Marlins outfield prospects Marisnick, Yelich share tight bond
JUPITER, Fla. –– November 2012.
Outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick had just met each other and played catch before an Arizona Fall League game. Three days later, the top prospects became teammates when the Marlins and Blue Jays agreed on the 12-player blockbuster trade.
It would turn out to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Yelich and Marisnick, who seem inseparable these days, grew up about an hour away in southern California. Over the remainder of that offseason, they visited each other a couple of times and trained.
"Both pretty laidback and not too much gets to us being from Cali and being how we are," Marisnick said. "Whatever comes, comes. That’s what has brought us pretty close."
Last season, the 22-year-olds were invited to big-league camp for the first time. They started 2013 in Double-A Jacksonville where they lived with catcher J.T. Realmuto.
The daily grind of baseball, from long bus rides to games at the ballpark, can be unbearable if you don’t like those around you. Over the course of seven months, nearly every single hour is with the same people.
That is, until a childhood dream became a reality one July night in Tennessee.
Miami decided to call up the pair during its four-game series in Colorado. At the time, Marisnick was hitting .294 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI and Yelich .280 with seven homers and 29 RBI.
"We just both thought it was pretty cool, especially because it’s something you’ve worked your entire life for," Yelich said. "Be able to have that moment in the imminent future just a few hours away on a flight. We were on an hour or two of sleep that whole day. That doesn’t matter once the game starts with so much adrenaline. It was cool. We just talked about some stuff. It was a cool experience all around."
While Yelich singled in his first at-bat on July 23, Marisnick’s came three days later on his 15th plate appearance.
Over 62 games, Yelich showed flashes of his potential by hitting .288 with four home runs and 15 RBI. Marisnick, meanwhile, struggled as he dealt with a nagging knee injury. He played 22 fewer games, batting .183 with one dinger and five RBI.
One advantage of their bond is that it allows them to help each other out during the ups and downs of a long season.
Not only are they able to keep the mood light but they also try to shrug off the pressure of being in the big leagues as much as possible.
"He’s seen me play long enough and I’ve seen him play long enough where if one of us is scuffling we can say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’" Marisnick said. "We can talk about it. That relationship has definitely helped us out the first year together."
Their rapport also works in their favor on the field.
During last week’s game against the Houston Astros, Yelich called off Marisnick on a fly ball for the first out of the third inning. What usually would be the center fielder’s ball instead found the left fielder’s glove.
"We played together all year in Double-A and came up here and learned each other’s style of play in the outfield together," Marisnick said. "I know what balls he can get to, he knows what I can get to and the way we play together out there has been good."
Yet with that bond comes teasing from teammates, something with which the pair has grown accustomed.
At Logan Morrison’s wedding over the offseason, Yelich and Marisnick were forced to slow dance for cameras. Just reliever Carter Capps (#22) separates their lockers at Roger Dean Stadium, which are set up by jersey number.
On March 1, they hit 1-2 in the order and played next to each other in the outfield of a 9-1 win over the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie. They even attempted a double steal but Yelich was thrown out at second.
"I like to keep them together," Marlins manager Mike Redmond joked. "The separation anxiety I’m not sure … They’re buddies, so I want to make sure they stay on the same plan."
It’s just that — teasing.
Redmond called baseball all about relationships. The more you know your teammates the better. Part of the team-building process is guys trusting one another and knowing they can rely on them.
"We’ve got some cool things we got to experience at the same time: being called up, first big-league camp," Yelich said. "When you go through something like that with somebody you’re a little bit closer and you become better friends when you do something unique. How many friends do you have that you actually made a major league debut with? It’s something that’s special."