TIGERVILLE, SC—Curt Marshall has dreamed of playing professional baseball all his life. He does not have to dream anymore. The former North Greenville catcher signed with the River City Rascals of the Frontier League on July 2. The Rascals are located in O’Fallon, Missouri.
The Frontier League is one of the premier independent baseball leagues in the United States. The league drew 1.3 million fans to its ballparks in 2006 and expanded to 12 teams in 2007.
Asked how long he has dreamed of playing professional baseball, Marshall said succinctly, “forever.”
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do for as long as I can remember,” said Marshall.
However, to get to O’Fallon Marshall had to travel a frustrating road. Three weeks ago he received a call from the Gateway Grizzlies, another Frontier League team. Marshall was told that the Grizzlies had an injured catcher and need him as soon as possible. So he packed his bags quickly and drove to southern Illinois only to find out the catcher was not hurt after all. The Grizzlies were no longer interested in Marshall, but they did make a call to River City’s manager Toby Rumfield on behalf of him. Rumfield saw Marshall work out once and told him that he would give him a call after he released a catcher.
Marshall then traveled to Texas to work out for a couple of United League teams, but to no avail. He returned home frustrated.
“I had put the whole thing in God’s hands, but after Texas I was just a little bit frustrated,” says Marshall. “It was at that point that I began to pray about it. I told God, ‘I’m going to continue trusting you. I know this is what you want me to do because you have given me too much ability for it not to be, so I’m going to trust you.’”
Forty-five minutes later Rumfield calls and tells Marshall that he needs a catcher. That was Monday. Marshall signed on Wednesday and was in uniform on Thursday.
Now a professional baseball player, Marshall could hardly contain his excitement his first time stepping out on the field. “I came out of the clubhouse in left field and just stopped for about thirty seconds,” recalls Marshall. “I couldn’t move. It was almost surreal. I’ve wanted this for so long and that it was actually happening was unbelievable. I am very excited.”
As excited as he is, Marshall is not content to stay in the Frontier League. “Independent league is pro ball, but it is far from my goal,” says Marshall. “My goal is to play affiliated ball, so right now I am just trying to get better and get to the next level.”
To do that Marshall knows there are a few areas that he will need to improve in. He lists being smoother behind the plate in receiving the pitch and hitting to opposite field as his top priorities for improvement.
In two seasons at North Greenville, Marshall batted over .300 both seasons, hit 16 homeruns, and drove in 75 runs.
Marshall credits North Greenville University with preparing him for professional baseball both on and off the field.
“When I transferred two years ago I was struggling as an individual,” said Marshall. “I didn’t have a good attitude and thought things were owed to me. Coach Nihart was the only person willing to give me a place to play, and not only that, but he was thrilled to have me. I hadn’t experienced that in over two years.
“I had two coaches in Nihart and [former assistant coach Jon] Lane who believed in my abilities and wanted to see me get better as a player, individual, and follower of Christ.
“North Greenville’s atmosphere was great for me. I hated chapel when I first got to NGU, but then learning what it was all about, I couldn’t get enough. Chapel on Monday and Wednesday mornings and Athletic Ministries on Friday mornings became my favorite times of the week. North Greenville was a nurturing environment with people who love the Lord.
“The two things that Coach Nihart stressed were character and staying strong in your faith. And if you don’t have those things when you get to professional baseball, there are a lot of things that can distract you and you can fall into some things you don’t need to be involved in. I’m thankful that I played for two coaches who were sticklers for character. They never bent on that.”
Marshall batted 3-for4 with two doubles in his second game with the Rascals, a 7-1 win over the Southern Illinois Miners. Fans can track Marshall’s journey with River City by visiting www.rivercityrascals.com.