>Madras pitcher also fights fires as volunteer in Madras FD
Madras High School senior pitcher Patrick Marston takes being a team player seriously.
He is even learning to save lives with teamwork.
That's because the right-handed Madras fireman (slang for a relief pitcher) when not a starting pitcher -- besides a first baseman and pinch-hitter -- is also a real fireman. At 18 he meets the age minimum for the Madras Volunteer Fire Department where he goes to training and events.
But Marston's studies have been exemplary enough to range past extinguishing flames and hitters. He has maintained honor roll status of some kind each trimester he's been at Madras, registrar Shonagh Preston verified.
Son of Alex and Kathy Marston, the multi-sport athlete was frustratingly sidelined for football when injuring his knee in the midst of a solid game at La Pine last fall. But he has recovered.
Marston kept busy getting ready for this spring during the winter.
"Patrick has one of the best work ethics you're going to find," said baseball head coach Bruce Reece.
He worked out, Marston noted, with fellow baseball seniors Kelly Devine and Nathan St. John. All three wanted to be prepared for this spring's season, Marston said.
As concentrated as he can be in studies, relaxing is key to Marston when he's looking to limit his walks or increase the ground ball outs or double plays he gets others to hit. But he admits it's challenging.
Marston's excellence extends from field to classroom. He has enjoyed many classes, Marston said, but especially a few. Applied physics from Mr. Keasley and mathematics from Paul Brown were two. He said he felt lucky to take weight training class taught by Reece, said Marston.
Staying involved in the game all he can, even on days he's not in the starting lineup, is another of Marston's extra activities. He can be seen getting other pitchers ready in the bullpen or sharing what pitches opponents tend to throw, if he happens to know, or notice a trend.
Even when batting, "It helps to be a pitcher," Marston said. His confidence at the plate is helped by having experienced the pitcher's side of the battle, said Marston.
"I want to improve every time," said Marston. He also attempts to use the time on the bus -- when riding between Madras and the other teams in the league -- to study.
If it's not studying for classes, Marston's study time will include going over what the other team's batters are weak or strong at when it comes to hitting. But he trusts St. John or whoever is catching to call for something the hitters are not too good at handling. If he has to throw a strike, with three balls on the batter, though, he still doesn't want to give a pitch which can be hit hard, Marston explained.
"I've been practicing on a slider but mainly I use a fast ball and curve," Marston said.
"It's always good to keep the hitter guessing," he added. Yet, he doesn't get overly deep into the study of pitching.
"It's a different beast. Studying academics is not the same as baseball," Marston said.
"Personally, I usually find I pitch the best when I don't think about it. You can't think too much when you're on the mound. If you think too much, you start to aim. That's not good," said Marston.
Marston helps teammates, whether at fires or on the field. He said he makes sure of where coaches want players while on defense or where they want the ball if there are doubts. Having everyone aware of where they have to play and when they need to be there on defense is only one thing he and St. John, or whoever is catching, need to let everyone know.
He has no problems with any catcher, Marston said, but he is more comfortable with St. John, his fellow senior, due to an experience factor.
"I've thrown to Nathan a lot. He knows what I'm comfortable with," Marston said of the pitches St. John signals usually being ones Marston himself has confidence in.
"You can never have too many people trying to help you," said Marston.
Being aware of the runner, if there is one, and how big his lead is, helps Marston whether pitching or at first. He said sensing a person taking too big a lead takes teamwork.
In the same way, Marston said, picking up a bunt or grabbing a pop up can be a matter of teamwork and calling off others.
"Anything I can try to get to I will," he said.
Being aware of what a pitcher looks for is something Marston does his best to take advantage of when on base. He said a fake to get a fielder to vacate a space is one of the things he will sometimes do to help the team.
He admits he doesn't have the quickest feet on the team, but Marston does his best to makes up for that. Getting his foes to think he is doing something other than what he really is makes up a strong part of Marston's mastery over hitters if he is having a good day.
His years of pitching have made Marston aware of some little tricks youngsters can use to help themselves, without a very advanced array of pitches. He noted that he sometimes throws off a hitter's rhythm -- or attempts to -- just by taking a few extra seconds on the mound before throwing one time and then coming to the plate more quickly the next pitch.
He said he anticipates doing some coaching, even if just as a volunteer, once his playing days come to an end.
Some hitters -- he gave former all-state player Blair Wilkins from The Dalles as an example -- have an ability to hit a lot of different pitches. Marston said keeping them even a little off balance can create just enough of an edge to not have them get quite as good of contact, implying that a single or double is better than a home run.
Whether ahead or behind in the count, Marston has proven himself capable of making the most of the situation he is in. That ability should aid him whether Marston chooses to make his saves or teach people about making saves in the world of baseball or firefighting.