Monday Jul 24 2017
Granite Bay graduate plays in Triple-A All-Star game
By: Graham Womack, Staff Writer
Former Grizzly Mike Marjama has a shot at Major League play by season's end.
Pat Esposito remembers when he spied Mike Marjama standing beside an opposing team scouting report posted on a locker room bulletin board.
It was Marjama’s senior year at Granite Bay High School in 2007 and he was closing out a run as an infielder for the school’s baseball team. Esposito, Granite Bay’s coach, had gotten to know Marjama as a cerebral player and leader on the field. He spied Marjama writing something on tape on his wrist. "I come up to Mike and I go, ‘Mike what are you doing?" Esposito said.
Marjama told Esposito, “Oh, I’m just writing down where these guys all hit the ball mostly so I can position the outfielders.”
“It was like having a coach on the field,” Esposito said.
The player who made the most of his brain is starting to shine as a professional, with 28-year-old Marjama appearing in the Triple-A All Star Game on July 12 as a catcher for the Durham Bulls, the top minor league affiliate for the Tampa Bay Rays. There’s a chance Marjama could even make his Major League Baseball debut before season’s end.
“I know I can play with those guys,” Marjama said.
Marjama sits on the precipice of the majors after a long climb through prep, collegiate and minor league ball.
He began at Granite Bay as a 14-year-old middle infielder.
“We knew he was a good enough player to play, but Mike was a really small guy when he first got to Granite Bay High,” Esposito said. “He was so small that we had to put him at second base so he could make the throw to first base.”
Marjama grew to six feet as a senior and stands 6’2” and 205 pounds today, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Still a raw prospect out of high school, he went to Sacramento City College where he redshirted and then played two seasons. He then earned a scholarship to Long Beach State, a perennial college baseball powerhouse.
In his only season for Long Beach in 2011, Marjama primarily played third base and hit .290 in 56 games, earning a 23rd round draft selection from the Chicago White Sox. The following year, he would convert to a catcher and show some flashes of promise at the plate.
But in four seasons in Chicago’s system, Marjama struggled to move beyond the low levels of the minors, topping out at high-A ball in 2014. The White Sox unloaded their prospect to Tampa Bay in a trade prior to the 2015 season for scant returns.
“Mike laughs about it,” friend and Granite Bay High assistant coach Mike Musolino said. “He goes, ‘You know, I got traded for a bucket of balls.’”
Liberated from Chicago’s system, Marjama quickly began to advance through the minors with Tampa’s affiliates, reaching Double-A in 2016 and Triple-A this year.
There’s a chance Marjama could make the majors in September, when MLB rosters expand from 25 players to 40, though Esposito said there might be some complications since Marjama isn’t currently on Tampa’s 40-man roster.
“When you’re not on the 40-man roster, they have to take someone off the 40-man roster in order for you to come up,” Esposito said.
But Esposito’s hopeful for his former player.
“There’s plenty of guys that make the big leagues at 29 and 30 years old,” Esposito said.
Musolino, a former minor league catcher himself, is also hopeful.
“I think he’s got a great chance, being at that position,” Musolino said. “I was telling Pat earlier, there’s a bunch of older catchers that are going to be free agents in the next two or three years that are 33, 34, 35 now. They’ve all got to be replaced.”
Opportunities might be scarce in Tampa, where Wilson Ramos, an All Star with the Washington Nationals in 2016, recently returned from ACL surgery. Ramos’ backup is Derek Norris, a former All Star with the Oakland Athletics.
Marjama, who will be a free agent after this season, is interested to see if he might be moved by the July 31 trade deadline.
“The next few weeks will definitely be a hectic time with the trade deadline coming up,” Marjama said.
He enjoyed his trip to Tacoma for the Triple-A All Star Game where he was joined by girlfriend Courtney and parents Greg and Kim Marjama of Granite Bay. His parents, it should be noted, are thrilled by everything that’s happened in Marjama’s career.
“Shoot, we just wanted him to get a college degree,” Kim Marjama said.
Their son enjoyed himself in Tampa, which included a Home Run Derby and pre-All Star Game luncheon.
“All the festivities were awesome,” Marjama said. “They put on a great thing.”
Marjama provided a solid showcase for visiting scouts as well. A fan selection along with teammate Willie Adonis, Marjama played the first four innings. Though he went 0-for-2 at the plate with a strikeout, he made a sliding catch at the fence behind home plate off a high, first inning pop up.
“Every game he’s out there, he’s actually interviewing with all the other clubs as well,” Greg Marjama said. “You never know in professional baseball where it leads you.”
There could be another eventual career option as well for Marjama, one that his former Granite Bay coach Esposito could attest to.
“If Mike stays in the game of baseball, he should be a coach,” Esposito said.
Both professional organizations Marjama’s been affiliated with have already approached him about the possibility.
If only the guy writing on his wrist all those years ago at Granite Bay High could see his life now.