Player profiles: Saluki power pitcher Joey Marciano
At 6-foot-5 inches and 275 pounds, Saluki senior starting pitcher Joey Marciano is an opposing figure on the mound. Add a fastball that sits in the low 90’s, and he becomes downright scary to batters that have to face him. Mention to anyone that such a large man can elevate and dunk a basketball with ease, and it becomes apparent to them that Marciano is a true athlete.
Marciano grew up in the inner-city of Chicago. The eldest of five siblings — three younger sisters and one younger brother — he focuses on being “the role model” for them in life.
“I make sure they can all look up to me,” the Saluki fireballer said. “I make sure I’m setting the tone for them to go down the right path in life.”
The young pitcher’s path began at Roberto Clemente Community Academy, a four-year public high school in Chicago. This is where Marciano first picked up a baseball.
“I was in the lunch line my freshman year and I saw on the bulletin board there were baseball tryouts,” he said. “I always liked baseball, but I had never played. I went to tryouts … and they tried me out as a pitcher and I started doing really good, so I stuck with it.”
On top of joining and playing for his high school team, Marciano joined a traveling baseball team sponsored by the Chicago Cubs RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner cities) program through the Union League Boys & Girls Club. This was Marciano’s first taste of playing against different teams in different states.
After his first exposure to summer traveling leagues with the RBI club team, the young pitcher decided to join the Chi-Town Cream traveling team under Coach Chuck Reeder to gain exposure with college and pro scouts while playing against top-tier competition across the nation.
Marciano credits Coach Reeder with having a big influence on him as a young player.
“Reeder is a really good guy,” the Saluki pitcher said. “He is one of my real close friends that I keep in touch with still.”
As a senior in high school, Marciano was told by his coaches that the Toronto Blue Jays had expressed interest in him, but he said it never amounted to any face-to-face conversations.
With pro prospects slim and no commitment to college, Marciano took part in the Prep Baseball Report Unsigned Senior Showcase. The PBR Showcase allows coaches from two-year and four-year colleges to come and scout unsigned high school players for their institution’s team.
Following the PBR Showcase, Marciano was contacted by 15 -20 junior colleges and four small Division I universities. He decided to sign with John A. Logan College in Carterville after they offered him a scholarship to play baseball for the Volunteers.
Marciano retained his MLB draft eligibility by enrolling in a junior college, but went undrafted in his two years as a member of the Volunteers, despite earning Region 24 All-Region and All-Conference honors and being named Great Rivers Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year.
“Being drafted obviously didn’t work out, but I thought it was an overall better route for me and I don’t regret anything,” the young pitcher said. “I am happy things worked out this way, but I thought things were going to turn out a little different out of junior college.”
SIU baseball recruiting coordinator and pitching coach P.J. Finigan took the opportunity to see Marciano throw during a fall exhibition game between John A. Logan and Rend Lake College. Finigan called Marciano later that night to schedule a visit to the SIU campus.
“Coach Fin took me on an official visit of SIU and everything was great,” the Saluki pitcher said. “I loved it and I decided to commit here.”
SIU was not the only Division I university courting Marciano, as Southern Miss also offered him a scholarship to attend college and play baseball.
“I wanted to stay closer to home and I didn’t feel Southern Miss was the right vibe for me,” the Saluki hurler said. “[SIU] is a great place to get an education and has a very good radio and television program, which is my major. Things just worked out.”
In his first season with the Salukis, Marciano finished with a respectable 4-7 record while sporting a 3.78 ERA as a weekend starter. It was not the beginning of his SIU career that he envisioned, but he stressed that the 2016 season served as a valuable learning experience.
“It was a little bit of a learning curve because the talent is a notch higher playing in Division I,” he said. “All pitchers struggle with things at times, but I’m getting better every time I go out there and I keep giving it all I got.”
Currently in his senior season, Marciano said he believes he is becoming a more complete pitcher with the help of the Saluki coaching staff — especially Coach Finigan.
“Coach Finigan is awesome,” the Saluki pitcher said. “He is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He breaks down each pitcher individually and focuses on what each of us has to work on and takes that task to hand. There is always more for me to learn — nobody is perfect — but Coach Fin has definitely helped me a lot to get me where I am at now.”
Marciano explained that his personal goals for his final season as a Saluki include earning Pitcher of the Year, a conference championship and a visit to an NCAA regional tournament. The 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft is also on his wish-list.
Many baseball outlets have noted Marciano as a high-ceiling left-handed pitching prospect going into this year’s draft. One in particular, D1Baseball, notes Marciano’s “high velocity and raw talent.”
When asked if he believes he will be chosen in this year’s draft, the Saluki fireballer wasted no time in proclaiming, “Yes I do, 100 percent.”
“But it doesn’t stop me from working hard,” he said. “I just have to let it all go and not think about the draft and focus on giving my team a chance to win. I’m a Saluki first before anything else.”
With Marciano hailing from Chicago, he said it would be “cool” if the Chicago Cubs or the Chicago White Sox chose him in the upcoming draft. But he stressed that he will be “way more than happy” to be drafted by anyone.
If he is not chosen in this year’s draft, Marciano expressed his desire to continue with playing baseball and chasing his dream of a pro baseball career as an independent baseball player.
“I’ll try to keep going with baseball because baseball is my everything,” he said.
Even when he reaches the “real world” outside of playing the sport, Marciano said he wants to remain a part of baseball in some capacity.
“I would like to be a sports analyst like Stephen A. Smith,” he said. “I want to start off … doing what [SIU sports play-by-play radio personality] Mike Reis does. I look up to him and he does a great job at what he does.”
Marciano said he also considers coaching a part of his future, where he can give young players the insight they need to understand their possibilities as well as share his life experience with them as he wishes he could share with his younger self.
“It all starts with high school players because they often fly under the radar and don’t have the right coaching or connections to get them to the next level,” he said. “If I was able to sit in a room with my 15-year-old self and tell him everything I know now at 22 years old, I probably would have done things a little different.”
With his final college season underway and his education almost complete, Marciano thanked the coaching staff at SIU for everything they have done for him and the team in his tenure as a Saluki.
“Coach Hendu, Coach Strain, Coach LaRue and Coach Fin are all great coaches,” he said. “They take pride in everything they do and tell us every day to just go out there and give it your all, because you never know when it’s going to be your last day to play. And at the end of the day, hopefully we come out with the W.”