Flashback (or Flashforward?) Friday: Markakis on the Mound

Looking back on Nick Markakis’ potential as a pitcher

First it was Nick Swisher. Then Jonathan Van Every. Could Nick Markakis be next?

Clearly there’s a pattern of A.L. East right fielders taking to the mound this season, which has inspired a Flashback Friday look at Nick’s past days on the mound. The results suggest that a flashforward to a future relief appearance for the O’s would be no laughing matter.

(Insert your own obligatory “Back to the Future” reference here so I have an excuse for posting the photo of Biff that accompanies this post.)

Nick Markakis’ name appears so frequently in the Young Harris College record book that at a minimum he ought to receive credit as a co-author.

Among other notable single-season pitching performances at Young Harris, Markakis had the college’s top season for strikeouts (160 in 2003), third best ERA in a minimum of 40 innings pitched (1.68 in 2003), and second-highest win total (12 in 2003). In the latter category he trailed only Billy Buckner, currently of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization.

[Billy is not related (second source) to the more infamous Bill Buckner, even though Wikipedia claims that he’s the “the sixth cousin once-removed by marriage”.]

The Cincinnati Reds were impressed enough with Markakis’ performance on the mound that they twice drafted him to play the position, first in 2001 and again in 2002.

Prior to the 2003 draft, the scouting report on Nick the pitcher reads as follows:

A lefthander with tremendous arm strength for pitching and excellent hitting skills…Compiled a 12-0 mark with one save and a 1.68 ERA this past season…Walked 33 batters, but had 160 strikeouts…Teams hit just .182 against him…Best pitch considered his fastball, as he was clocked early in 2003 at 96 mph…Breaking ball in the low 80’s

You read that right: 96 miles. per. hour.

When the O’s obtained Markakis in the 2003 draft then-Scouting Director Tony DeMacio said of the dual-threat pitcher-outfielder, “We feel like we’ve got two players in one.”

Outside Pitch tells the rest of the story, including the sad detail that the once-aspiring-pitcher chose No. 21 to honor his childhood idol, Roger Clemens.

Because he grew up in Georgia as a big fan of pitching great Roger Clemens, Markakis wore Clemens’ number—21—on his back when he he played for Young Harris Junior College in 2002 and 2003 (he now also wears No. 21 on his Oriole uniform). At Young Harris, Markakis was a star pitcher as well as a superb hitter and outfielder. He decided to set a goal for himself in his second and final year at the junior college.

Markakis did have a great final year at Young Harris. As a pitcher, he went 12-0 with a save and a 1.59 ERA in 15 games, along with 160 strikeouts. And as a hitter he batted .439 with 92 RBIs and 19 steals in 20 attempts. But with a single game left in his college career, Markakis had yet to reach his ultimate goal. He’d hit only 20 home runs. He went homerless in the game going into his final at-bat as a college player. And then, with the dramatic flair of a man destined to reach the major leagues, the left-handed hitting Markakis lofted a home run over the fence in his final at-bat, giving notice that he was a ballplayer to be reckoned with.

The Orioles made Markakis their No. 1 selection in the amateur player draft of 2003, a year in which he was named the second best junior college prospect (behind only another Oriole signee, Adam Loewen). Despite his extraordinary talents as a pitcher, the Orioles decided to develop Markakis as a hitter and outfielder. The team has had little luck (or acumen) over the past two decades in drafting hitters who’ve been able to contribute at the major league level.


About mptaylor11

Roar from 34, a Baltimore Orioles Blog. Humor. History. Homerism. Since 2006.
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