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Ex-Gator making his mark in Division I ball
Throughout his playing career, Bryan Marquez knew what was coming next.
Ever since the Sumner High School graduate and former Green River Community College player embarked on his journey in baseball, he knew exactly where he would wind up the following season.
Now the New Mexico State University senior is nearing the end of his amateur playing career.
“It's kind of scary, not knowing what will happen next," Marquez said. "I've always had another year of ball left. Now, I'm at the end of my college eligibility and I don't know where I'll play next. I’ve been playing every year, so it's a different experience for me."
Maybe that’s why Marquez, a standout shortstop for the Aggies, has been playing this season like his baseball career depends on it.
So far, Marquez has amassed an impressive set of numbers. In 47 games, he has a .420 batting average with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs and an .852 slugging percentage. In 169 at-bats, Marquez has drawn 37 walks and struck out only 25 times. In the field, his glove has been just as hot as his bat, with a .961 fielding percentage with 78 putouts, 168 assists and just 10 errors.
Earlier this season, Marquis was named the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week for the week of March 9-15. During that time, Marquez had five at-bats with two grand slams, a solo home run and five RBIs. He also was named Western Athletic Conference Hitter of the Week.
On April 29, Marquez was placed on the watch list for the 2009 Brooks Wallace Award by the College Baseball Foundation and Mizuno, which honors the best college shortstop in the nation.
Despite all the accolades, the 22-year-old marketing major remains grounded.
“It was really cool,” he said. “I did a few interviews and it was nice to be the best hitter in the nation for a week. But I think I’m handling it well. It hasn’t gone to my head.”
In his initial year with the Aggies, Marquez struggled with the switch from playing community college ball in the Northwest to playing at the Division I level.
“It was probably little more change than I thought it would be," he said. “The biggest change has been from the wood bat to a metal bat. And it’s just a bigger game here. There is just more all-around athletes on the mound and in the field.”
In 2008, Marquez finished his junior year with a .270 average with 50 hits and six home runs. He returned this season ready to produce even more.
"This year I wanted to be the best shortstop in our league – that was my goal for the season,” he said. “Last year was the first year I've ever hit under .300. I wanted to prove that wasn't me.”
In the offseason, Marquez spent the summer working on his hitting, both off a tee at home and at the Green River practice facility.
“I worked on batting a lot and worked on weights to get stronger,” he said. “And hitting the off-speed pitches, that was my biggest flaw. I wanted to be able to hit any pitch … anybody can hit the fast stuff.”
The Aggies have benefitted from Marquez’s performance, as well as from four others in the lineup who are hitting better than .400.
“The chemistry this year is awesome, everyone gets along,” Marquez said. “If someone needs help, we pick them up. There are no bad seeds on the team.
"We kind of knew toward the end of fall ball – and saw what kind of lineup we had – and thought we could do something pretty big this year.”
So far the Aggies have posted a 38-10 overall record and are in third place in the WAC with a 9-7 record.
For Marquez and the Aggies, all the hard work of the past several seasons has paid off. Exactly how big the payoff is will come on June 9, when Major League Baseball hosts its amateur draft.
“It’s all hearsay for me right now. The draft is still a month away,” Marquez said.
So for now, Marquez said he’s committed to just enjoying his final year of college ball, and not worrying too much about the future.
“I think my mentality and experience are paying off,” he said.