Bradley Marquez hadn’t played competitive baseball in more than a year, but in his first game as a professional player, all his instincts for the sport came rushing back in a big way.
On June 22, playing center field for the short-season Kingsport (Tenn.) Mets — a rookie league affiliate of the parent club — Marquez sprinted to his right at the crack of a wood bat, unleashed a fully extended dive and grabbed the ball just before it hit the ground.
“That was my first catch, so that was awesome,” said Marquez, who still hasn’t seen a video replay of the grab. “I wish I had seen it myself. Even some of the guys were like, ‘Man, that was awesome.’ I just got a good read on the ball, laid out and made a good play. It was awesome to help the pitchers out. They like to see that.”
Marquez, a Texas Tech wide receiver, is hopeful all his football instincts will return just as quickly as he enters his sophomore season, though he’s realistic about the adjustment period in front of him after missing voluntary workouts with the team this summer.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m in tiptop shape football-wise,” Marquez said this week. “Baseball and football are two different sports with two different weightlifting and conditioning programs. I kind of know what to expect. I’ve been here before, so I’m excited to get back.”
Marquez, who was drafted in the 16th round by the Mets last summer, had an up-and-down experience during his first stint in the minor leagues. He hit .267 (8 for 30) with a pair of RBIs while trying to adjust to a higher caliber of pitching than he last faced at Odessa High, where he was highly recruited in both sports.
“It was a lot different,” Marquez said. “You’re seeing 90s and above consistently now. You’re not seeing anything below 90 mph. There’s guys with good curveballs trying to get you to chase. They have better location. The transition, I felt like I was seeing the ball pretty well, especially after not playing for a year.”
But Marquez didn’t get as many at-bats to acclimate himself as he wanted. A quadriceps injury he suffered while running the bases limited his playing time to nine games.
Marquez is constantly upbeat, rarely without a smile, but he conceded missing one month of a 21/2 month window he had with baseball was difficult to handle.
“I was frustrated at that time,” Marquez said, “but I just sit back and realize you’re playing two sports at a pretty high level year-round. Injuries are going to happen. You just have to accept them. Hopefully they don’t happen, but, of course, the chances are they may happen.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown and outside receivers coach Tommy Mainord both acknowledged Marquez has some rust to shake off in the early stages of preseason practice. That’s only natural, they said, after missing out on the rhythm and timing his fellow receivers built with Seth Doege and the rest of the team’s quarterbacks this summer.
But those coaches have no concern Marquez, who caught 25 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown as a freshman last season, will find his form sooner rather than later. Marquez has additional time to make up after missing the last two practices with flu-like symptoms.
“What you get with Bradley is you get effort,” Brown said. “You get concentration, focus, a lot of energy. He’s not as sharp as some of the other guys, just because he hadn’t been doing it all summer. ... But a week or two into it he’ll be back.”
Marquez is currently slated in the No. 2 spot at flanker behind Darrin Moore, and he expects to make a big impact in his second season with the Red Raiders.
“I know the first couple of weeks will be a little hard on me,” he said, “but it’s something to fight through to get stronger and get back to where I need to be so I’ll be able to compete when the first game rolls around.”
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