stadium atmosphere doesn’t bother me. When I get to the mound, I have my focus where it needs to be — concentrate, throw, catch, relax. Then start the routine again. It’s almost like on autopilot.”
The grid was introduced to the team by Vermont-based mental coach Brian Cain, who makes an annual visit to the Frogs in the off-season. Major leaguer Roy Halladay is a strong proponent.
The mental regimen has helped Marshall emerge as one of TCU’s most trusted bullpen arms. Last season as the Frogs’ closer, he led the team with a 1.48 earned run average and nine saves, while tying for the most appearances with 24. Batters hit just .206 against him.
While he doesn’t have the blazing fastball of the team’s previous two closers, Sam Demel and Andrew Cashner, Marshall has a wider repertoire of pitches. With the help of assistant coach Randy Mazey, Marshall added a four-seam changeup to his curve and sinker.
“He’s got tremendous accuracy, throws strikes and gets a lot of ground balls,” said catcher Bryan Holaday. “No, he’s not a stereotypical hard fastball closer like Cashner, but he’s got the same confidence and presence on the mound. We have complete trust in him.”
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