Easter Sunday was full of blessings for Owensboro native Justin Marks last year – he got to pitch in his first Major League baseball game for eventual American League Champion Kansas City Royals.
Getting called up to the “Big Leagues” is every young boy’s dream, so you can imagine how exciting that moment was. “It was pretty chaotic,” Marks said. “My wife and I were sitting at home when my manager called and said there were some guys who got hurt and they needed me to come up right away. So I rushed out and that night I was in Houston with the Royals, then flew back to Kansas City.” Marks made his Major League debut by pitching two innings against the Minnesota Twins on April 20th. “It was exciting to be around those guys. They (KC) ended up in the World Series.”
After stints with the Oakland A’s and Texas Ranger’s organizations, Justin was a free agent at the end of the season. Then in November he signed with the Arizona Diamond Backs as a member of their 40-man roster, which means he can be called up at any time to the DBack’s 25-man Big League roster.
So, on February 1st, Marks will report to spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona. But don’t expect him to stay there forever; Justin says he’s still an Owensboro boy at heart. “What I like about Owensboro is the small town feel. I’ve been to other big cities, but I always love coming home. Our family and friends and here. We bought a house here, and we’ll raise our kids here after baseball. This is home.”
Justin graduated from Owensboro Catholic High School in 2006 and went on to play baseball at the University of Louisville before being drafted by the Oakland A’s in 2009. In his three years at Louisville, Marks says he has some great memories of college ball. “Those years flew by, but looking back now, it was a great ride. Probably my best memory of playing at UofL was my freshman year when we went to the College World Series.” That same year, Marks was named Big East Rookie of the Year.
In the midst of working his way up from Low A to High A, Double A, and Triple A, one of Marks’ proudest accomplishments was receiving his degree from UofL last year. “I’m pretty excited to have that behind me now. Ever since I was drafted I’ve been taking online classes, but last fall my schedule freed up a little bit and I was able to finish up and graduate.”
Now in his last few weeks in Owensboro before spring training, you might find Justin volunteering down at the Pitino Shelter, which he has done several times in the off-season. “I’m fortunate enough to be in the position to have some free time to give back and help others. I enjoy it.”
But soon, as February ends and spring begins, while we’re still shaking off the cold in Owensboro, Justin will be in the Arizona sun, waiting on another exciting phone call.